What if you cannot touch or feel your product? What if your product is more than a product? What if your product is the experience itself?
Let’s start with a step back and review the age-old definition of Product. In its essence, a product can be defined as a tangible or intangible item or entity (such as physical goods, digital products, software applications, or services) that is created, designed, or manufactured to fulfill a specific need or desire. It is something that can be offered to customers, users, or consumers in exchange for value.
Now that we’ve framed up the old-school product definition, we will embark on an enlightening exploration of a fundamental truth that lies at the core of product management: the experience IS the product. While a traditional product definition emphasizes tangible features and functionalities, I’ll unveil the magic of intertwining tangibility and emotion to craft unforgettable products. Even delightful products.
Join me on my last vacation as we journey into the heart of a non-traditional mindset of product management, where the experience takes center stage, enhancing both the tangible and the intangible.
The product: the experience takes center stage
I recently decided to take a family vacation. Not just any vacation, but one of those ‘make unforgettable memories’ kind of vacations. I imagined my kids’ holding hands and skipping, rainbows across the sky, balloons blowing in the window, and even unicorns frolicking in the grass. Okay… maybe that’s asking too much. As I came back to reality, I asked myself, “where should we go?” That was easy, where else do you go for unforgettable memories, Disney World!
And, then it hit me… I must do the dreaded vacation planning. I began to be overwhelmed by anxiety and panic. The airline tickets, rental car coordination, restaurant reservations, hotel booking… the list goes on and on. After pivoting my mind from this dark place, I hopped online and hit Disney’s website. Everything was laid out on a silver platter. Easy access to research, hotels, park ticket purchases, and even a quick connection with traditional customer service straight from the website. Now, a deep breath. Much easier than I remember in past years.
I narrowed my hotel selection to either the French Quarter or the Port Orleans, but I couldn’t finalize the decision. I called the customer service line, and the representative answered with a joyful ‘Hi, Phillip, how can I help you this morning?’ Interesting, I thought. I didn’t provide my name, but the information I entered online enabled the representative to recognize me by my number. They recommended the French Quarter, and I finished my booking right there. Simple and frictionless.
A few months passed and the time came for us to pack up the kids and head to the airport for this unforgettable trip. Our flight was quick and the view of the palm trees kept the kids distracted as we landed. As we made our way through the airport, I could see a blue and yellow object coming into view. It was the Magical Express. Those of you that have never ridden on the Express don’t know what you’re missing. We boarded the Disney Bus with the air conditioning blowing softly, cushioned seats, music playing, and cartoons to keep the children occupied as we make our way to the most magical destination in the world…
I could go on forever, but I think you get the idea. Is the product the amusement park, Magic Kingdom, or Epcot? Or maybe one of the rides like Space Mountain, or the fancy hotel like the Yacht Club?
The tangible product is irrelevant. The ‘product’ (or what people need, want, desire) is truly the experience. The relaxation, freedom, different environment, peace of mind, this is what was desired. Some would say that’s the brand. I disagree. The brand or brand promise can embody these qualities and demonstrate and bring them to life through experience.
I’d argue the product is ‘the most magical place on earth’. It’s the experience. Not the parks. Not Space Mountain. Not the Yacht Club. Not the Mickey Mouse formed flowers at the park entrance. Not even the Winnie the Pooh character breakfast. (If you haven’t tried the character breakfast, it is awesome.)
Ultimately, it’s the experience that meets the customer’s desire, need, and want.
Redefining the product: A holistic perspective
Daring to redefine the product as an amalgamation of the tangible and the emotional – a creation that resonates with customers at a profound level, reaching deep into the heart of product greatness:
- Tangible features, emotional appeal: The traditional product comprises tangible features and functionalities, while the experience adds an emotional appeal that captures customers’ hearts.
- Usability with delight: A remarkable experience goes beyond usability, incorporating delight, joy, and satisfaction in every interaction.
- Immersive storytelling: The experience weaves a compelling narrative around the product, engaging customers in a captivating journey.
- End-to-end journey: A product’s value lies not only in individual features but in the seamless flow of the user journey from discovery to purchase and beyond. A delightful end-to-end journey, the experience, becomes the heart of the product.
We wield the power to craft extraordinary products by blending the tangible and the emotional. Embrace the interconnection of user-centricity and emotional resonance to redefine what a product means to a customer. Strive to create not just functional entities, but transformative experiences that resonate with customers on a profound level.
I’ll leave you with one last thought, as product managers, our mission is to design and deliver experiences that go beyond just ‘traditional products’. By understanding the emotional aspects and aspirations of our customers, we can shape products that evoke delight, create loyalty, and stand the test of time. Remember, in the world of product management, the experience is the new product and the holistic perspective that guides our path to success.