Designing a good product is a tough undertaking. It generally involves a lot of trial and error and above all, patience. It is also expensive.
So why do so many products fall short of meeting their potential? Microsoft launched its new Windows phone via Nokia, and it failed to resonate with customers. The movie The Interview was launched by Sony pictures, and in spite of a ringing public endorsement from the North Korean Government, it failed to hit its targets. GM failed to resonate with consumers this year and found itself trailing most car manufacturers in each major category. Sometimes it is about having a good product. Other times, it is in the packaging around the product.
If you look closely at many of the products that fail, you will notice something very important. The products that fail started on the path to failure by not fostering a community for their users.
Throughout my career, I have tried to act under the assumption that good product design does not end with building a good product, but includes many other factors that can be influenced around the product – community being an important one.
Here are a couple of examples to frame what a successful community looks like.
Recently, I purchased a new BMW. Part of the process of purchasing a BMW includes registering on their website. Once you have done that, you are given a series of updates on how your car is progressing. Essentially, they are building your expectations regarding the delivery of the car. At some point, you are notified that your car is ready and available at the dealership. When you go in to pick it up, you are given a lengthy orientation of the vehicle. This is followed by a call and an invitation to joint a BMW expert at a future date to help you further orient yourself with the car. This is followed up by invitations to BMW events, parties, speakers and driving classes. All of these events and communications are aimed at two very important objectives. First, they want you to be a happy owner of a BMW. Second, they want you to join their community. They know that as a member of the community, you are likely to feel that you are giving up more than a car if you choose to purchase a Mercedes on your next go around. They are creating stickiness.
A great product has a great communications plan that works in harmony with it.
When I design products, I design a communications plan that addresses what happens when customers purchase, use and leave my product. The goal is to create stickiness and leave your customer feeling like they will lose more than just a product if they leave. They will lose the community they live in.
Other companies have similar views, although they might manifest themselves in different ways.
DirtyBit, a gaming company in Bergen, Norway is a producer of excellent multiplayer games. Their most successful game, Fun Run has over 45 million users. Dirtybit uses not only the game to communicate to their user base, but also social media and self- hosted public events. Their relationship with their users extends outside of the traditional boundaries of their product and into the social experiences of their audience. The result is that people are painting their vehicles with Fun Run scenes to show their solidarity with the game.
How many of you can say; “My customers repainted their jet ski to look like my product?”