December 15, 2017

Put a Little Love in Your Product – How Great Products Evoke Emotion

The following is a summary of the Roundtable discussion that I led at ProductCamp Austin 10 on Feb 16th, 2013.

Several authors have recently highlighted the importance of emotion in great products.   Peter Boatwright and Jonathan Cagan explore this in their book “Built to Love: Creating Products That Captivate Customers”.   Marty Cagan addresses this in one chapter of his book “Inspired:  How to Create Products Customers Love”.   And then to take a different look at this,  Anthony Ulwick has written a book title “What Customers Want:  Using Outcome Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products & Services”, where he describes that customers hire products to do a job, which at the surface seems to have nothing to do with evoking emotion.

In this session, we explored if and how emotion played a role in the success of products.  Discussion points for the session included:

  • Is emotion required to be a great product?
  • Does emotion apply to the general market?
  • Can emotion be planned into products or is it a serendipitous outcome?
  • Does emotion apply to business & industrial products?
  • Can we identify emotions to target?

Examples of Products That Evoke Emotion

So to start the session, we looked out products that participants said evoke emotions and we asked why.  These included:

Products Why They Evoke Emotion
 iPhone  It’s “lickable” – it’s unexpectedly good, which creates customer delight.  It’s finely crafted and feels good in the hand.
Disney Amazing customer experience.   They are meticulous about the whole experience and have planned for many potential use cases that need to be addressed, even minute ones that many would overlook. The Disney Imagineers are always looking for ways to improve on the experience (remove the crap).
Configurable Curtain Rods Easy to reconfigure any time furniture is rearranged (which in the participants case was multiple times per year).  It only took several minutes to change them v. having to buy new ones and going through the hassle of removing the old ones and installing the new.
SalesForce Much more useful than spreadsheets, little up-front investment, relatively easy to get started.
Southwest Airlines Great customer experience (especially in relation to other airlines) because the SW employees are happy, seem to enjoy their jobs, no nickel & dime for each extra, transparent about flight delays and other issues.

Characteristics of Products That Evoke Emotion

Key Characteristic Description of Characteristic
Unexpected Delight Other experiences were so bad before and you didn’t realize how good it could be.   Or going beyond what is regularly expected.   One other aspect is avoiding those things that can create negative emotions or hassle.
Honesty/Transparency Regular and honest communications v. leaving us in the dark or creating false stories to hide truth.
Attention to Detail Crafting the experience to ensure it’s memorable by paying attention to detail.  Also, making it personal.
Focus On Core Competencies Not trying to be everything to everyone and paying attention to those things that benefit the business model (which in turn benefit the customer).

How Companies Proactively Evoke Emotion

  • Someone owns the customer experience (empowered and budget)
  • Crafting the Experience & Creating the Story
  • Listening to Customers (showing the vendor cares)
  • Knowing What Not to Do (Clear Mission & Strategy)

Final Thoughts on Evoking Emotion With Your Products

While we did not achieve a comprehensive understanding of the role that emotion plays in great products, I think we definitely arrived at an understanding of the roots of what evokes emotion in products.   We also came to the conclusion that emotion can be evoked in about any kind of product, though the was an area that we would have liked to explore more.

I started out mentioning several books and that Tony Ulwick’s book seemed to not look at evoking emotion.   But from this discussion and from own experience, when a company understands all aspects (or dimensions) of the job their product is being hired for, they will pay attention to the important details that other vendors are ignoring and create a product that delivers unexpected delight, thus evoking emotion.   So I believe the though of hiring a product to do a job and evoking emotion is congruent.

So my final though is, it starts with Product Management 101 – understand the customer needs and expectations and then craft that experience.


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