September 12th, 2013

Habit-Score Assessment: Google Chromecast

By Neale Martin



Throughout the mid-90s to early 2000s, part of my job was to evaluate the market implications of new technologies for major telecommunications clients. It was exciting to think about how broadband Internet would change publishing, banking and retail and how rapidly evolving wireless technology would alter the landscape of communications, music and media. But there was one large issue that I could not resolve to my own satisfaction—where do I want my content?

If I have content on my laptop, it’s available all the time and portable. But my laptop has a finite amount of hard drive space. If I keep content on portable media, like a DVD, then I can play it on my TV or computer, but nowhere else. Cost of content becomes an issue quickly, not to mention the inconvenience of carrying around DVDs.

The alternative was to have the content available on servers and make it accessible over the Internet, a format now referred to by marketers as ‘the cloud’. This always seemed to be the best solution—if the networks were sufficiently fast and reliable. When I originally thought about this problem, they were not. Fast-forward a decade, and those networks are (somewhat) in place and the marketplace is rapidly shifting to this new model. Netflix, Hulu, UltraViolet, Pandora and dozens of other companies have streaming strategies that incorporate different pay models all based around the ability to instantly access thousands of programs and movies from any network connection. Similarly, Smart TVs, TiVo, DVD players, video game consoles, and specialized devices like Roku and Apple TV stream this newly available content. And of course traditional cable companies offer on-demand streaming from both their set-top boxes and online applications.

Consumers are now faced with the same question I had many years ago (where do I want my content?) except it is no longer a hypothetical exercise. With so many options and so many companies working to “own” and “control” the consumer’s access to content, the choice is getting overwhelming. When the conscious mind gets overwhelmed, the mind relies more heavily on the unconscious mind to make decisions. Therefore it is imperative that any company competing in this marketplace offers a habit-forming experience.

Last month, Google entered into this cutthroat competitive market with a remarkable device that could prove far more habit-forming than all the others. Called Chromecast, this streaming device is slightly larger than a wireless car fob, plugs directly into an HDMI slot on flat panel TVs, and streams content from iOS and Android devices, including iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Apple computers or anything equipped with a Chrome browser (sorry Blackberry and Windows phones). I recently received my Chromecast device and, using Sublime’s Habit-Score Assessment methodology, I’ll walk you through why I believe it to be one of the most habit-forming streaming devices currently on the market.

Habit Score Primer

The Habit-Score Assessment analyzes products, services, brands, and experiences and assigns them an Automaticity Rating—the areas of marketing, positioning, and design that are promoting or impeding habit formation in customers. Habit-Score has four main components:

  • Ease of Repetition – A product or service must encourage repetition to be habit-forming by being easy to access, affordable, and easy to use
  • Contextual Stability – A product or service must have an established context to be habitual; otherwise, use must be guided by conscious intention
  • Intensity of Feedback – A product or service must deliver reinforcing feedback to encourage future repetitions of behavior
  • Associative Strength – A product or service must establish strong associations, or cues, for use within its contexts

Products do not need to be better than competitors in all these dimensions; they can even be inferior in what might be considered traditionally essential dimensions yet still create habits that defeat competing products.

Ease of Repetition

Easy to Access: Chromecast is available on Amazon and via Google Play Store. I ordered mine five minutes after finding out about it, and had it delivered by Amazon by 2 pm the next day. This has changed more recently, as supplies have dwindled. But barring supply management issues, anyone familiar with online ordering or App Store environments can order one.

Affordable: The $35 price point qualifies this as an impulse-buy from a technology standpoint. Most dedicated streaming devices sell for $100.

Easy to Use: The time elapsed from receiving my Amazon package from the UPS guy to steaming a YouTube video from my HTC One to my television took less than 7 minutes. Chromecast has dedicated interactions with Netflix, YouTube and will soon add Pandora. However, anything in your Chrome browser, even streaming on other services, will work. After installation, a small broadcast icon appeared in my Chrome browser (I use a MacBook Pro, but it is the same on Windows-based Chrome browsers), which allows anything I’m looking at to be broadcast to my TV. But the real easy-to-use advantage occurred when I went to my basement to work out and simply unplugged the Chromecast out of the upstairs TV and plugged it into the one downstairs. It occurred to me that it would be as easy to take this with me on the road and plug it in to the TV in my hotel room.

