Sales are in a slump at the clarkbw cafepress store so I’ve been looking into how I can improve the current markets that I’m in or expand into new market segments.
Let’s examine the product breakdown first, currently we’re mostly a custom t-shirt with some other novelty gifts.
In order to boost sales I’ve decided to take a targeted marketing aproach, it seems that the most sales of the Pennington t-shirt go directly to members of the Pennington family. This could indicate that if I expand the product line to include “I Know Havoc Pennington” mugs and magnets customers would have more choices of where to display their pennington knowledge. On the other hand my time might be more worthwhile sending targeted advertisements directly to family members who I know haven’t purchased a t-shirt that prooves they actually know the man. Even with these plans in mind I think I’ve come up with a better strategy.
In thinking about this last night it reminded me of the discussion on p.g.o about iPod design. Since it follows some stuff that I’ve been looking into I thought I’d post something as well. From my perspective I think much of Apple’s iPod success can be attributed to (successful use of) what I’ve been calling Lifestyle Design. The same design and marketing strategy I’m going to employ for my cafepress store.
Apple’s marketing isn’t really about the money they throw at it. Although now that their stock is floating into the high 60s I’m sure they have money to just throw that way. Their marketing is part of the overall design of the iPod, it’s not necessarily more targeted or better phrased than others. What I see Apple doing extremely well is how they use their marketing as a piece of the overall ‘Lifestyle Design’ of the iPod.
This is something I’ve been researching more and more lately as my interest in creating consumer products has peaked. I’ve found that when you’re making something for people ‘to consume’ the one thing that most companies forget in their product design is this idea of Lifestyle Design.
I see this all the time with new products, be it the new web 2.0 style software apps like Pluck, ringo, friendster or combinations of software and hardware like the MP3 players. All of those products, are really just products in the end and the software or hardware pieces are just ways of conveiying the product message.
The problem with the messages they use isn’t that they communicate easily to Venture Capitalists what you’re trying to do; no that’s the only thing that’s good about them. The real problem is that the people creating them seem to think I (and others) will associate with those catch phrases. When I go to any of the myriad of Web 2.0 $single_or_combination_of_catchy_word(s).com sites I immediately look for their VC catch phrase. These are phrases like: “Connect with friends”, “Subscribe, download, listen”, and on and on.
What they really need to do, and what successful products like the iPod and even MySpace do is give me an understanding of how this product fits into my life and make me want to have the life where this product fits in it. I think those successful product strategies come from a deep understanding of people and how they work. I heard this at a seminar I went to once, they said, “People want to look good, and avoid looking bad”. Which while brief really does sum up a lot of why we do the things we do.
Take for example Gather, which seems like a ghost town of social network sites when you join. Gather doesn’t make me want to post things or join things because I always tend to stand out when I do that, when you’re the first one to post something to a forum that you just joined you can be worried that it’s the wrong place to post it to or that no one will answer and you message will sit there forever unanswered with spelling and grammar mistakes. The GNOME Mailing lists have this property as well.
When I look at the ads for itunes and ipod I see Apple showing people how the iPod and iTunes fits into their life and at the same time makes them want it to it into their life. Those other MP3 players are having a hard time making me want to fit into the “Solid State Life“, when I don’t really care about that. The iPod marketing is centered around making me look good when I have an iPod, the obvious white headphones and white player are jamming in the ads, same headphones and player I see from a distance on 7 out of 10 people walking in Cambridge.
MySpace is a huge success, there are $580 million reasons why that’s true. A design success seems debated because they don’t look all web 2.0, which means it’s lacking usability.
Despite the fact that everyone seems to think that MySpace is a horrible web site were they can’t figure what you’re supposed to do. It’s actually pretty obvious even from the front page. They don’t need the catchy VC headlines like the others, “Connect with People”, “Get Photos From Friends”, those things are a dime a dozen. So the question of how does MySpace fit into my life is answered by: “MySpace is the best place to waste time”, it might be wasting time checking out peoples profiles and weird bands but it’s really great for that.
The way MySpace seemed to do this wasn’t the way that most people who are riding this new wave of venture capitalism are approaching the same problem. MySpace used a great ‘lead by example’ approach to helping people understand how MySpace fits into their life. In the stories that I’ve read of MySpace marketing they put a huge emphasis on getting people to post photos of themselves in their profiles. Girls and guys are putting up photos that try as hard as possible to make them look good. By defining that as the norm early on it acted as the sticky begining flakes of this snowball effect which rolled MySpace to where it is now, a huge gallery of everyone trying to look sexy. There aren’t many better places to waste your time!!
Another aspect of MySpace leading the way is how they give you a friend “Tom” to start out with. It’s not much, but it’s better than the other sites where you join and you have nothing. At least you can see the millions of friends that Tom has. And when you do that, you’ll also see the hundreds of posts to Tom’s page, this creates a “norm” for people around MySpace behavior. They see lots of posts and feel it’s cool to post lots of things to their friends pages.
So if I can get some time on my hands my next goal is to create this “I Know Havoc Pennington” lifestyle. I’m could follow him around a lot wearing my t-shirt, but that wouldn’t really create the lifestyle someone wants. Instead if I show videos of people meeting him, then immediately going to the store and buying the t-shirt. This should convey how you only need to have just met the man before you can claim you know him by buying the t-shirt. Maybe I should make up storylines of just seeing his hacker head and buying the t-shirt, that would certainly broaden the userbase.
images from the library of congress