Today’s entrepreneurs are at the mercy of a much more volatile world. Perhaps that is the reason why they are looking for the right time. In the past, the development of novelties was well advanced when marketing was put into place. Today, startups begin their PR as soon as an idea as a one page and a business plan describe the enterprise and the first three fiscal years. This enables investors to provide funds for the development of the idea at an early stage. The crux is that at this moment the future proposition is still in a vague state. Everyone has to ask the question: when is the right time to become visible in the market with what level of detail?
In retrospect, with the de facto outcomes in mind, everyone is smarter and knows why something did (not) work. For founders, however, it is helpful to have some indications of the degree of maturity of their novelties beforehand. Additionally to a realistic business plan, the product and/or service should be described in a way that the application context, the deliverable, the design and any extras are clearly outlined.
- Application context
Each offer has to be prepared for one or more application fields. This goes from the thematic areas of application, to the geographical locations, to the corresponding target groups, to the respective use cases. A hammer drill is rather not used in a surgery room. Software with a Chinese interface will certainly not be a big seller in Europe. Mountaineers equipment is of no use to the athlete. And only in an emergency, when there is no scalpel at hand, a surgeon will make the tracheotomy with a kitchen knife. What conditions need to be taken into account? Which target group is targeted? What are the typical use cases?
Therefore: Clarify at least one application context with its conditions.
A deliverable can be a product or a service, or a mix of both. Describe the features or use as well as the required inputs and generated outputs. The service consists of practical, symbolic and economic advantages. Without a sufficient description of the deliverable, you should get out of this meaningless PR loop. There is no point in talking about the best and simplest product or the friendliest and fastest service. What are the technical features of a product? What is the task of a service? How do shape, color and haptic support the application? What makes the application easier for the users? What extras are provided – advice, customer support, financing? What requirements must be met? What are exemplary results?
Therefore: Describe the product and the customer support as if it had been on the market for a long time.
The design of the deliverable is decisive for the acceptance by the customer. There is no deliverable without having to be designed, since they are all part of the real world. An ugly device will not prevail. An alien user interface repels. The lack of a classified style provides a unique selling proposition, but customers initially have to get used to it. How do you want to be perceived (e.g. best product, customer-driven solution or the most economical deliverable)? Which remembrance can be linked to the customer support? Which categorizations (e.g. style, content) are possible? How clearly do you want to position yourself?
Therefore: Design the deliverable in such a way that the desired target group is reached and convinced.
The packaging has to fulfil certain tasks – which you can see in the many unboxing clips on YouTube. The packaging should be considered from the beginning. It is used for protection, storage and transport. With the appropriate design, it serves as advertising space and also promotes sales. In the case of customer support, packaging covers the shop layout, the staff clothing and the ergonomics of the website. What packaging does the product need? In what context is the customer support presented?
Therefore: Create appropriate packaging for the product and the customer support.
Today, all offers include supplementing components such as accessories and extras that provide further incentives to buy. More and more complex deliverables require more and more professional advice and customer support. Sustained customer loyalty is promoted through informative newsletters and a lively online community. An added guarantee and favorable financing round off the proposal. Which extras can you offer additionally? How can you skillfully advice your customers? What other gadgets can be proposed?
Therefore: The completed assortment should plan appropriate extras right from the start.
Even if this effort may seem very high, you should be aware that it is very difficult to develop marketing for something that yet cannot be explained in detail. The crux of the matter is when are you sufficiently prepared. In any case, there is a lot to be said against starting marketing early, with the first idea, or very late, when everything is finished. If people want to know more details, it’s probably not enough. If they’re waving off due to too much information, it’s probably too much.
Bottom line: The tendency of start-ups to develop their websites early on and to plan the corresponding marketing measures is clumsy, as a lot is still changing and must be adapted subsequently. The first step, in any case, is the preparation of the product and/or service: description of the application context, the deliverable, the design and the packaging as well as the extras. The crux of the right time is left over. The main thing is that you do not become active too early or too late.
Cultural artifacts have now become economic products and services that follow the rules of the market – literature, music as well as the performing and visual arts. Artists thus become designers of new offers. A wide variety of channels have to be continuously supplied with content – television and radio stations, concert stages, theatres and museums. A quick way to expand your own palette is the fanciless reuse of existing offers. In the absence of subject matters, interesting outgrowths occur. Television stations live from reruns; cinema blockbusters become serials and remakes; pop music lives from cover songs and cover bands; theater plays are completely alienated under well-known titles. Do the artists lack ideas or is the market forcing them to reuse work without imagination?
