May 25, 2010
Last week, I presented a case study on crayon packaging at the IOPP Conference in Chicago. To prepare it, I conducted primary ethnographic research in homes and stores and devised a design strategy to drive concept development. And, I worked with Carson Ahlman, an independent Industrial Designer in NYC to develop preliminary concepts. It went over well. But that’s not why I’m writing this.
You can view the presentation slides in the Case Studies section of this site, or through the home page. But I’d like to repeat the theme of it here. My intent was to demonstrate how “insights” gleaned from ethnography (or any research for that matter) can be accurate, yet superficial, obvious and mundane. In the case of crayon packaging, the boxes are hard to open, and quickly fall apart. The crayons are difficult to access and replace. Mom puts up with clean-up duties. So What?
Friction points, work-arounds, dissatisfiers (not a word, by the way) and functional gaps are terms we use to characterize the ways in which consumers struggle with packaging. And we assume that because we’ve been astute enough to identify them, that they should be fixed. But typically, they are evident and valid, but not truly fresh insights that can and should drive genuine innovation. In the case of crayons, these observations are mere symptoms of a much more profound realization: Packaging is undermining the creative inspiration and joy kids find in using crayons, and that in turn degrades the brand experience.
Some say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I say “Even if it is broke, you may not have to fix it”. That’s because many friction points have nothing to do with the Promise-Critical attributes of your product. And therefore, don’t impact intent to buy, loyalty or the brand experience. On the other hand, some functional issues do, in fact, erode the brand promise and should be fixed. How do you know which ones?
Take a look at the Case Study: “What’s the Story with Crayon Packaging?” found on the Case Studies page of this site, or via the home page. The bottom line: Don’t fix it just ’cause it’s broke. Fix it if it’s breaking a promise.