human-centered design

Courage to Look Away from the Mirror

After spending so much time thinking about human-centered design and consumer-centered marketing, its easy to see the right choices. Its easy to see the difference between a voice that is self-aggrandizing and one of authentic empathy and service. But it’s also easy to see how hard it could be for a marketer to take the leap.

Recently I’ve been listening to friend review the brand rebuild at his company—a company that produces protective gear for athletes. The process has been difficult in that Sales, Marketing, and Product haven’t been able to agree on messaging.

Product wants to focus on visual and technical differentiators: the pads and other impact guards are slimmer and more modern looking than competitor’s. The patented material science behind the product is visually distinctive and more effective against impact.

Sales wants to use broad messaging that will work for all markets, so that they’ll be better positioned to approach buyers from the youth and team sports markets, as well as professional athletes.

And Marketing wants to say it all, but in a slogan-length epic message that is as un forgettable as it is hyperbolic.

And these are completely natural impulses: tell the customer how awesome our product is, how its unique in the market, and how buying it will elevate coolness beyond your wildest aspirations. Tell the customer these things and the costumer will be impressed and convinced to buy.

Or maybe not.

Maybe they’ll be bored by your lecture. Maybe they’ll simply hear that YOU think the product is great. Maybe they’ve already clicked away because, well, the is what everyone says about their own products. And no one had time to sift through the bullshit anymore.

A user-centered brand wouldn’t tell the customer about the product. Because that brand is in service to the customer. That brand would tell the customer that you should be able to rule the world, reach the heights of your athletic potential, without being held back. To get out there and kick some ass without fear. In other words, just do it :).