Previously, the rule was: form follows function. Creatives came up with content and put it into a form. Do the markets demand the endless continuation of the form and fill it always with the same content? Are there rarely enough contents? The following elements are reused thereby.
- The plot
The red thread that runs through a story follows a certain rhythm that ensures that the attention of the audience is continuously refreshed once in a short while. The associated actions follow a conceivable sequence that is interspersed with suspense – in a thriller, the perpetrator is uncovered at the end, during the course or at the beginning of the story; through deliberately interspersed effects such as unknown cultures, unusual role models or elements from other genres (e.g. esotericism in an adventure). Depending on the culture the actual action is always the same – in the USA the investigation team and in Germany the commissioner with his assistant.
Retro provides target groups fanciless repeated plots.
- The format
Depending on the target media, e,g, print, radio, film or Internet, the plots are differently offered. A new novel is planned like the rollout of a product – after publication, the book is discussed on the radio and the television, and reviews are launched in the relevant magazines and eventually sold to the highest bidder for further exploitation. What counts is the signal effect of the original title. Good examples of this kind of marketing are Perfume by Patrick Süskind or The Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupéry, which have already completed their rounds in various formats. The actual story doesn’t change – just the format.
Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated formats.
- The theme
The Zeitgeist brings different subjects to the fore, which, if successful, will be repeated by many – the psyche at the beginning of the twentieth century, totalitarianism after the Second World War or the GDR after German reunification. Today, scientific findings in psychology are used in television series such as Lie to me or Leverage to attract viewers with insights into non-verbal communication. The attraction lies in new insights that could be used in everyday life.
Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated topics.
- The protagonists
The introduced actors are the supporting pillars of a work – e.g. religious characters in the visual arts; mythology in music; contemporary people in stories. Honoré de Balzac with his human comedy showed the French society of the 19th century. Jules Verne had his courageous researchers who broke the boundaries of the world. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrapped the South American reality in magic. Heinrich Boell provided a picture of the FRG during the economic upswing. Today’s protagonists are the same again and again: the crazy scientist; the spiritualized commissioner; the punk investigator. Seldom new personalities emerge, as in the book The reader by Bernhard Schlink.
Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated protagonists.
- The Songs
With the spread of records, the twentieth century became the age of popularized music. Whereas in the past music required musicians, music can be reproduced and enjoyed at any time of the day or night through the canning of records and today’s Internet. In addition, the countless radio broadcasts and films require a continuous flow of new compositions. Certain styles are reused. The fate of the new musicians is to sound like Led Zeppelin or Adele. And at the same time old pieces are re-staged as covers, at best interpreted in a new way. It is possible that music has reached its limits and new harmonies are no longer possible without repeating existing melodies.
Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated compositions.
- The design
Designed packaging is in the economy an important element of marketing. The customers accept an offer, if the packaging appeals to them – the performing arts use for this purpose a special stage; the visual arts the spectacular exhibition space; music and books the book cover. Part of the design is the attractive title that triggers the first buying impulse – The secret; What everyone needs to know; Passive income for everybody. The advertising poster, the flap text and the trailer are further components of the packaging that suggest certain quality criteria with their design and sometimes promise more than they can keep. The actual content takes a back seat – the design determines the business.
Retro often provides the target group fanciless repeated designs.
Bottom line: The countless remakes in cinema and TV, the endless repetitions of quiz formats, the new cover bands and the adoption of classical themes in computer games enable the industrial exploitation of cultural brands. The fanciless reuse of old plots, formats, themes, protagonists, pieces of music and designs flood the sales areas with a look backwards. The approach of packing old things into new vessels and selling them shifts creativity from content to form and prevents that way that new things appear. Therefore retro stands for fanciless reuse.
In the days of the guilds, the quality of the performance was the focus of interest and the figurehead of the masters, the responsible manufacturers. In the last two hundred years specialties have evolved with the advancing division of labor. As a result, the focus has shifted – from the product to fulfilling a subtask. The actual products have receded into the background. The success of the individual areas is determined by the continuous refinement of the particular abilities:
- The development is delivering more and more prototypes,
- The production produces ever more at lower cost,
- The sales department is always acquire new customer groups and
- The marketing delivers ever new campaigns.
As a result, the business units lose sight of the actual services and act based on the look at their own value creation that always covers only partial aspects. This goes so far that start-ups market their business idea before the actual product is available, leading to major, unnecessary efforts that have no effect. And this, although it is generally known: Form follows function.
