Lesson 12: How Attribute Listing Helps You Create New Products
In this lesson we want you to learn more about the value of analyzing product attributes.
In a previous lecture you saw how we studied the air freshener market to create the Wildcat spinning car air freshener. Before that you saw how we studied the greeting card category to create Sugar Free Cards. Now you will see how you can create new products and improve existing ones by examining the product attributes of any product category.
Some people feel they need to invent an entirely new product category to create something original, but...the truth is, you are far more likely to be successful if you create something original within a popular product category. In this lesson you will see how to study the product attributes of camping lanterns. Here you see a chart showing the variety of camping lanterns being sold on Amazon.com. As you can see, they vary in size, materials, style and price, and they share similar attributes. This next chart shows how we deconstructed the lanterns and separated the attributes.
Breaking down the attributes helps us examine the market more closely and helps us stimulate new design possibilities. Look at the left column labeled "Attributes." It breaks out a list of attribute types such as purpose, material, shape, texture, color, size and weight and so on. You can add or remove attribute types, but the ones shown here work for deconstructing a wide variety of products besides camping lanterns. To read this chart, pick an attribute and stay in the row reading across the page. For example a typical lantern is made of plastic. The possibilities for other materials to use are metal, silicone and paper. These are just examples. You can add any materials you want to expand the possibilities.
The next column to the right is labeled "Typical." These represent the range of the typical attributes associated with camping lanterns. Next, notice the three columns on the right labeled "Possibilities." Here is where the fun begins.You get to exercise your creative juices by replacing the typical attributes with new attributes that could be used for the product.
For example, you could change the material lanterns are made of from plastic or metal to silicone or even paper. If that sounds off the wall, think about Japanese Lanterns that are made of paper. Our goal here is to stretch our imaginations. Look at what happened to kitchen tools and baking materials when silicone was introduced as an alternative to metal baking pans. That opened the floodgates for new products. Even kitchen countertops are now made from compressed paper and epoxy because someone asked, why not a paper countertop? At first, making a countertop or a lantern out of paper sounds absurd, but asking silly questions can often lead to breakthrough discoveries.
Just changing a label or a word can also open our imaginations and our possibilities. Attribute shifting forces you to see ordinary products in a different way. For example, changing the word lantern to the word light or lights, will send your thoughts in a new direction.
Picture camping lights as a flexible string of L.E.D.s attached to a base containing batteries. The light string would have the flexibility to hang in a tent or be wrapped around an object like a tree or a backpack or your body when you are walking in the woods at night. Any way you can break a fixed thought pattern helps you open your mind to new design possibilities.
Product reviews posted online can also make you discover attributes you may not notice. By studying the Camping Lantern reviews on Amazon, for example, we found that people don’t like the glare caused by L.E.D.s. If you consider glare an attribute as opposed to a feature, you can design a way to reduce it. For example, household lamps use lamp shades. Why not create a lantern shade in the form of a translucent bag or box to surround an existing lantern? Now, replace the words bag or box with the word sack to generate another image. Replace the word surround with the words drape, drop, or cover, to generate even more images for a lantern shade. Make the shade out of tinted plastic paper and drop it over the lantern to add some romance to your tent.
Attribute listing works for deconstructing any product. It’s a little like reverse engineering, but the purpose of attribute listing is not to copy a product. It’s to stimulate new possibilities for what a product could be rather than what it is. We chose the camping lantern randomly to show how to take any product apart as a way of firing up your imagination. But you can do this with any type of product.
Download the PDF of the Lantern chart and a blank chart to use for different product categories. Pick a product category that you are interested in and put your brain to work filling in the Possibilities columns with other attributes. If the attributes we used don’t fit your product, add your own. You will surprise yourself with how many ideas your chart can help you generate.
In the next lesson you get to play a game. It’s called "What’s the Point?" In the lesson following that you will learn why you must understand the difference between your product’s features and its benefits and how both of them give consumers reasons to buy your product.