Did you know that research has shown that the emotion of “likeability” is the measure most predictive of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales?
Yet most of us still talk about what we offer more like BlackBerry’s CEO than Steve Jobs:
When Jobs promoted the iPhone he talked about tangible pleasures – the ability to search Paris maps, listen to Bob Dylan, play video games, and tap cameras that captured the world. When Lazaridis talked about RIM’s phones, you needed an engineering degree to parse his words. Unveiling RIM’s Bold phone at a conference in Orlando, Florida, in May 2008, he began with a spiel ripped from a product manual: “3G tri-band HSDPA. Quad band Edge. Wi-Fi A, B, and G. GPS. 624 megahertz strong-armed with MMX. Powerhouse processing. Bold. Brilliant, strong colour display. The best keyboard we’ve ever made.”
Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff
When someone buys a product, the technological aspects are a tiny part of the appeal. Here’s what I’ve learned from helping companies use emotion in design.
Certain emotions are linked to certain actions
If you haven’t designed a product before, your first port of call will probably be to dig into metrics. That means burying yourself in data, and oftentimes coming to some fairly random conclusions. When you’ve designed a few, you’ll hopefully start looking more at the emotions you want to create.
Over the years, I’ve learned one simple thing: products have to both perform brilliantly and allow us to develop an emotional attachment to our brand. Why? Because we want people to continue to buy from us and share their experiences with others.
When you put a product in someone’s hands, the only person that knows about it is that person, unless they share their experience with someone else.
That means you need to think while you are designing your product or service about the specific emotions you want to create. Ideally, you need to ask yourself “Which actions do we want the user to take? Which emotions would encourage or discourage these actions? How can they be encouraged or avoided?”
Volkswagen ran an unusual campaign a few years ago called “The Fun Theory” which used a series of experiments, captured on video, to find out if making the world more fun can improve people’s behaviour. This is a great example of how evoking a certain emotion (fun) can evoke certain behaviours (compliance). This also injects some fun into the shopping experience.
Define success criteria for each stage
The biggest benefit of thinking about emotion from the outset is that you can attach emotional criteria to functional criteria. In general, you’ll be able to form a positive impression at every stage.
Think about going on a date: you want the whole experience to go well, from first handshake to goodbye kiss. Wowing your date with your command of the wine menu isn’t going to be enough to rescue a bad date.
Now, you can’t just cram your product with every feature under the sun and hope the market will like it. Nor can you tag on emotional appeal at the end. A cold, unresponsive date isn’t going to be rescued by a big emotional finish.
No, the huge benefit of putting a product in someone’s hand is emotional branding. Why? Because someone has the chance to touch, feel, and see your work, and interact with you.
For example, I’m typing this blog post from the Shoreditch Ace Hotel. Every time I come down here, I don’t just work, but I get to meet many of the local entrepreneurs and marketers. We take pictures, we have a drink, and we party. How do you want people to be partying with your product?
If you want people to love your product, you have to think about the emotions you want to generate at every stage. You can’t just create a product and dump it on the market. You have to think about how people are going to use it and design for every stage of that experience.
For instance, look at this unboxing video from camera manufacturer Leica. It’s so interesting that Leica produced this video itself, and speaks volumes (in a good way) about its approach.
What emotions do you think Leica was going for here? Surprise? Relaxation? Excitement?
The way emotion and joy has been designed into the process is really beautiful.
What kind of testing should you do?
Through experience, I’ve learned some of the best ways to test for emotion, and which ones to avoid.
If you’re able to, there’s no substitute for putting your product or service in someone’s hand. Instead of listening to what people say though (which is often self-censored), watch for changes in facial expression and changes in tone of voice.
Steve Jobs’ “What is this piece of junk?” facial expressions in the video below are very revealing. It’s very hard for even master presenters to disguise facial expressions.
Does this mean that you should stop listening to your focus groups? Of course not! They are still great and a source of valuable feedback.
Over time, if you listen enough, you’ll get a feel for the emotional response generated by your product. You’ll hopefully find by this point that you are miles ahead of your competitors.
I use a great product called Silverback, which captures what users do on the screen, but also uses the webcam built into the laptop to capture facial expressions of a user during the task.
One of my criticisms of the whole “Inbound Marketing” movement is that it often pays scant attention to the emotions of the user browsing the site. Sometimes, it’s taken me showing the CEO a video of someone interacting with their site for them to see the problems with it!
Is it worth creating products customers love?
As you can see from the above examples, it definitely is. I’d go as far as to say that it’s essential.
In addition to generating income from marketing your products, you can also generate income from other people doing your marketing for you.
Once you hit a certain critical mass, you’ll notice that people are in love with not just your product, but everything you stand for.
Of the things I own, my Sonos speaker is the thing I have the biggest personal attachment to. To have a customer love your brand is in many ways the ultimate validation of your approach.
If you want people to love your product, keep in mind that it’ll need to be a consideration from the very start of your design process, and that no amount of tagging it on at the end will do. No interaction is too small to consider.
Or, you can just cram in features and hope for the best. Look how that worked for BlackBerry.