Make your product ‘remarkable’

When I finish reading great books I often like to share my enthusiasm here, and the latest to join the list is Purple Cow by Seth Godin.  I’m a little late to the party with this – the book was originally published in 2003 – but I think the advice still stands.

So what do I like about this book?

It offers a new twist on a favourite theme of mine – the importance of having great product.  Plus it was short and very easy to read.

In a single word Seth’s advice is that you make your product “remarkable”.

To expand on that a little, he believes:

  • remarkable products get talked about – generating word of mouth marketing and advocacy, which is about the only way to drive sales these days
  • safe incremental product innovation has become boring and won’t work – consumers are becoming immune to the effects of big ad campaigns
  • being remarkable often means heading for the extremes – best quality, fastest, cheapest, most fun etc.
  • or it means doing something very different
  • and this all starts with product design – not in marketing (despite the fact he is a marketeer

I think all of this is particularly true for startups, for whom the number one challenge is often getting heard above the noise on a shoestring budget.  That said, Seth targets his advice as much at big companies as small.

This is consistent with the views of Mark Earls on the power of belief businesses, and Tara Hunt, both of whom I have written about before, in glowing terms.

Ultimately it all starts and ends with product.

  • First time in a long time that you appear to be just wrong. It starts with customer need, from which product features are developed. Excellent example of this point is the new Ford keys where top speed can be adjusted for each key. Parents now have the ability to control teen driving speed. The parent need is what makes the key feature compelling. Adding this feature to Ford cars was the simple part.

  • First time in a long time that you appear to be just wrong. It starts with customer need, from which product features are developed. Excellent example of this point is the new Ford keys where top speed can be adjusted for each key. Parents now have the ability to control teen driving speed. The parent need is what makes the key feature compelling. Adding this feature to Ford cars was the simple part.

  • Alex

    Rhhfla – I couldn’t disagree more.

    If customer need was the only driver of new products the world would be a depressing place indeed. No-one needs the new Bond movie. Or Alessi corkscrews. Or Prada shoes. They need entertainment, open bottles or dry feet. Any of these can be achieved more simply or more cheaply but the experience wouldn’t be the same.

    A basic need has to be met, for sure, but *how* its met is the key to success. A purple cow product goes beyond the basic need and tries to astonish or delight as well.

    That’s the difference between a good product and a great product.

  • Alex

    Rhhfla – I couldn’t disagree more.

    If customer need was the only driver of new products the world would be a depressing place indeed. No-one needs the new Bond movie. Or Alessi corkscrews. Or Prada shoes. They need entertainment, open bottles or dry feet. Any of these can be achieved more simply or more cheaply but the experience wouldn’t be the same.

    A basic need has to be met, for sure, but *how* its met is the key to success. A purple cow product goes beyond the basic need and tries to astonish or delight as well.

    That’s the difference between a good product and a great product.

  • nic

    rhhfla – I agree that ultimately you need to serve a customer need and sometimes simply asking customers what they want can be enough. Increasingly it isn’t though, as Alex points out. Seth Godin says the same thing, if memory serves me right the way he puts it is that soliciting customer opinion is pointless because you can’t trust what they say.

  • nic

    rhhfla – I agree that ultimately you need to serve a customer need and sometimes simply asking customers what they want can be enough. Increasingly it isn’t though, as Alex points out. Seth Godin says the same thing, if memory serves me right the way he puts it is that soliciting customer opinion is pointless because you can’t trust what they say.

  • For a more profound understanding of customer need, this post may help http://sophisticatedfinance.typepad.com/sophisticated_finance/2008/06/understanding-the-customer.html

  • For a more profound understanding of customer need, this post may help http://sophisticatedfinance.typepad.com/sophisticated_finance/2008/06/understanding-the-customer.html

  • Alex

    Thanks for the link. It’s a thesis that certainly has real validity when determining what opportunities to pursue. Attention to these underlying metaphors may reduce the risk of failure – but I’m not sure it does much to help understand why some products succeed beyond expectations.

    Entrepreneurs aren’t interested in doing OK. Rightly or wrongly they want to outperform the market – and their investors urge them to do so. In this context, it is essential, not preferable, to deliver a product that goes the extra mile.

  • Alex

    Thanks for the link. It’s a thesis that certainly has real validity when determining what opportunities to pursue. Attention to these underlying metaphors may reduce the risk of failure – but I’m not sure it does much to help understand why some products succeed beyond expectations.

    Entrepreneurs aren’t interested in doing OK. Rightly or wrongly they want to outperform the market – and their investors urge them to do so. In this context, it is essential, not preferable, to deliver a product that goes the extra mile.