Earlier today I was listening to a program with Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs’ biography book. He was explaining how Steve was obsessed with the idea of making Apple’s products “friendly.” Walter was highlighting how certain individuals on the team had a hard time understanding what “friendly” meant or in some cases why it was important.
Interestingly enough later in the day I was in the living room checking my email on my MAC when my little nephew (he’s a toddler) came running into the room yelling “apple” and he got his mouth so close to the back of my screen and attempted to take a bite our of the logo while making the sound of teeth crunching an apple. It immediately became obvious to me what friendly means to consumers in the context of what Steve was talking about.
In my opinion, organizations who are able to launch products that allow consumers to form a relationship with that products are much more likely to succeed. If we are human beings somehow form a bond with a product based on personal preferences or some likability factor, it will feel as though we are emotionally vested in this item and as such it will increase our product loyalty.
I suspect that “friendly” products don’t necessarily come out of organizations that have the smartest people but rather the most creative ones. Yes, intelligence is needed to come up with good, even great products, however, it takes a totally different skill to produce something that consumers manage to form some sort of relationship bond with. It requires not only understanding their needs, but tapping into their psyche somehow.
While marketing does play a role in tapping into consumer emotions, the issue here is not simple marketing. When I look at the way that Apple packages its products for instance I can not help but be impressed by both the utility of the packaging along with the elegance. It looks so professional that I actually had to think long and hard before I tossed that iPhone packaging in the trash. What if I needed it? That’s the kind of bond that consumers are intended to form with Apple products.
Additionally, this relationship between consumers and products does not stop at the product level but also extends into the service space. Someone for example may prefer to use a certain cell phone provider because of a relationship that they formed long ago, even though their rates are not as competitive.
Steve Jobs’ genius though was his ability to combine that emotional reaction that consumers are expected to have based on marketing techniques along with superior products. That’s what contributed to Apple’s competitive advantage.