Designed to Succeed

I love my travel mug. I’ve run through several, and this is the first one that doesn’t spill when it falls from my car’s cup holder. It also allows the coffee to flow freely when I want a sip. It fits nicely in my hand. It makes me happy.

My relationship with my travel mug is based on its good design. And good design, it turns out, creates loyal consumers.

SmartPlanet reported on recent research from J.D. Power & Associates that showed that bad car design affects brand loyalty. The study surveyed 73,000 folks who purchased a 2011-year model. It asked respondents to report technical issues and interior design problems.

Half of consumers who reported no interior design issues with their cars said they “definitely will” buy or lease a car from that manufacturer again. A mere 29 percent of those who said they had at least one problem with their car’s interior design would give that car maker a second chance.

Fifty percent of consumers who report no interior design problems with a new car said they “definitely will” buy or lease from that car’s maker again. Only 29 percent of those who said they experienced at least one interior design problem would do so. Tellingly, the top five reported problems with car interiors are all design-related, rather than technical.

Consider the popularity of Apple’s iPod. It certainly wasn’t the first portable media player. That honor goes to Audio Highway’s Listen Up MP3 player, which debuted in 1996. The first-generation iPod came out in 2001 and has since become the market leader, selling more than 300 million units to date. One of the biggest reasons? Ease of use, based on good design.

All you manufacturers, perhaps it’s time to place more emphasis on design. Yes, you’ll need to spend money to do it, but it’s a one-time expense that will be spread over all of the units you make. And I know you’ve spent the last decade trying to shave pennies from production costs, but good design saves money in another arena. If you have loyal customers, you don’t need to spend as much on marketing and selling. Happy consumers will sing your praises, acting as an extension of your own sales force.

Good design: It’s the magic bullet that keeps you from having to compete on price.