, , , , , , ,

“Built to Love” makes a very simple point: what drives peopleare emotions, hence products that generate the right emotions are more successful. These products draw people’s attention and desire, give more pleasure, generate higher margins, have more repeat sales, become topics of conversation. Professors Boatwright & Cagan offer a very convincing demonstration of this by comparing the stock valuation of 40 oustanding consumer product companies (S&P 500, among the world’s 50 most innovative firms and top 100 brands) rated by a group of respondents in terms of the strenght of the emotional response they engender. High-emotion companies significantly outperform low-emotion companies in terms of short- and long-term stock performance, and this even when star performers Apple and Google are factored out.

This point makes so much sense that one wonders why it deserves a whole book! And the reasons is that only very few companies strive to design products that people love, and manage to do so consistently over time. As examples, alongside the usual suspects Apple, BMW, Harley Davidson, the authors cite toymaker Ganz (Webkinz), truck maker Navistar, McDonald, Dormont Manufacturing (Blue Hose) and retailer Nordstrom.

For the vast majority of firms, product creation’s key goal is the provision of features that satisfy people’s rational needs. Emotional considerations take the center stage when it comes to marketing the product. The authors don’t dwell on the reasons why organisations focus so much on rational benefits only. My own experience tells that the majority of products are born out of consensus among many diverse stakeholders, and that consensus is built by argument and negociation that warn out the more subjective elements, like emotional benefits, and strenghten the more objective elements, like rational benefits, that rapidly become the heart of the negociation.

Boatwright & Cagan argue for the need to balance rational and emotional benefits right from the start of product creation and to infuse emotions deeply in the design of the product. This is part of a deliberate strategy that identifies those emotions that are appropriate to the target segments and fit the brand; sets the emotions that specific products will evoke; creates designs that generate those emotions and iterates until the expected emotional effect is obtained.

Especially emotionally powerful designs are those that engage all senses deeply and are unique, consistent across a portfolio.