The venture depends above all on the most convenient offer for which the customer is ready to pay – be it goods or services. A description of the available features is crucial to ensure that the various tasks are performed with minimum effort. The following points are of great value to the overview of the articles and services.
- The service core
fulfills the wishes of the clients – an MP3 player plays music; a hotel night offers a hotel room, incl. room service and breakfast; a Swiss knife cuts, screws, drills, saws, lights, up to a total of 56 parts in one tool.
The service core can be identified with the following questions: Which customer needs are satisfied? Which features are required? What is relevant to the clients?
- The design
of the products happens almost by itself due to their physicality. The material must be selected, shaped, provided with a surface and colored. Intangible services can also be designed. The dealing with customers, such as friendliness and empathy, the reliable activities, such as consulting, training, advertising, and catering or the administration of facilities consist of processes and employee behaviors, which also can be designed. Nowadays, design not only serves as a temptation to buy, but also influences the entire life cycle of a deliverable –
for physical products: from economic production and warehousing, through ergonomics and a predetermined lifespan, durability and ease of maintenance, to disposal; for services: from planning, through development and operation, to the sun downing of an offer.
These design aspects can be identified with the following questions: How do customers perceive the services? How does the design influence the customers – and the life cycle? What other advantages can be achieved with minimal effort?
- The add-on services
include further offers for the customers, which are available free of charge or for a fulfillment fee of the core tasks. This ranges from supplemental assistance in the use and maintenance of the services, through extensive accessories, to performance-related tips as well as platforms for exchanging ideas, e.g. with online communities.
The following questions provide some ideas: What else do the customers want? Which add-ons can be offered right away with little effort? Do the supplemental services increase customer loyalty or even the sales?
- The brand aspects
are the unconscious forces of attraction that bind the customers of a product or service to the company. Established brands, the name or logo, the type of advertising and key images already evoke positive associations – e.g. the famous Marlboro man or the Mercedes star, the elaborate Apple trailers or the Mazda humming, all trigger in the best case positive feelings in the audience – and they become part of the brand with the purchase.
The brand aspects can be determined with the following questions: How does the customer perceive the company? Do the products match the brand? Do we send messages that do not match our desired image? Which activities support the brand?
Bottom line: The points described the service core, the design, the add-on services and the brand aspects are essential components of the business activity. Nevertheless, these points of view are rather late or not at all formulated. They are the meat of the deliverables. These descriptions influence the perception of the customer’s and, at various points, the life cycle of the services. A lot of momentum gets lost when the developers, manufacturers, and sales people have a different understanding of the deliverables. Describe your product, because form without function wastes already scarce resources.
Everybody, who is competing for people’s attention, is looking for starting points that let them stand out from the rush of sensual stimuli. For this purpose we all can rely on basic patterns – Gestalt principles or Gestalt laws. These are mechanisms that can direct, guide and seduce perception.
The media has used for a long time these mechanisms, which are also treated in Gestalt psychology. The following mechanisms describe some basic principles.
- Mechanism of the figure-ground (1)
The perception happens quasi-automatically, without deliberately parsing a scene. Thus the attention subconsciously lands in an image on the central object, the figure placed in front of a background. In rare cases, the background comes to the fore and distracts from the actual foreground.
In order to pack a message easily recognizable, the content should stand out clearly from the background.
- Mechanism of proximity (2)
If several things are close to each other, then we perceive them as a group. That way, extensive representations can be divided into smaller areas. Good examples are newspapers in which paragraphs in the print space are delimited from each other by a corresponding white space.
In order to make the outline of something easier to recognize, related parts should be closer to, with a noticeable distance from each other.
- Mechanism of continuity (3)
If things are in line and follow a path that consistently continues across borders, we assume that they belong together. This can be found on maps where lines often cross one another. The observers are able to detect the continuation of a line when ambiguous intersections are avoided.
Related elements should be arranged in a line and other groups should be clearly differentiated.
- Mechanism of closure (4)
If individual elements form a closed form, then we no longer regard the individual building blocks as noteworthy, but rather the resulting form. The meaning then arises from the resulting group.
Groups can be made visible through an according arrangement of certain elements into a formation.
- Mechanism of similarity (5,10)
The same shape or color is a strong indication that they are similar things. In situations that consist of many individual parts, we are able to identify the groups because of the similarity of the elements. In moving constellations groups can also be distinguished due to the same direction of movement.
Things that belong together should have common features, e.g. shape, color or size. The elements that do not belong should be clearly set off.
