Why do some products gain mass appeal, acquire a dedicated following, and draw customers to wait in line for the latest version, while other product launches flop? Why do some stores attract a steady stream of trendy patrons, while other stores see lackluster sales? The successful offerings have a joyful essence that energizes customers.
Just look at Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, which came on the scene in 2004 and quickly captured the market as the hip, trendy, and necessary way to listen to music. Rock music has always been about a rhythmic, captivating bass beat. The Beats sound enhances the bass and hence the drive and energy of rock, hip-hop, and pop. Previous high-end headphones were tuned to produce an even sound across the music audio range and didn’t provide a dramatic sound for pop music. Beats headphones do. Beats gained 62 percent of the premium headphone market by 2014. Beats headphones have a joyful essence, which Jimmy Iovine, cofounder of Beats, described as bringing listeners to the “excitement of being in the [recording] studio.”
Why Having a Joyful Essence in Your Offering Is Important
To answer, “Why some products and services excite customers?” we studied best practices of creative companies. Most products attempt to connect rationally with customers so that customers will decide that this is useful (e.g., a better mousetrap). But, the truly successful offerings also engage customers emotionally (e.g., this mousetrap humanly traps the mouse and looks cute) to energize them to pursue the offering. The offering possesses some engaging element that might be called flair, panache, pizazz, style, or liveliness—something exciting: a joyful essence.
The “something exciting” comes from understanding the joyful essence of their offering: what their offering brings that causes customers to desire it emotionally and energizes them to purchase the offering. In defining the joyful essence, the focus isn’t simply on what the offering does, but also on how the offering makes customers feel emotionally. In his book, Emotion: A Very Short Introduction, Dylan Evans postulates that joy evolved as a motivator to pursue a particular action. Anticipation of joy helps individuals decide what to do. So a joyful essence in your offering will influence customers to buy your offering.
As an example of joyful essence, consider Apple’s iPod, a mobile music listening device. Today smartphones play music, so iPods are not as ubiquitous as in the early 2000s when first introduced, but back then they were a game-changer in how people experienced music. It was amazing to see one’s entire CD collection in the palm of the hand—all labeled, organized, and ready to play. The iPod isn’t just a device that provides music—it’s a device that lets you enjoy music all the time, wherever you are. Jobs expressed this as, “A thousand songs in your pocket.” This joyful essence expresses the joy that the thousand songs bring you, rather than just the convenience of having them with you. Our interpretation of the iPod’s joyful essence is more fundamental, “the joy of music is always with you.” Understanding its essence, Apple designed the iPod to provide the joy of music with a simple user experience that did not interfere with enjoying the music. There had been MP3 players before the iPod, but they had limited capacity and were cumbersome to use. Jobs understood that Apple products should encapsulate joy.
Finding the Joyful Essence of Your Offering
The joyful essence of your offering can easily be defined through a two-step process. First, ask some context questions to be sure you understand your offering from the customer’s viewpoint. Below is a series of context questions to ask. To make the suggested questions concrete, they are presented in the format that might be applied to the iPod. They can easily be adapted to whatever your offering is.
- Who are the customers for your offering (the iPod)? – Anyone wanting to listen to an extensive selection of music anywhere they go.
- In what situations will the offering be used or experienced? – Listen to music anywhere inside or outside and when doing almost anything.
- What do you want the offering to accomplish? – Excite customers with the ability to listen to an extensive selection of music anywhere and anytime.
- What reaction to your offering would be ideal? – Customers decide to buy and use.
- What would be the motivation for people to act on your offering? – They are excited to listen to an extensive selection of music anywhere and anytime.
Once you understand the context of your offering, the second step is to ask a series of progressively deeper “what” questions to find the joyful essence of your offering. Keeping asking, “What does this offering do for customers?” until you don’t get a new answer; at that point, you’ll be at the essence.
Below is an example of asking progressively deeper “what” questions. Again, the questions are presented in the format that might be applied to the iPod, but can easily be adapted to whatever your offering is.
- 1st question: What does the iPod do? – It’s a mobile device that stores and plays music.
- 2nd question: What does a mobile device that stores and plays music do? – It lets someone listen to music wherever they are.
- 3rd question: What does a device that lets someone listen to music wherever they are do? – It lets them always have the joy of music with them.
- 4th question: What does a device that lets someone always have the joy of music with them do? – We can’t think of a further answer, so we’ll stop and reword the above answer to say that the essence of the iPod is “the joy of music is always with you.”
To get to the essence, we’ve gone from what the offering itself does (i.e., the iPod plays music anywhere) to how the customer feels about the offering at an emotional level (i.e., “the joy of music is always with you”).
If the essence you come up with is not joyful, then change your offering to have a stronger emotional appeal to customers. Once you have defined the joyful essence, you are ready to design and developing your offering so that it incorporates that joyful essence and energizes your customers to buy, use, and spread the word about your exciting offering.