Make Product Design a Fantasy

An often repeated saying in marketing is that “customers do not buy products; they buy benefits.” In other words, we are interested in a product not for what it does, but rather we are interested for what it can do for us. Yet, marketers often get bogged down in the design and production of products, and the desires of the customer often are overlooked. In their book Creating Breakthrough Products, Jonathan Cagan and Craig Vogel call for a different approach to product development when they say “form and function should follow fantasy.” This view requires a customer-centered approach to designing products.

Fantasy is an emotional state that can be felt through more satisfying experiences with a product. The question a marketer should ask is how well do products under his or her watch help customers fulfill their fantasies? Also, what tweaks can be made to make a product more capable of delivering a meaningful customer experience? These questions came to mind as the National Hockey League prepares for its All-Star Game weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina beginning tomorrow.

All-Star games in professional sports are exhibitions that feature top players but generally uninspiring play. And, there is little innovation in the design of the product as it is usually a game that pits all-star teams made up of players from a league’s two conferences (e.g., Eastern vs. Western Conference, American League vs. National League). The NHL sought to spark interest in this year’s All-Star Game by foregoing the East vs. West format in favor of selecting teams like a fan might draft a fantasy hockey team. A captain and two alternate captains for each team will draft from a pool of players selected to play in the game. Friday night’s player draft will perhaps be the highlight of the weekend, adding intrigue to the game itself on Sunday.

We must remember that doing things a certain way because that is how they have been done always is not a recipe for marketing success. Customers may prefer another way, one that adds more value to the products or service you offer. Invite your customers to share their fantasies, and then develop form and function to help them realize their fantasies.

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