The ‘Selfish’ Product

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Richard Dawkins wrote about ‘The Selfish Gene’ and developed the idea that genes (rather than species) survive generations because their evolutionary consequences serve their own interests and not those of the organism. The most successful genes become ubiquitous and dominant in the population and express themselves in social culture as ‘memes’.

Successful products do the same – they become ‘Selfish’ Products.

Meme: an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”

The changes in behaviour brought about by ‘Selfish’ Products are everywhere to see, and these changes establish and reinforce those behaviours until consumers believe the product is an integral part of their life: “I can’t live without my iPhone!

Each decade has seen consumer electronic products that become dominant in the market and start to influence social culture, for example:

60s:   Portable Transistor Radio (Sony)
70s:   Electronic Calculator (Texas Instruments)…

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Who cares if it doesn’t work?

There is often a huge gulf between the way in which a product was intended to be used and the way it actually is. Product designers need to experience first-hand how their creations work in the real world if they are to improve future designs.

If a consumer product doesn’t work well, it is likely to become the subject of online reviews, and any feedback will eventually find its way back to the designers one way or another. At the very least, the consumer experience is likely to (negatively) affect the prospects of repurchase. But for products or experiences which are not so obviously linked to consumer purchase, there are likely to be fewer repercussions. Who really cares if it doesn’t work?

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If they’re selling an experience, why are they treating me like that?

There are times when it’s difficult to separate a product from its surrounding experience. When that happens, it’s critical that both the product and the experience are good enough to lure the customer back for more. A failure in either element can adversely affect the ultimate success of the business.

Whilst products can be designed and supplied to a fixed specification with defined limits, experiences can be more difficult to reproduce. There is a danger that overly-prescribed experiences can leave the customer feeling “processed” rather than being treated as an individual. Front-line staff need to understand the effect they can have on the customer experience. And Head Office staff need to give them the freedom to deliver that individual experience, rather than insisting on following an efficient process.
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“Just” is a four-letter word

When we, as Product Managers, use the word “just” to describe a feature we want, we’re subtly (or not so subtly) telling the implementers how we judge its size and/ or complexity.

  • Can’t it just sort the results and display them with the most relevant first?
  • Can’t you just make it slimmer and lighter so it’s easier to hold?
  • Can’t you just move Phase 2 earlier so it’s almost like a Phase 1b?

By using the J-word, we lose credibility.

  • We demonstrate that we’re not familiar with the problem.
  • We show that we don’t trust the implementers to give us the right answer or to do the right thing.

And the one thing we don’t want to lose is our credibility because it stops those around us from believing in us, believing in what they’re doing, and going the extra mile to deliver for us.

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Product essentials: Emotional appeal and powerful words

Great products create emotional attachments. Designers who recognise this and who create that customer bond are likely to have a success on their hands. Those products are easy to market because customers (or users) respond more readily to product benefits than to product features.

Neglecting this key requirement during the product definition phase leaves too much for the marketing team to do, and creates unrealistic expectations that they will somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat.

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We’re all experts now

How often have you seen product or portfolio decisions taken without the support of robust insights?

In the absence of existing insights, gathering meaningful data can be time-consuming and expensive. And with constant downward pressure on both time and cost, the temptation to cut corners is always there and guesswork creeps in. After all, how difficult can it be to guess, particularly considering the amount of information which is already available?

  • The web provides ready access to a vast amount of market data.
  • Discussion forums dedicated to the particular product or topic almost certainly exist, irrespective of how niche it is.
  • Online customer reviews are ubiquitous, instantly available and free.
  • … and since we’re all consumers anyway, we have our own experience to fall back on.

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Do smartphones need to become any smarter?

As smartphones continue to become more powerful, announcements of novel hardware developments are few and far between. The same happened with PCs as pure grunt eventually became the focus of development attention and peripherals assumed greater significance. At the same time, the abundance of developments in personal healthcare and fitness signal a market opportunity which may change the smartphone forever by focusing development attention on the peripherals.

Are we witnessing the end of smartphone development?

SmartSensors

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