What you can learn from the perfect pool lift

Any product hit relies on more than a single good idea. And yes, marketing too has a role to play. Discover the secrets of product design agency Pars Pro Toto.

The task of a marketer is easy enough to define: find an audience for a given product. But what if you need to find a product for a given audience? The clever chaps of product design agency Pars Pro Toto tell us their secrets.

We marketers got it easy. Of course, easy for us can seem downright impossible to others, but at least we’ve got the comfort of starting from a tangible product or service to develop our materials. Product design is a different: here you start from an idea you gradually transform to what hopefully turns out to be a successful product.

Feel free to call the people of Pars Pro Toto masters of the trade. The Ghent-based design agency racked up 8 Red Dot Awards in the past 10 years, along with a host of other awards only the in-crowd knows about.

With a team of innovation consultants and product designers, they look for the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of a new product. In markets ranging from baby goods and pet care, to suitcases and – of course – industry.

But what can you as a marketer – or as someone with a keen interest in marketing – learn from this riveting field? A whole lot, as it turns out.

Empathy is everything

Design thinking is central to product design. It’s a proven innovation strategy that requires you to walk in your audience’s shoes, in order to unearth the problems they struggle with in their daily (professional) lives. You then tackle those problems by altering the design of your product, or by dreaming up a new product from scratch.

Pars Pro Toto tackled the social stigma associated with the speaking difficulties by decking their speech computer with a cool design.

Knowing your audience is crucial, but that goes beyond a simple survey or persona fact sheet (sorry, Bill the Buyer). Great designers fully immerse themselves in their audience’s world of experiences – quite literally. Are you assigned to improve the design of a pool lift? Then that means jumping in the water to get familiar with the sensation – how about a 100 times?

Imagine you are a marketer and you need additional insights into your audience. Or you want to know what exactly the benefit is of a certain feature. Take a moment to question your design team or product managers. Because of the design process that came before, they should be able to tell why that feature is there, and what exact problem it’s solving for your audience.

Every new product is the start of a story

The next comment was met with fervent nods of yours truly: every product needs personality. Whether it’s a buggy that doubles as a suitcase or a towering industrial compressor – it’s your personality and expression that allow you break through the clutter and build an immediate connection with your audience.

That’s why Pars Pro Toto puts extra thought into the product brand. What should this product represent? To whom? How do you feel that in the design, the logo, the packaging, and other aspects of your communication?

In this way, every new product becomes the start of new story. A story – or brand – that needs to come alive in messaging, image and experience. A story that determines the success of your product, and that you should continue to share. Alone, or with the help of your agency, of course.

Not all innovations are equal

One of the most important drivers for innovation is of course the associated advantage over your competitors. But not all innovations will deliver you the same kind of lead. Small adjustments in the design could easily be copied, even after a frenzied patent drive.

For a truly sustainable advantage, it’s better to work on a product system: a combination of different innovation that, as a whole, is far more difficult to duplicate. That’s why you need to look beyond the practical performance of a product, and include service, channel strategy, the business model and – of course – the brand.

Ready to launch your next big hit?

Of course, chances are you’re not sitting at the table when new innovations are designed, but you do need to bring them to market effectively. It sounds obvious – because it probably is – but a profound insight into everything that makes your product or solution worthwhile is essential.

Do you have a gem in your portfolio you want the world to know about? We can help building your brand and telling your story. Give us a shout.

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