Turning Products into STORIES

normal

Normal’s new 3D printed earbuds. 

This is an essay I wrote at posted last night on the Quirky.com invention idea website. The source for this discussion is the unique story, the autobiography, that each of us pen each and every day. For more read, “The Olive Press Behind the WordPress Brand and Writing Concept.”

As part of the Quirky community, we experience the excitement when new ideas are submitted, selected and developed into the next mass-market offering. But a problem arises once the product hits the market.

Strolling through a local Home Depot most people don’t know the story behind the product like we do. While the advertising does mention the inventor, the participatory element is missing. Primarily, when placed on a store shelf (or virtual shelf online) Quirky products are viewed liked any other product. If the price, usability, reviews, interest is there … then a purchase may result. And if not, then likely not.

As consumers, we appreciate seeing the fudge made and the doughnuts cooked before we consume them. We appreciate visiting breweries and the Cape Cod potato chip factory … not because this makes the beer or chips taste better, but because we appreciate seeing the process. But when the fudge, doughnut, beer, chips, or Quirky inventions have already found their way to a shelf … then this product that once had the potential to excite the consumer by involving them in the process, is now just a consumable on the shelf with thousands of other consumables.

The idea is to turn back the clock to a time when Quirky products were still a work-in-progress. While we can’t change the fact that these products have already been produced and packaged, what we can change is how we approach them.

To appreciate our approach, let’s first bring two quotes. The 1st from Rachel Shechtman about her STORY store in NYC, and the second from an article about Nikki Kaufman’s company (didn’t know this before going back to the article to write this, but she’s Ben’s wife):

“STORY is a space that has the point-of-view of a magazine, which changes every 4-8 weeks like a Gallery, and sells things like a store.” — https://www.quirky.com/blog/post/2014/07/introducing-cool-story/

“The real promise of 3-D printing isn’t about manufacturing products for everyone. It’s about manufacturing products for just one person. Some people call this idea ‘mass customization’.” — http://recode.net/2014/07/08/new-startup-normal-3-d-prints-on-demand-custom-premium-earphones/

What do these two quotes have in common? One about a retail store and the other a maker of 3D printed earbud headphones customized for each listener’s ears? Said simply: the time has come to see beyond the mass produced product. As Nikki’s company likes to say, “one size fits none.”

What does this mean for Quirky products … mass produced items which ostensibly fit the “one size fits all” mold more than the “mass customization” made-to-order model?

The answer lies in the concept behind Rachel’s retail store. There is something unique about shopping at her store, and that uniqueness is the unfolding storyline around the purchase experience. But while recreating the STORY concept within Home Depots and other chain stores is a good idea, first we need a book to serve as the manual for these storylines.

What’s your product’s storyline? Remember like the 3D printed earbuds, each person experience of a product is unique.

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