Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Manufacturers: Excite People To Buy

I have a toaster on my kitchen counter that I bought at a local discount store. It cost about the same as the many other mid-price toasters that were on display. It toasts bread the same way. It's the same size. So, why did I buy this toaster, and not one of its dozen competitors? Somebody took the time to make this toaster not just a toaster, but an exciting piece of contemporary art. It's not just a toaster, it's an absolutely gorgeous toaster. The appearance of the product excited me enough at the store to stop me in my tracks as I scanned the many toaster options. Once I saw the price compared to the many dull, lifeless models on the shelves, I stopped shopping and I bought this one.

If you could completely learn and absorb the lesson told in this story, you could be selling many times the number of products you now sell, and, you could be enjoying lower effort in your marketing, and even higher margins.

The lesson is to not just build products, even great products. You should be building products that actually excite customers to buy them.

Right Brain. Left Brain.

Supposedly, people are either predisposed to spontaneity, or to analysis in the way they approach decisions. Traditional marketing and product design apply this idea by theorizing that there are two distinct potential buyer groups. And, a result of this idea is that designers build either low functionality, simple "pretty" products, or, they build high functionality, complex "utilitarian" products, with the second type being priced higher than the first. But, what if one product could exist neatly at the intersection of both groups?

If a product is both functional and gorgeously styled, and priced competitively, it can be an exciting option for anyone, either the right or left brain set. The creative types seize on the design, and then use the competitive functionality as their needed rationale for making the purchase. And, the analytical types obsess on the functionality, and then use the attractive styling as the excuse to justify the purchase. In either case, it's the overall value proposition of combining terrific styling with competitive functionality that makes the product so exciting to nearly any potential customer.

When In Doubt, Simplify.

If you are having a problem determining just what makes the appearance of a product exciting, you can always use a simple trick applied many clever manufacturers: simplify. Of course, this is not often an easy trick to pull off well. Sometimes, simplifying a product without crippling its functionality is one of the hardest challenges in industrial design. But, if the toaster lesson has any widespread application, this challenge of seeking simplicity in your designs should be worth the effort.


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