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  Lesson 16: How Engaging the Senses Helps You Create Better Products

Lesson 19: Engaging the Senses Helps You Create Desirable Products


At the end of the previous lesson we mentioned a new idea. We said you would learn how to evaluate your product according to the pleasure it provides rather than the pain it relieves. So how does a product give us pleasure? By engaging our five senses including: sight, sound, feel, taste and smell….and for some products….our kinesthetic sense of motion. Here is what we want you to take away from this lesson: products that solve a problem---and engage the senses---have a better chance of being wanted and purchased. To illustrate what we mean we’ll use one of our million dollar products that we created in 2005.


Remember the lesson when we introduced Alex Osborn’s seven actions for stimulating creative thinking? Two of the actions he mentioned were to modify or repurpose something old to create something new. To illustrate what we mean, we will show you an example of how we did this with our Sneaker Balls shoe air fresheners. We always thought of the ball as a way to diffuse different fragrances. We had already repurposed our Sneaker Balls into Bug Balls that diffused citronella to discourage mosquitoes. We also made Cedar Balls to diffuse cedar scent to protect against clothes moths in closets. We put balsam fir scent in the balls and printed Christmas designs on the surface to hang on artifical Christmas trees. And we put vanilla scent in the balls and printed a happy face on them and sold millions to Walmart as car fresheners.


For years we only thought of the ball as a way to diffuse different fragrances. Then one day we started looking at it as a container rather than a diffuser. What could it contain rather than release? Sometimes just redefining your product can create a whole new way of seeing it.


We started playing with the idea of putting other contents in the ball and hit on the possibility of lip balm. But why would people want their lip balm in a ball? Mary Lou thought of a common problem that women have with searching for chapstick in the bottom of their purses. She thought the ball shape would be a fun solution because it’s easier to feel in the bottom of her purse. I don’t have a purse, but recalling how often I had watched her dig around in her purse for her lip balm or lipstick, I understood it was a problem. I could see putting lip balm in a golf ball or a soccer ball, but if we wanted the ball to appeal to women we needed something more.


We were already pad printing simple designs on our car fresheners and Christmas tree ornaments. So we wondered, what if we could print the entire surface of the ball with artwork? We could use floral and geometric patterns like we see on clothing or animal prints like zebra and leopard. That would be expensive, but it would also make it unique and increase the chances it would sell in the fashion market.


The problem was...how to print designs all around the ball. After a lot of trial and error we figured out how to do the printing, but we can’t show you how it’s done because it is now a trade secret. Here is a sample of the Ballmania designs we came up with and how we merchandised them in hair salons. (Show tub of balls.) Solving a problem and relieving pain is just one side of making a product marketable. If you want your product to really sell, you also need to give equal emphasis to your product’s form because form is what engages your prospects’ senses and brings them pleasure.


Here is how Ballmania appeals to the senses. The colorful patterns on the surface stimulate the visual sense. We added a vanilla fragrance to make it smell good, and vanilla flavor for taste. Finally we added emollients like aloe, shea butter and grape seed oil to make the lip balm feel creamy to the touch and on the lips. We even made the walls of the ball thicker than necessary to add weight to make it feel substantial.


Ballmania solved a problem in an existing category dominated by a few large companies. When we told buyers that Ballmania was easier to feel in the bottom of a purse, they hadn’t thought of that, but they instantly got it. We didn’t have to mention the pleasure part, because buyers could see, smell, taste and feel those qualities for themselves. Adding these qualities made the product much more appealing and it gave retailers a reason to add the ball to their lip balm category!


It’s obvious that if lip balm looks, smells, tastes and feels great it will naturally be more appealing than one that doesn’t, but here is the point. No matter what product you create, you need to consciously think about making your product appeal to as many senses as possible because that is what engages the buyer and creates desire for the product. Our goal for every product we create is to design as much sensory information as we can think of into the product...no matter what that product is. The next time you look at your big idea, study it with your five senses to make it more appealing. Don’t force it, though. Make sure something doesn’t seem tacked on for no good reason. In other words, don’t add scent to a baseball bat.


Engaging the senses adds romance to your product. You may have heard the saying, “Big hat no cattle,” meaning that someone is all form and no substance. Turn it around and you get, “All cattle and no hat.” Would you trust a cowboy who didn’t wear a hat? The hat represents the romance of being a cowboy. That’s why it’s vital to give your product a big helping of romance. If two products both solve the same problem equally well, the one that looks, feels, tastes sounds, and smells like it has real thought behind it has a better chance of selling. This is how solving a problem and adding pleasure work together to make your product more appealing and marketable. By the way, in the first five years on the market, this little lip balm sold more than 20 million dollars at wholesale.

Here is what you learned in this lesson: Eliminating pain is an important part of solving a problem. However, you will be even more successful if you give equal thought to the pleasure your product offers. The more senses your product engages, the more it delights the user and builds brand identity and loyalty. In the next lesson we will show how to use form and style to differentiate your product.

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