29 March 2012 // Thoughts

The Value of Experiential Design: The Experientially Designed Product

Welcome back to our Blog N’ Learn: The Value of Experiential Design, brought to you by Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy.  Yesterday Shawn talked to us about what experiential design means.  Today he’ll illustrate this definition by comparing two iconic products – one that has become integral to our everyday life, and one that started strong but has since devolved into obsolescence.


Walkman Vs. iPod

In 1979, electronics giant Sony introduced a personal, portable music product called the Walkman. In essence, a small cassette tape player and/or radio receiver, variations of this product dominated the market for over twenty years. Portable MP3 players were eventually introduced by a variety of companies and met with marginal success. That all changed in October of 2001 with the introduction of an amazing new product – the iPod.

The iPod is an example of true experiential design. First Apple researched the market and recognized that, while there were already MP3 players on the market, they were rather clunky, hard to navigate, and were complicated devices for an individual to manage their music collection on.

At the same time, Apple realized that there wasn’t a simple, universally accepted software through which users could not only listen to and organize their music, but could also serve as a way to purchase new music. The initial focus was on the needs of the consumer, not the hardware or software that Apple wanted to push.

The solution was a breakthrough in hardware – the iPod, and software – iTunes.

In retrospect, experiential design has been the key to Apple’s success. Throughout the development of the iPod, Apple looked at every aspect of their target market, including: their needs (a small, simple-to-use device); their desires (cutting edge technology wrapped in a cool looking design with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface), beliefs (that Apple is a renegade company catering to individuality, creativity and expression), knowledge and skills (computer literacy), experience (familiarity with MP3 players and other Apple products) and perceptions (to be associated with the product also expresses ones own individuality and creativity).

They then marketed this breakthrough product with a campaign that celebrated individuality and resonated with consumers on an emotional level, where it’s now part of our cultural landscape.

This experientially designed product has not only resulted in over 300 million units sold and a 70% market share, but it has turned a computer company into one of the world’s largest suppliers of musical content, and it has created an entire culture around the iPod.  So now that we have an understanding of experiential design in general, how does this relate to the leisure industry?

We’ll answer that question next week.  Thanks for reading!