Valuable learnings from the 2011 book, Demand, by Adrian Slywotsky with Karl Weber
What do you think is harder: generating a supply of new products or generating demand for those products? Given the large numbers of great new products introduced every year, and the much lower number that achieve their year-one and year-two sales goals, demand appears to be the greater challenge. If you need to raise demand for your brand (and who doesn’t?), check out this highly readable book. It provides six steps to help you open up the demand floodgates, illustrating each step with case studies from brands like Amazon Kindle, Zipcar, Netflix, and Nespresso.
The book starts with one simple fact – that there are usually significant gaps between what people buy and what they really want – and shows ways to use those gaps as the springboard to design products that create new consumer demand.
Here’s a quick overview of the six steps that are key to “opening the taps” of the consumer demand pipeline:
1) Make it Magnetic. Keep developing the idea until it generates excitement among consumers and an irresistible desire to have it. Great functional design contributes to magnetism; in fact, the emotional appeal is partly created by the beauty and functionality of the design. It’s not the first mover who wins the race, but the first to create and capture the emotional space. Slywotsky wisely reminds us of a remarkable truth about demand and human nature: We let little things govern big decisions. Zipcar’s research showed that they could unlock significant incremental demand by reducing the distance from a customer’s home to an available car from 10 minutes to 5 minutes – just 5 minutes made a big difference in the number of people willing to sign up for the service, despite the fact that Zipcar usage saves their urban customers thousands of dollars per year.
2) Fix the Hassle Map. Map out every way in which your current product is less than 100% easy to buy and use – rooting out those characteristics of your product that waste your consumer’s time, money, and energy – and then figure out how to eliminate those hassle factors. For example, Netflix experimented with many versions of their mailing envelope until they came up with the best design to turnaround movies within 48 hours.
3) Build a Complete Back Story (the supporting infrastructure). The Sony eReader initially failed in Japan because it didn’t have the right supporting infrastructure: they didn’t make enough books available, and the device required a PC and connecting cable to acquire new books. In contrast, the Amazon Kindle’s wireless connectivity gives users anywhere/anytime access to a huge selection of books.
4) Find the Triggers. The trigger is that product’s feature or benefit that converts interest to purchase. Ask yourself: what does my product do so obviously well that it will cause consumers to tell their friends about it? To find a trigger, talk to people who’ve bought similar products and find out what really satisfied or dissatisfied them about those products, and what they get emotional about. When you discover a problem, you discover a new source of demand. For example, Nespresso triggered demand by redesigning its espresso machine to better align with consumer emotions about espresso, with TV ads that vividly demonstrated the elegance of the machine.
5) Build a Steep Trajectory. Your brand’s trajectory is the rate of product improvements and extensions after its initial release. You have to keep investing in innovation to make current customers happier, attract more new customers, and deter more competitors. Take a “yes, and” or “plussing” approach to keep building on your core concept. This is evident in both the Amazon and Nespresso product lines.
6) De-Average the Market. If you have a high rate of customer churn (or low satisfaction and recommendation scores), consider that you may need to de-average the market. Your product may have too many features (and thus too high a price) for some people, and not enough features for others, pleasing none. Breakdown your customers into sub-groups and refine your offering for each. Zipcar, for example, has expanded their service from urban individuals by targeting new groups: corporations and university students.
The book’s bottom line: Don’t take a “lottery” approach to innovation, i.e., focusing on the quantity of launches. Instead think quality and use these guidelines to refine your product or service until the floodgates of demand fly open.
Action Steps for Marketers: