Archive for the ‘Product Commentary’ Category

Creating “A Little Weirdness”

May 23, 2011

Many of these blog entries have explored how emotions can help to create a product or service that customers love to use and interact with. These same principles can be applied to the design of a business or a corporate culture. Looking at Fortune’s “Top 100 Best Companies to Work For”, many of those companies don’t top the list because of high salaries or big offices. Instead these companies provide their employees with a rewarding and emotionally satisfying working environment. Zappos is a great example of a company that puts its employees’ emotions at the top of its priority list. Zappos refers to its employees as the “Zappos Family” and encourages them to be “adventurous, creative and open-minded” and even to “create fun and a little weirdness.” Zappos employees want to feel unique and creative in their jobs, so Zappos has built that right into the corporate culture.

Their 10 Zappos Family Core Values are:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

Your employees spend most of their week working for you; think about what emotions they want from their job – how they want their job to make them feel. The result can only be happier and more satisfied employees, and happier and more satisfied customers.


Choosing a College: Choosing Carnegie Mellon University

April 29, 2011

It may seem that big life choices should be based solely on a rational decision making process, but emotions can be just as much a part of the decision. From where to live to where to go to school, people are constantly influenced not only by what they think, but how they feel. There are many factors that high school students have to consider when they are deciding which college to go to. While they are looking for a college that fits their needs academically, they are also looking for a certain emotional experience. What environment resonates with the desires that the students feel when they visit a college, go to a college and become alumni to a college?

Carnegie Mellon University, where we teach, is known for its collaborative interdisciplinary teaching and research experience. Its academic environment also provides a feeling of community that students seek out, where students at Carnegie Mellon feel an integral part of their own department but connected across the diverse campus community. Life at Carnegie Mellon feels exciting, cutting edge, and full of hope because students live, study, and collaborate on the intersection of disciplines, where computers and theatre mix, where business and engineering mix, and where robots and biology mix. For the students who choose to come to Carnegie Mellon, how it feels to be on the university’s campus matters tremendously, where students feel that almost anything is possible.

Taking (Some) of the Agony out of Air Travel

April 13, 2011

Air travel is an extremely emotional experience, yet very few companies have leveraged emotion as a way to enhance the air travel experience. Southwest has sought to make a more enjoyable and pleasant flight experience overall; others are beginning to look for new ways to connect the emotion of their customers to their services. Now Hipmunk, a new flight search website, has brought emotion into how you actually find the flight. Instead of pages and pages of search results, Hipmunk sorts the results based on normal criteria that flyers mentally weigh when making travel plans including price, duration of flight and time of day. But on Hipmunk, by default the results are sorted by “Agony”, capturing the emotion that people realize when paying for their ticket, and contemplating the time traveling (which in the search is a combination of price, duration and number of stops for the flight). Rather than just giving visitors search results based on price alone, Hipmunk has realized that sometimes people are willing to pay more to avoid unpleasant travel situations. Although “agony” captures the negative emotions of travel, Hipmunk lightens that emotional stress by making the best choice easy to find, presented in a visually intuitive graph, letting customers know that the flight they have chose will have the least “agony”.

Fast Lines, Fast Beers, Fast Checkout

March 19, 2011

Ever get really frustrated, even angry, while waiting in line for a beer at the football game? A company named GrinOn has tackled that problem. GrinOn recently invented the Bottoms Up Draft Beer Dispensing System, which fills a beer glass from the bottom up to minimize the time it takes to fill the cup (a metal disk magnetically seals the bottom of the cup). While this product sprung out of the inventor’s impatience in line at sports events, part of its success comes from the emotions it makes the customer feel while they are waiting for their drink. The system has turned the mundane and frustrating task of waiting for your drink into something more by adding an element of excitement and joy to the process, the same emotions that people look for when attending a sports event or concert. Even the company’s name suggests that they aren’t just bringing people their drinks faster, but bringing a smile to their faces. As the inventor says, “it captivates you” to watch the machine at work. The videos of the Bottoms Up Draft Beer Dispensing System filling up cups have even gone viral with over 4 million YouTube views. By delivering the same product in a new way, GrinOn creates that captivating exciting experience. And it also relieves that stress and anger of long lines at the bar at the game.

Emotion and Function

January 24, 2011

Emotional enhancements to a product can allow it to stand out in a category that is seemingly very functional. The KitchenAid mixer has been a popular kitchen appliance for decades. The KitchenAid is a high quality product, but quality is not always enough to stand out from the competition. The KitchenAid also has an iconic design, playful colors and a history associated with it. By buying a KitchenAid mixer, the customer can own a part of that history and feel authentic and nostalgic. KitchenAid has trademarked the shape of their mixer, maintaining the essence of that historic design for 90 years because they recognize that the design communicates quality, authenticity, confidence, and capability. Even though your company may make a product or service that has a definite functional goal, like the Kitchen Aid mixer, there are many ways that you can add emotional elements to it.