- Mechanism of the common region (6,7,9)
If individual elements are found in areas separated by a border, we perceive the individual parts in different zones as related. The individual areas result from recognizable borders or areas of different colors, surfaces or shapes. The common regions may result from a simple pattern, such as a chessboard, or from an organic figure.
Through forming areas by drawing boundaries or designing areas, the respective building blocks can be presented as a group.
- Mechanism of personal experience (8)
An important mechanism is the personal experience of the observers. If they already know certain constellations, they recognize the corresponding groups. This becomes understandable, for example, when you learn a new writing system (for example Japanese Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji). Without the familiar types of strokes, non-Asians find it hard to learn the scriptures. Since everyone provides a unique set of experiences, teams recognize more structures than individuals.
Different people should be involved for detecting groups, since more experience will lead to better creation of groups.
Bottom line: The presented mechanisms are sometimes are called Gestalt principles or Gestalt laws. However, this does not imply that these mechanisms will always work. But our pattern recognition influences the observation of objects like pictures, texts, films, web pages, etc. Our perception is guided through the content by the mechanisms figure-ground, closeness, continuity, closeness, similarity, common region and personal experience- whether we want it or not. The conscious use of the Gestalt principles, the Gestalt laws or the mechanisms of design ensures that we do not send ambiguous messages.
A key without a lock is as useful as a lock without a key. In any case, these two objects serve to prevent entry of unauthorized persons. The key then becomes the symbol of the possibility to block or open access – whether the key belongs to somebody or not. Since only valuable things are locked away, the key is connected to get to a treasure. These can indeed be valuables, but also explanations, recipes or solutions.
The following features make the key the ideal metaphor for solutions.
- Clear purpose
The fact that a door or box is closed provides the indication that there is something valuable or interesting behind. The treasure that you get with the key is the real purpose. A solution also has a purpose. These can be economic objectives, improvements or a project.
- Custom-fit design
The simplest locks can be opened with the simplest keys. Since unauthorized persons gained access with the help of a picklock, the locks became increasingly complicated. For this reason, today different key types – pin tumbler lock, lever lock, tubular, or ceremonial keys. Solutions also work best when tailored to the target group and, above all, to the problem.
- Precise implementation
The understanding of the lock and its purpose is not enough to implement the mechanism. In order for the key to work, it must be precisely fine-grained. Only when all corners and edges correspond exactly to the lock, it opens. The same happens to a solution. For the desired effects the results have to be worked out neatly. You have to answer the right questions that fit the mindset and language of the target group, as well as the intended purpose.
- Everyday use
If the implementation and the material of the key are correct, the key will last long in the everyday application. The same applies to comprehensive solutions that have described well all aspects such as the intended application, the operation and the results.
- Defined procedure
Even the procedure is similar. To create a key, you first need a pattern, in the case of a solution it is the concrete situation that it is all about. Then one examines the whole and finds solutions, from which one chooses the most probable. Now the implementation is planned and installed. The key is now ready to work out the cuts and edges. In the solution the corresponding components – a business process, data model or responsibility matrix. What remain are then only the guidebook and the use of the new key.
Bottom line: The key opens doors and boxes, thus allowing access to certain results that lie behind the locks. The solution has the same function. Its purpose is to achieve certain results. This similarity makes the key to an ideal metaphor for a solution.
Around the world over 8.7 million trademarks, patents, industrial design use and design patent were registered in 2010. These are „official “ideas that follow a formal registration process. At the same time, there are the ideas that evolve in our heads. They build up like clouds, until they bring the necessary humidity as rain to the ground. Accordingly, a company needs regularly new stimulus.
How can you get an idea at the right moment? The thoughts are nevertheless free. However, sometimes you need additional inspiration. A starting point is missing, from which an idea grows. Even though the feeling tells us that an idea is on the tip of your tongue. How can you create an atmosphere that helps finding an idea – now!
Natural barricades must be overcome, so that creativity has enough space, in order to give birth to an idea. That includes acquired paradigms, emotional obsessions, technical blinders, mental models, sensory diversions, linguistic catchwords, prefabricated solutions, judgmental biases.
One approach that helps building the idea cloud could look like the following.
- Change the current environment!
- Get rid of your own requirements and expectations!
- Concentrate on something simple!
- Consider the growing feeling!
As soon as the necessary degree of consolidation of your inspirations is reached, the ideas appear.
To be continued …
I sense an idea
I have an idea!
I spread an idea!