Why Byton will fail

Byton, an electric car company that plans to challenge Tesla for superiority in the space, is destined to fail because of one fatal flaw. Announced officially at CES, on paper it looks like a true challenger to Tesla. Byton is led by ex-Apple and ex-BMW employees, a seemingly brilliant collaboration to create a Tesla killer.


Unfortunately it suffers from one fatal flaw, cognitive load. Cognitive load is how much info people are processing at any one time. Cognitive load is tied to working memory, the more information in that short-term memory the higher the cognitive load. The concept of cognitive load is why UIUX is better when simpler. A simple user experience minimizes cognitive load, thus not creating too much strain.

If you look at the most successful products, it is not ones that are crammed with features that generate a lot of checkmarks on a comparative analysis. It is products that have very few options but generate tremendous value. Uber is the example I always use. It is valued at tens of billions (and would be even more if they could get their PR improved), and when you open the app you are asked where you want to go, and then you are given 3 or 4 options to get there. You are not picking the color of the car that collects you, the height of the driver, what route they will take, etc., which is all handled by Uber. Apple is another great example. The iPhone and iPad have virtually no extraneous features or settings, they are clean, elegant machines.

While Byton is co-led by ex-Apple personnel, they did not seem to get the memo on cognitive load. As the BBC writes when seeing the car, “in front of us is a huge display that stretches out across almost the entire dashboard. During the day it is bright white, but at night it inverts to be less distracting…. A tablet computer is situated in the middle of the steering wheel, while an extra screen can be found on the back of each front seat. The main display can show any number of things – video clips, calendars, mapping, health data and so on. As you sit in the car, internal cameras will determine who you are and load your profile, adjusting the driving seat position and other customizations.”

Byton interior

This setup is not what people want. While it sounds great on a feature list and is compelling when reading about it, it almost certainly will create an uncomfortable and unenjoyable experience for users. People want a clean, simple experience that delivers to them the information or entertainment they want when they want it, even if they do not realize it immediately. They do not need multiple screens and computers that turn their vehicle into the space shuttle. By not realizing the importance of cognitive load, the Byton team has doomed its startup to failure.

Key takeaways

  • Byton, an electric car company led by ex-Apple and ex-BMW personnel, unveiled their Tesla-killer at CES
  • The design team failed to take into account cognitive load, how much info people can or want to process at any one time.
  • The Byton fails by featuring a huge display that stretches out across almost the entire dashboard, a built in tablet computer and extra screens.

Key themes in Digital Branding and Engagement

I recently finished a course on EdX, Digital Branding and Engagement from Australia’s Curtin University, and while it had a lot of information that is commonly known, there were also some tidbits I wanted to share.


You need to engage with, not talk to, your customers

The focus of marketing is now on an engagement model and not a sales model, where you provide actual value to your customer or player. Traditional disruptive one-way advertising messages are being replaced with deeper two-way relationships with consumers. As a business, you have to consistently engage your customers; which requires compelling content that is interesting, creates value, and has opportunities for interaction. A true value exchange is one that creates loyal customers.

A key dynamic driving this engagement model is that consumers are no longer captive. A captive audience is one where a message is created and channeled to consumers who passively receive content. Consumers are now the beneficiaries of a power shift. The power shift is from media companies who used to control what consumers saw, when they saw it, and how they saw it. Now the power shift is with the consumers.

As they pointed out in the course, the notion of captive audiences is one that lives in the past, even in the online environment. There is a growing acknowledgement that marketing has changed more in the past one to two years, than it has in more than half a century before.

To succeed in this environment you need both to communicate interactively and add value. Give them something for interacting. It could be tips, discounts, compelling stories, etc., with the key being it needs to be something they value.

Customers expect communication

Consumers now expect two way communication. When they are dissatisfied, not only will they communicate this to you but they expect a (fast) response. Consumers expect a two-way dialogue with brands and personalized ads relevant to their needs. Even if you are sending a newsletter, it should be personalized based on your customers’ preferences.

Go to the customer, don’t expect them to come to you

An evolving opportunity with social media marketing is participation marketing. With participation marketing, you build a team around an event that is going to happen on social media, then have them talk about it and respond very quickly (Super Bowl, Oscars, World Cup, eSports, etc.). Rather than creating the event, you piggyback on to a topic people are engaged with, connect your product or game with that content, and create a conversation with potential customers.

Once you engage with customers, on their terms, you can then bring them to your assets. Reaching people in areas they are most interested in, engaging them with content that is directly relevant and taking them through to your owned resources.

How to create great content

Unlike the Mad Men era, content is no longer about making the brand look great. Good content is now focused on the customer and not the brand. The key is when creating content you should put people first, with the product in the background. Good content should be focused on the customer, not the brand.

At a high level, there are four keys to creating compelling marketing content:

  1. A brand should start with a clear vision, focus or story
  2. The vision should be set at senior or strategic levels
  3. The vision must permeate all levels of the business and there should be a long term commitment to the strategy with clear objectives
  4. The vision must be aligned with and support a brand’s DNA

Overall, a successful content strategy is clear and aligned internally not only in the marketing department but with all decision makers.

Key takeaways

  • Marketing has evolved to an engagement model, where rather than talking to to your customers you provide them value and engage in two-way communications.
  • Rather than expecting your customers to see your content or visit your owned media sites, you need to reach out to them where they are, for example when they are online discussing a sporting event.
  • The key to creating effecitve content is putting people first, with the product in the background