Apr 13, 2013

Role of emotions in product success

Marty Cagan in his book "Inspired: How to create products Customers love" talks about the characteristics of inspiring and successful products. Apart from the popular ones such as usability and visual appeal, one specific characteristic that struck me is the importance he has given towards human emotions and the role they play in creating a winning product.

Being a key enthusiast of marketing strategies driven based on consumer behavioral aspects, it felt like a "aha!" moment while I was reading the chapters on the role of emotion in products.

Marty says, "People buy and use products largely for emotional reasons".

It could be a positive emotion that is triggered by the product or a negative emotion that has been wiped off by the product. For example,
  • Facebook users might feel friendship, love and pride by being part of their social community and being in touch with their friends
  • Anyone who had to make an urgent phone call might have felt irritated if he couldn't locate a PCO/STD booth nearby. A mobile phone has helped to ease off this negative feeling.
The potential consumers of a product can be segmented based on the different emotional needs that will be addressed through the product. For example, an online travel booking portal addresses different emotional needs such as annoyance, frustration, apprehension, trust, amazement etc. Each of these emotional needs are addressed by means of various benefits offered by the product.

A mapping of such emotions and the corresponding product benefits are listed below:
Annoyance - higher product performance, usable interface, seamless booking flow
Frustration - booking from the comfort of one's home, transparency in the display of travel options available
Apprehension - secure payments, quick processing of refunds
Trust - booking receipts, confirmation calls
Amazement - discounts/cashbacks, loyalty programs

While ideating on a product, we should list down those emotions which are to be addressed. Personas can be helpful in segmenting the different emotions of potential consumers.

As part of product definition and conceptualization, we should work towards identifying how these emotions will be addressed through user experience, interaction and visual design, customer support etc. Prototype testing can be used to check if test users were able to feel such emotions (both positive emotions being triggered and negative emotions being shunned) through the product.

As humans, we are in a constant state of oscillating emotions and moods throughout the day. The various products we use / depend upon can also be a source of trigger for such emotions (ask anyone who tried to book a Tatkal train ticket through IRCTC first thing in the morning and how their day went after that experience). So it is important that product managers should focus on identifying and addressing these emotional needs during product ideation and conceptualization process.

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