Product thinking: from the sense of purpose to the purpose of sense

The world is a really curious place. We live on a planet where more and more products are available. Sometimes, some products are just a copy of merchandise already existing from the same brand, but yet, it can be sold out. Some people criticize the modern world, the world of consumption, but what is really behind it? Why some people buy a new phone, clothes, car even if what they already have is still good?

It is hard to deny that products are evolving really fast. We could even tell that for cinema and video games it radically mutated, synthetic textures are getting more and more realistic and for video games, we are really far from the firsts Mario games. But why are not happy with what we already have? Do we want to do better?

The creation of products to fulfil a need

The evolution of society (in a strictly “goods oriented” way cf.Shumpetter) is really recent. The wooden carriage gave its place to the hybrid car, the mechanical watch gave its place to the fully connected watch, … Technologies evolve really fast but do we really need them, and if we do not, why they are so easily sold despite their price? I took the example of technology, but it can be applied from fashion to Netflix.

We can always argue that “I bought a Hybrid because I want to pollute less”, “My last phone got a bit slow, so I thought it was a good opportunity to buy the last phone from this brand”, … We all are to some extent like that, not for everything, not in every circumstance, but we are.

We are evolving in a place where we do not have to focus any more on the utility of the product, but on what the product makes us feel.

From physical intake to sentimental input

The Hybrid car your friend bought is first and foremost a sign of belonging to a certain community. The same logic applies some brand like Apple, only the people who use an iPhone can only ask a charger from someone using the same brand. Once again, the same thing can be applied to fashion, top managers will almost always wear a suit, and if someone does bend to the rule, some people cannot accept it and will judge this person. Wearing a suit or a jean and t-shirt fulfils the same purpose, but the meaning is not the same.

Remember that, if you are a seller you should not sell the qualities of the product but rather which feel the client will feel once bought. And if you are a client, remember the usefulness of what you are looking for, otherwise, you could end up with a product too expensive for you just because the seller played the “sentimental card”.

There are only a few sentiments that can intervene when a seller want to sell you something or when you try to convince yourself that you really need this thing. The first to intervene in is the “feeling good”, you need to wear that clothes because “everybody in the school wears that”, because “that is the easiest way to be accepted at work”, … but that is not the most convincing. What will really convince you to buy or not is the “feeling bad”, “if you do not subscribe to this guaranty, once your TV fall down we cannot refund you” (even if it is a professional who will fix it and you will never touch).

Everyone should keep in mind that the feeling of security and the feeling of closeness are the ones who will make you decide to buy it or not.

From school to media

This kind of behaviour can be seen really early at school when the most popular person (or a close friend) use a new powerful phone with a popular game on it or wear a certain brand of clothes. Kids can be influenced quite easily, and the behaviours learnt during the young ages are harder to change once teen or adult. It is just a factor among many others, marketing is full of tricks to make you feel like you need something.

Once you have something and want to change, always ask yourself if you really need it for a specific purpose or just because some people had it. Because you honestly thought about the usefulness of the merchandise or because you saw a certain ad a couple of times. Take the time before taking a decision and do not let a company take the decision for you.

Go further

If you want to go further and understand what is behind a brand, you can take a look at this book, it explains how a company create its brand and why does it work. It is a book more oriented for business owners, but it can be helpful if you are willing to understand the mechanisms of a “story brand”.

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