Verizon and the iPhone…why AT&T must be scared

December 20, 2010
Everyone knows that the rumors are true.  They have to be, for Verizon is now selling the iPad.  In just months if not sooner, Verizon will offer the iPhone, ending the 5-year exclusive relationship between Apple and AT&T.  The iPhone was the first broad-reaching smartphone, and many feel is still by far the best smartphone on the market because it brings a bit of joy into routine tasks and makes accessible the world of the internet…anywhere there is coverage. AT&T had their chance, the chance to endear themselves to a growing customer base of iPhone owners by providing service on par with the handset.  AT&T had five years to live up to the expectations that the iPhone delivers – to grow and advance their capabilities and to become the leading network.
AT&T has not only failed to become part of the infatuation, but they have even failed to be a behind-the-scenes enabler of the romance.   Instead they find themselves with unhappy customers eager to leave the network…as long as the iPhone comes with them.  TMobile has even run ads that jeer at the iPhone-AT&T partnership where, taking a cue from the popular Apple ads, TMobile and Apple phones are personified by individuals who banter back and forth. But there’s a heavyset man being carried on the back of the iPhone4 guy, “the ol’ AT&T network.”
Now that iPhone users have built up such strongly held negative emotions towards their service provider, AT&T will be severely challenged to reverse course.  Yet, even if AT&T is reborn overnight with an entirely refreshed approach, at this point it is probably too late for iPhone users. Once customers have strongly held emotions, customers are no longer objective about what a company does anymore, for better or for worse for the company.  For many, Apple can do no wrong; consider the equity granted them even though the iPhone4 dropped calls because of the antenna issue – a design flaw.  On the other hand, AT&T can no longer do anything right.  One friend of ours has both an iPhone on AT&T and a Blackberry on Verizon, carrying both with him at all times so that he will always have service.  He recognizes that he is no longer able to be objective about AT&T.  When recently activating service on both phones for international travel, he wasn’t sure if the AT&T representative was truly worse than the Verizon representative, or if he just noticed every problem with AT&T and was more forgiving with Verizon.  In the end, from the customer’s viewpoint, their perception of AT&T is all that matters. So for every dropped call, customers’ never think to blame the Apple iPhone but only the AT&T service, consoling themselves that AT&T’s days are numbered.

Take XBox Kinect on an emotion-driven ride

November 8, 2010

We got the new XBox 360 Kinect this week.  Wow.  What fun!  What a great experience.  The unit itself is classy, projecting a feeling of substance and elegance.  It self-calibrates, engendering a feeling of relief that it is so easy to use, and even better it immediately gets you to the fun.  But when you see how the avatar on the screen imitates your every move you start to feel very much like you are in the game’s world.  I played the water raft ride.  Every time I move and jump, the avatar and raft react so you feel like you are on an amusement park ride.   XBox delivers surprises and delights that bring you ever closer to that amusement park experience.  During the ride it takes your picture, and then you see your joy captured in the photo after the ride (though you don’t have to pay $14.95 to buy it like you do at the amusement park).  The interface makes you feel empowered and projects you to the future, hinting at technology only envisioned in Minority Report.  The great thing for kids and adults alike is that the game is active, moving you around to maneuver the raft (or for other games block the balls or avoid the obstacles).  But, lo, I will probably need to find another way to get my exercise because the kids won’t let me near it…  Microsoft has delivered a product built to love with easy to use but unobtrusive cutting-edge hardware and software technology.


Connecting with your Inner Child

November 3, 2010

In the realm of breakfast foods, Pop-Tarts is unlike any other.  A true breakfast treat, sugary enough to give pause to health-minded moms, they entice with more than simply their flavor, providing an experience that transcends simply the combination of ingredients.  Now, Kelloggs is building on that experience, growing it in a new way to connect even more closely with their customer base. Kelloggs has opened a Times Square Pop-Tarts flagship store called Pop-Tarts World where customers can do things with Pop-Tarts they can’t do anywhere else. Customers can eat Pop-Tarts sushi, create their own variety pack or watch a Pop-Tarts inspired light show. Rather than pushing sales, Pop-Tarts World provides a new experience with the food, encouraging customers to connect with their inner child by exploring more creative uses for an inherently playful product. With flavors like Apple Strudel, Chocolate Blitz and Ice Cream Sandwich, Kelloggs’ hope is to emotionally engage customers with an enjoyable and authentic Pop-Tarts experience that they will then associate more broadly with the Pop-Tarts brand as they return to their daily routine.

Can you Love Vacuuming?

October 4, 2010

Emotional attachments to products can help customers turn mundane tasks into exciting experiences. For example, many people have become emotionally attached to their Roombas, those motorized, robotic vacuum cleaners that vacuum the rooms for you. Some customers have even given names to their Roombas, feeling attachment to the machine much like a pet. Even though Roombas don’t always work well and may even require customers to rearrange their furniture to better accommodate it, people are still very attached to the product. The Roomba makes people feel excited about vacuuming not only because it takes the chore out of their hands and into the hands of technology, but because it is fun. This emotional attachment to the Roomba allows users to forgive some of the technological imperfections in the product. Put differently, customers find so much joy in the Roobmas that they willingly trade off emotion for function.  And as a result, Roomba owners become spokespeople for the product, providing iRobot (the manufacturer) the ultimate word-of-mouth marketing.

For more information on the Roomba and product emotions check out:

Another winning year for Southwest

September 13, 2010

People do not often associate positive emotions with air travel.  The ever-longer list of fees isn’t helping matters, either.  Fees for each bag, fees to sit in one row instead of a another, fees to sit on an aisle instead of the middle, …. Then after the fees, customers experience long lines, cancelled flights and cramped cabins, increasing customers’ frustration and disappointment.

Southwest Airlines must be smiling about the way competitors are handling themselves, making customers’ lives more uncomfortable in order to squeeze out a few more dollars here and there.   (more…)