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MAYA

Lessons from Quibi’s closure

Media streaming service Quibi closes - Your Startup Guru
Media streaming service Quibi closes

Media streaming service Quibi shutting down six months after launching. Their closure is not surprising because Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney studio head and DreamWorks co-founder missed one important lessons when selling something new: make it familiar.

Katzenberg missed one important lessons when selling something new: make it familiar.
People were not going to shell out $5 per month to watch something they’ve never heard of with commercials.

In a previous post, we discussed how industrial designer and marketer Raymond Loewy created the concept of MAYA — Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. His firm designed mid-century icons like the Exxon logo, the Lucky Strike pack, the Greyhound bus, as well as Frigidaire ovens and Singer vacuum cleaners. Even the blue nose on Air Force One was his idea. Loewy had an uncanny sense of how to make things fashionable. He believed that a balance must be struck between two concepts: the curiosity about new things and a fear of anything too new. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something novel, make it novel.

What is Quibi?

Quibi is a media streaming service that promised to reinvent television by streaming high-quality content in ten-minute-or-less episodes to “the TV in your pocket.” Quibi, is short for “quick bites.” Katzenberg believed enough mobile-phone users would use their spare minutes of downtime — while waiting in line for coffee, riding the bus or subway — to watch bite-sized episodes of premium, Hollywood-quality video.

The concept itself is great except all of their content was new and it cost $4.99 (with ads) or $7.99 (without ads) per month. People were not going to shell out $5 per month to watch something they’ve never heard of with commercials. Also, the short episodes might not be long enough to engage the audience. Ultimately, their revenue model did not match their pricing strategy (1, 2).

What Should Quibi Have Done?

Using Loewy’s lessons, in order to make the shows on Quibi familiar as well as its short format, they should have gone with the freemium model by giving one month free with an additional month if they get someone to join. This will give time for people to bond with the shows before introducing the paid no-commercial version. Hulu used this same pricing strategy and it worked out well for them.

According to Vulture article Is Anyone Watching Quibi?

Quibi was to launch in the spring of 2020 with 50 original shows, and another 125 were to be rolled out by the end of the first year. Recognizing the risk of making something for an unproven platform, Katzenberg typically offered to pay producers’ costs plus 20 percent. “People on Quibi have $100,000 a minute to make content,” Katzenberg tells me. “That doesn’t exist on other platforms.”

This production pace and cash burn is difficult to sustain and now, in a fire sale, they are giving out free 6 month trial memberships in an attempt to gain viewership but it was too little too late.

How to Sell Something Old and Something New

Loewy had an uncanny sense of how to make things fashionable. He said to sell something novel, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it novelLoewy called his approach “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable” – MAYA


Raymond Loewy is one of the most influential industrial designers / marketers that you’ve probably never heard of.

His firm designed mid-century icons like the Exxon logo, the Lucky Strike pack, the Greyhound bus, as well as Frigidaire ovens and Singer vacuum cleaners. Even the blue nose on Air Force One was his idea.

Loewy had an uncanny sense of how to make things fashionable. He believed that a balance must be struck between two concepts: the curiosity about new things and a fear of anything too new. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something novel, make it novel. Loewy called his approach “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable” — MAYA.

Loewy wasn’t the only one to embrace this marketing strategy. Alfred Sloan, the CEO of General Motors, saw that changing a car’s style and color every year, trained consumers to crave new versions of the same product. To sell more stuff, American industrialists worked with designers to make new products beautiful and cool.

MAYA doesn’t just apply to new product design…

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

In The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he describes how the song “Hey Ya!” by OutKast failed to gain traction with listeners. Hey Ya! was by all measures supposed to be a hit. A company named Polyphonic HMI, formed by artificial intelligence experts and statisticians, created a program called Hit Song Science that analyzed the mathematical characteristics of a song and predicted its popularity. Hit Song Science predicted Norah Jones’s Come Away with Me would be a hit after many industry experts dismissed the album, as well as “Why Don’t You and I” by Santana. Hey Ya! scored one of the highest scored recorded at the time. However, when stations would play it, people would switch stations during the song.

It wasn’t until DJs sandwiched Hey Ya! between two familiar songs, people stopped switching stations. After a few weeks, listeners became familiar with Hey Ya! and it gained the traction that Polyphonic HMI predicted it would.

…MAYA Also Works in Reverse

Spotify logo

Inserting a familiar song within unfamiliar songs also works. This was the case for Matt Ogle, who, helped build Spotify’s Discover Weekly, a personalized list of 30 songs delivered every Monday to tens of million of users. The original version of Discover Weekly was supposed to include only songs that users had never listened to before. In its first internal test at Spotify, a bug in the algorithm included songs that users had already heard.

However, after Ogle’s team fixed the bug, engagement with the playlist actually fell. It turned out that having a bit of familiarity bred trust. According to Ogle, “If we make a new playlist for you and there’s not a single thing for you to hook onto or recognize—to go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a good call!’—it’s completely intimidating and people don’t engage.” It turned out that the original bug was an essential feature: Discover Weekly was a more appealing product when it had even one familiar band or song.

MAYA is Everywhere but Comes in Steps

Notice the new hard seltzer craze? It’s everywhere. White Claw, Wild Basin, Truly, even Bud Light has gotten into the game.

Zima was too big of a step for consumers that needed something familiar first before making the jump to hard seltzer. 
Your Startup Guru
Zima was too big of a step for consumers that needed something familiar first before making the jump to hard seltzer.

But before the bevy of new beverages Zima was the novel beverage about town. Introduced in 1993, Zima is a clear, lightly carbonated alcoholic beverage marketed as an alternative to beer, or coolers as they were called at the time. However, if the ill-fated Zima is any indication, hard seltzer was a jump the market wasn’t quite ready to handle. It had to take something familiar…namely, a subtly flavored, non-alcoholic beverage whose popularity took everyone by surprise: La Croix.

With the popularity of La Croix, the jump to hard seltzer was smaller to a more familiar product.
Your Startup Guru
With the popularity of La Croix, the jump to hard seltzer was smaller to a more familiar product.

Although the exact formulation between sparkling malt beverages and hard seltzers may be different, the taste profile and market demographics are similar enough that if Zima came about 15 years later, it may have found greater success than it did.

Your Startup Guru provides in depth industry and market research as part of our Strategy Consulting services. Use the contact form here to start developing the best strategy for your business.

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