Designed to Succeed

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.

Less Than I Bargained For

Less Than I bargained For

In my inner circle, I’m known as the Coupon Queen. I’ve changed plans with friends, opting for a different restaurant simply because I had a coupon. My Sunday morning ritual includes scouring the supermarket circular to make my grocery list and then finding coupons that correlate with on-sale items. Then, I return triumphant from my shopping trip and proudly show my husband how much I “saved.” From this, I get a charge.

My deep desire to avoid paying retail explains my love of Marshall’s and HomeGoods. I even got sucked in to Groupon, but found that I struggled to use those coupons prior to the expiration date.

Lest you think otherwise, I’m not a penny-pincher. Fancy restaurants are my thing; the same with luxury hotels, even if I can only sit at the bar and sip an overpriced martini. But I thrill at finding a bargain. I work hard for my money and will seek every opportunity to stretch it further.

You can imagine my glee, then, when I saw this story on CBS Money Watch “Save money every day: Ten painless tricks.”

Author Allen Roth must be a kindred spirit. I discovered some new tips. For instance, you can Google for promotional codes when shopping online to receive the discount reserved for members of a company’s email list. Similarly, you can Google for and print restaurant coupons. What’s more, Roth reveals ways to save money on hotel stays. Maybe now I can afford to stay as well as drink at those tony hotels I’m so fond of.

Yes, the economy may be on the rebound, but my frugal habits are here to stay. I’m hoping some of them rub off on my kids, but recent evidence points to the contrary. My older son recently bought a pair of Nike sneakers for close to $200. He used his own money saved from birthday gifts, allowance and his summer job. But he didn’t even look for a discount.

His purchase caused me physical pain. Let me propose a name for this ailment:

Full-Retail-Syndrome-by-Proxy.

If you love a bargain as much as I do, let’s start our own cost-conscious community. Oh, and membership is free.

What’s your policy?

What’s Your Policy?

A survey by Proskauer’s International Labor & Employment Group of more than 120 multinational companies indicated that while 76 percent of businesses use social networking for business, nearly half don’t have social media and networking policies in place. What’s more, 43 percent of respondents have experienced employee misuse of social networks. Only 29 percent actively block employees’ access to social networking sites and only 27 percent monitor employees’ use of these sites.

Social media has become an accepted tool in hiring, communications, networking and conducting business. And while we wouldn’t want to work for a company that blocked us from using sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, we should be cognizant of the risks inherent in those sites including lost productivity.

What does your company do to make sure employees don’t damage your firm’s reputation? Do you believe it is ethical to monitor employees’ social media activity to ensure they are being productive, and if so, how is your company doing this?