If you have listened to other episodes of this podcast, you likely have heard me say that the challenges with product management and creating products customers love is not actually development – while it’s not easy, we generally know how to get a product developed. The real challenge is knowing what product to develop. This is the realm of designing for the user, and specifically, the user experience. Consequently, I’m pleased to interview Mark Capper, an expert in designing user experiences. Mark has over 20 years of experience refining his craft of user-centered product development and innovation across the spectrum of organizations from startups to several Fortune 100 companies, including PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft. He is the founder of Kompas Strategy, an innovation agency located in Santa Monica, CA.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Highlights from the discussion include:
- While functional and usable products may achieve some success in the market, the objective is to design truly meaningful products and experiences for customers. Such products are difficult for competitors to overtake.
- Meaningful products achieve a higher price point, greater loyalty, and more referrals.
- How do you create meaningful products for customers? Some tools and steps include:
- Identifying cultural trends and movements. Consider the driving forces impacting the target market using environmental scanning (such as PESTLE analysis). Reviewing social media content is helpful for identifying emerging trends and themes.
- Interviewing customers and discussing what cultural trends are important to them and how they feel about the context of a product.
- Creating market segments based on customer mindsets, attitudes, and the information collected from environmental scanning and customer interviews.
- Designing the product to a specific segment.
- Once the Rejectors have been identified, perform ethnographic research to identify the attributes a product needs to satisfy them.
- For breakthrough innovation, it is more challenging to find customers to interview. Seek those people who want the benefits from of a product category but who are rejecting the current alternatives. These are the Rejectors. A screening questionnaire can be used to identify potential Rejectors who have the unmet needs you are trying to solve.
- Mark shared the example of a Panasonic electric women’s shaver and how it was enhanced to create a meaningful experience for customers that resulted in market share growth. The work began with ethnographic research to understand the shaving process of women and what made a shaver work or not work. Then a segmentation strategy was created to segment customers based on their motivation for shaving. Additional research was done on focused segments that were best aligned with a wet/dry electric shaver. Industrial designers were involved to enhance the product based on new design directions from the research.
The 6 steps for creating more meaningful products are:
- Focus. Select a specific focus, such as in the Panasonic example of increasing market share of an electric women’s shaver.
- Cultural scanning. Perform cultural scanning by searching topics in social media and identify the cultural themes that impact the product.
- Ethnography. Conduct ethnographic research with potential customers to understand which cultural themes are most meaningful to them – understand their aspirations and emotional point of view. Tools to understand their ideal experience are helpful, such as a visual collage.
- Data analysis. Organize the information gained from the research and identify key themes and cluster related information into what Mark calls platforms. Affinity diagramming is a useful tool for this.
- Platform selection. Identify platforms that are currently uncontested in the marketplace – blue oceans – or other platforms with strategic value. Summarize each platform in a description statement.
- Platform testing. Conduct further customer research to share platform description statements to identify those that best fit to provide meaning to the customer.
A Tutorial for You to Use
During the interview Mark shared a tutorial he created to help groups learn how to create products that have meaningful experiences for customers. You can use this tutorial yourself and with your groups to learn more about making meaningful products.
“The cause of failure (to innovate) and the impediment to success lies not in hard formulae, models, technologies, buildings or dollars, but in a soft, mushy, difficult to grasp, and tough to master thing called culture.” – Gerald Tellis, from his book Unrelenting Innovation.
Listen Now to the Interview
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.