Score: 25 out of 25 points

Contextual Stability

Google is targeting situations where users are streaming content on a smaller device, such as a laptop, phone, or tablet, but there is more than one person that wants to watch or a solo user wants to view the content on a larger screen. By providing dedicated support to Netflix and YouTube viewing, it is creating a narrower context for users—true, I can use the Chromecast to stream anything from my Chrome browser, but this was not clear until I received the device, and the experience is not as seamless. For example, when streaming Netflix, my laptop screen was available for multitasking; when streaming Homeland from Comcast’s Xfinity website, my monitor and the TV were mirrored, and if I wanted a full screen view on my TV and not the small browser window, I could not use my laptop screen. Google also potentially limits itself to contexts where there is not another device that also streams Netflix or YouTube, so consumers with video game consoles, TiVo’s, or other devices with dedicated Netflix and YouTube apps may not see a clear context for using Chromecast.

This does not mean that there aren’t stable contextual opportunities for the Chromecast to own. I already mentioned the hotel room scenario, but the Chromecast could also function as a presentation aid. Instead of fiddling with projector or computer link ups, the Chromecast can be combined with a Google Apps slideshow or even Microsoft Office Live 365 displayed in a Chrome browser for a seamless A/V set up.

Consumers who already stream content have some semblance of context for when and where they stream, and the Chromecast is going to have to disrupt those or establish itself in new areas. Context is a frequent challenge for Google products—they offer many cool and useful solutions, but often leave consumers on their own to figure out when best to utilize them.

Score: 20 out of 30 points

Intensity of Feedback

The little Chromecast delivers HD on my big plasma screen. Wow. People who review technology for a living tend focus too much on specs. In reality there is a threshold that must be met and anything above that is largely irrelevant (honestly, has Blu-ray changed your life?).  Unless I have two TVs side by side, I won’t notice the difference in streaming via Chromecast, my Sony DVD player, or my Smart TV.

Chromecast also works fast with the picture showing up a few seconds after hitting the Chromecast button. There is little punishment in terms of frustration or confusion. True, as some reviewers have stated, there are many things it cannot do that other streaming devices do, such as easily play local media or push other apps from phones or tablets. However, the feedback from these limitations is dependent on how the device is framed, and most of Google’s marketing of Chromecast is very clearly framed around what it does: having what you are watching online on a small device transmitted to a big device. As long as user expectations are set prior to purchase (again, at $35), there shouldn’t be much punishment for the majority of users.

Score: 23 out of 25 points

Associative Strength

I’ve already begun developing cues for using Chromecast, such as exercising in my basement or when wanting to share a video with my daughter while we are watching television. The strongest cue is when I want to watch on-demand shows from my Xfinity account. Because I have a TiVo with a cable card, I cannot access on-demand content on my television. The Chromecast solves this.

The broadcast icon in my browser is a true cue that reminds me that I can use Chromecast, but there are few other triggers that exist outside of the content-viewing context itself. And because the Chrome device is so small, it loses out on becoming a visual cue for use in the entertainment space. A large white Xbox 360 is easier to see when on the couch and more likely to trigger use than a small dongle that may or may not be even visible when plugged into the television. Unless Google starts actively trying to create cues for use, the Chromecast will rely more on strong contextual association.

Score: 12 out of 20 points 

Habit-Score Assessment

Overall, I give Chromecast an 80 out of 100 for habit formation primarily because of how it will leverage existing habits and encourage repetition through ease of use and reinforcing feedback. With one click, I take my computer, tablet, or phone streaming habit and make it my TV streaming habit. How many millions of people watch TV with their laptop or tablet in their laps? With a click, what they are watching on their little screens can now be on their big screens. Google is leveraging the ubiquity of their browser to allow people to access any content they can get on their computer. And that will be amazingly habit forming.

Are you interested in having the Habit-Score Assessment professionally applied to one of your company’s products or services? Habit-Score is an efficient and affordable methodology for introducing your organization to the concepts of habit-based marketing. Read more about Habit-Score here or contact us for more information.

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