A Long Time Coming - I Am Officially Obsessed
If you have talked to me in the last month, you have definitely heard me talk about Pinterest (actually, more like rave about Pinterest.) It is by far my favorite new product. Here are a few of my reasons (in random order):
1) Discovery over Search: Pinterest came out of nowhere and is actually solving a huge problem: the dependence of marketers and large CPG brands on search data for advertising and retargeting purposes. Touted as the most valuable form of data, search data has trumped other forms of data in the world of advertising as the clearest picture of customer behavior and purchase intent. In reality, when we parse out what we actually buy, a lot of it has to do with spontaneous buys - not directly linked to what we search with in the first place. It’s like the phrase, “going into the supermarket to buy milk but leaving with a pack of gum near the cash register.” Pinterest is aiming to disrupt this market by moving customers away from search and towards “discovery.” Why would you need to search on Google to get thrown into a mess of search results when you can search on Pinterest and discover as you browse the boards and pins of friends or industry experts.
2) Redefining Advertising: Pinterest really is a bunch of cool advertisements. Of course they are driven by “interest” but it is really a collection of images that can drive to a website or “purchase decision”. But the way Pinterest has structured itself - you would never think of it as “just” ads. That’s the brilliance of the product. You “ooh” and you “aah” and you have no idea that what you’ve been doing for the past hour is being “advertised to.” It is obvious that Pinterest has put a lot of time and effort into its product (a technical success made clear by the Andreesen Horowitz investment) - but I believe Pinterest’s success will come from the interplay of user psychology and product. The only other company that does this as well is Apple. I think we have a star in the making.
3) Organizing Inspiration: When you first join Pinterest, you instantly own your own board. You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty details of filling out a lengthy profile. You are able to dive in before understanding what exactly you are doing. Very quickly, the inspiration concept takes over - you see friends posting all sorts of random things - from expensive art to kate spade shoes, holiday recipe ideas to pictures of your next spring break destination.
The tsunami of inspiration then leads to Pinterest’s second big win: Boards. Each image you attempt to pin or “re-pin” has to be organized into a category. After spending even 15 minutes on the site, you automatically CRAVE this sort of organization - a type of organization that isn’t as easy on an actual pin board. You start viewing inspiration in buckets which gives the Pinterest team pure gold in terms of consumer data. In online and mobile advertising, most data analysts have to parse through hordes of behavioral information to figure out a consumer’s identity and purchase preferences; with Pinterest, the user has done the job for you. Not only do you know what I want to buy, you know what inspires me. Jackpot.
4) The Real You: I believe Pinterest data will say more about an average user than social data because of the fierce independence it cultivates. “This is MY inspiration board, these are MY pins.” There exists very little showmanship. Why would you pretend to be inspired by something that bores you? On Facebook and Twitter, we share articles and photos that inspire us, but to a lesser extent. It is more about a personal brand or image we are trying to project. Pinterest is less about that. It functions more as a list we want to come back to, a storyboard that serves as inspiration or simply things we hope to accomplish (the design of a house, a daunting craft project or a bridal shower for a friend.) Pinterest lets you be you.
5) For the Women: This point is actually bittersweet in a lot of ways (especially for the Pinterest engineers.) I’ve rarely seen a consumer product or app that is as intensely gendered as Pinterest. Its user base right now is mostly women, even though it was founded by Ben Silbermann who was a collector as a kid. From a business model perspective, Pinterest should find ways to appeal to men - but from the perspective of helping women’s adoption rates to any early consumer product, I think the gender variation is great and I am so happy it has gained traction so quickly. We have finally started to build products (intentionally or unintentionally) that appeal to the double X chromosome first and second to the Y. I love it.
But why does Pinterest seem like a female-oriented product? If the foundation of Pinterest was around “collections” - the act of collecting as a hobby is as much a masculine trait as a feminine one. Here’s what I think. The foundation of Pinterest is a compelling one. Men are inspired as often as women. I really don’t think it has anything to do with our propensity to shop more than men. The core of the problem is man’s inability to project this inspiration. Collections are usually private until they have gained significant traction and can be “shown off.” Pinterest is a collection in motion, one that is displayed everyday. Is that as appealing to men? Men are more private about what inspires them. Talking out loud about these things is “feminine”, like a gossip session at a slumber party, magazines and nailpolish in tow. Men make lists; they have plans - but they talk about them in bars after a few beers, not on a social networking site. I am interested to see how the Pinterest team will shape its product to appeal to men the same way it is appealing to women.
Visit my Pinterest but beware, you won’t be able to leave the site for a few hours.