Tag Archives: product design

Why are we attracted by Starbucks toys?

Starbucks Coffee Korea recently launched a set of limited edition Playmobil toy figures. Customers get one of six tall-size beverages with an accompanying Playmobil figure for $12.

Today at a nearby Starbucks, I found several customers paid extra to have a barista figure. Another Starbucks was crowded even though customers have to leave store shortly due to social distancing regulations. It suggests this campaign increases offline store traffic.

Why do adults like Starbucks toys? Although brand power and scarcity play key roles, a more deeply rooted reason is that Playmobil figures are whimsically cute. “Cute products (e.g., an ice-cream scoop shaped like a miniature person or a dress with tropical colors and pink flamingos) can have whimsical nature, which is associated with capricious humor and playful disposition. Whimsical cuteness is … associated with fun and playfulness.” (Nenkov and Scott 2014, pg. 327).

Interestingly, whimsically cute products do not necessarily appeal when they are designed for kids. Contrary to our belief, whimsical cuteness attracts adults. This argument is supported by the experimental findings obtained from a marketing paper.

After viewing one of two cookies (neutral vs. whimsically cute), in an ostensibly unrelated study, participants were asked to imagine that they were attending a dinner with friends, and because they were watching their weight and were concerned about health-related issues, they were carefully evaluating their entree options. One option was rich and delicious but much more fattening, while the other option was more healthy but not quite as tasty as the richer option. They were then asked to indicate their preference for the rich versus healthy entree on a 7-point scale, ranging from 1 (will definitely have the rich entree) to 7 (will definitely have the healthy entree).

When two cookies were presented under “The Cookie Shop,” participants indicated significantly weaker preference for the healthy entree when they had earlier viewed the whimsically cute cookie than when they had viewed the neutral cookie. However, no such differences occurred when two cookies were presented under “The Kid’s Cookie Shop.”

Nenkov, G., & Scott, M. (2014). “So Cute I Could Eat It Up”: Priming Effects of Cute Products on Indulgent Consumption. Journal of Consumer Research,41(2), 326-341.

This article examines the extent to which consumers engage in more indulgent consumption when they are exposed to whimsically cute products and explores the process by which such products affect indulgence. Prior research on kindchenschema (baby schema) has found that exposure to cute babies or baby animals leads to more careful behavior (see the study by Sherman, Haidt, and Coan), suggesting restraint. The present research uncovers the opposite: consumers become more indulgent in their behavior after exposure to whimsically cute products. Drawing from research on cognitive priming, kindchenschema, anthropomorphization, indulgence, and regulatory focus, this research posits that exposure to whimsically cute products primes mental representations of fun, increasing consumers’ focus on approaching self-rewards and making consumers more likely to choose indulgent options. These effects do not emerge for kindchenschema cute stimuli, since they prime mental representations of vulnerability and caretaking. Four empirical studies provide evidence for the proposed effects and their underlying process.

How to breathe better with a mask

Wearing a mask becomes common as the spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus disease) dominates our lives. However, people find it difficult to breathe with a mask. I recently found an interesting new product for masks at Granhand where I visited to buy droppers or incenses for my office.

Though you can not seize nor hold the smell, it has a decisive effect on the matter of our memory and emotion and believes on its vitally of influences on our decision among our lives. GRANHAND gives faith towards the value of the fragrance and consistently pursues to make the scent part of our regular living. Although it may be slow nor has perfection, the variety of contents that our brand is offering will build the unique value of the experience that no other brand will possess. GRANHAND will not be a product where it vanishes with ease nor be neglected. It will continuously illuminate with a distinct presence and yield to warm people’s mind.

This store sells a natural oil named as “On Your Mask.” When we spray it inside the mask, we could breathe in a fresh way. This oil impressed me a lot because when I think about a mask in the past, I paid attention exclusively to its practical functionality. In other words, I simply ignored how much comfortable I should feel when wearing it.

Customer experience is not dried up for new product development.

Kornish, L. J., & Ulrich, K. T. (2011). Opportunity Spaces in Innovation: Empirical Analysis of Large Samples of Ideas. Management Science, 57(1), 107–128.

A common approach to innovation, parallel search, is to identify a large number of opportunities and then to select a subset for further development, with just a few coming to fruition. One potential weakness with parallel search is that it permits repetition. The same, or a similar, idea might be generated multiple times, because parallel exploration processes typically operate without information about the ideas that have already been identified. In this paper we analyze repetition in five data sets comprising 1,368 opportunities and use that analysis to address three questions: (1) When a large number of efforts to generate ideas are conducted in parallel, how likely are the resulting ideas to be redundant? (2) How large are the opportunity spaces? (3) Are the unique ideas more valuable than those similar to many others? The answer to the first question is that although there is clearly some redundancy in the ideas generated by aggregating parallel efforts, this redundancy is quite small in absolute terms in our data, even for a narrowly defined domain. For the second question, we propose a method to extrapolate how many unique ideas would result from an unbounded effort by an unlimited number of comparable idea generators. Applying that method, and for the settings we study, the estimated total number of unique ideas is about one thousand for the most narrowly defined domain and greater than two thousand for the more broadly defined domains. On the third question, we find a positive relationship between the number of similar ideas and idea value: the ideas that are least similar to others are not generally the most valuable ones.

Are Consumer Design Evaluations Trustworthy?

Background Designers often consider consumer design evaluations. However, whether consumer design evaluations are trustworthy has been rarely discussed. We propose that consumers equate the concept of design with the concept of uniqueness, which suggests that their design valuations are context dependent and unstable.

Methods We test our proposition by conducting one pilot study and three main studies. The pilot study examines which criteria consumers consider when evaluating a design. The three main studies test whether consumer design evaluations depend on the situation and unique products.

Results The results of the pilot study and three main studies demonstrate that subjects evaluated design using aesthetic and functional attributes and their design evaluations were based on the attributes that are not popular in a specific situation.

Conclusions This study contributes to the academic discussion of whether consumer design evaluations are stable. Our findings demonstrate that consumers construct design evaluations on the spot. Therefore, designers who have accumulated professional experience and knowledge, are recommended to follow their own design evaluations rather than the voice of customers.

Mushroom shaped magnet

Thai designers make interesting experimentation. At a department store in Bangkok, I found several stationary items and kitchen utensils designed by Qualy, seems to be a local Thai design company. Although this company introduced a series of interesting products including owl-shaped salt and pepper shaker or bear-shaped one, the most interesting one is mushroom-shaped magnetic.

 

 

Shiitake is a mushroom native to East Asia and consumed in many Asian countries. It is considered a medicinal mushroom in some forms of traditional medicine. Qualy website says,

Shiitake magnet Make sure you don’t put these in your soup. They are actually mushroom shaped magnets. And not just any mushroom, they are shiitake mushrooms, to remind you to seize opportunity. Just place them on any metal surface to secure your notes. It’s like picking mushrooms from a field each time you remove a magnet.

Although I do not know why shiitake mushroom is related with seizing an opportunity, the form is certainly eye-catching and attractive enough to open wallet.

 

 

 

 

Glass shaped like milk carton

Most cocktail glasses are designed to hold the unique aroma of the cocktail to maximize its taste. However, some glasses play different roles. While I visited Singapore, my friend recommended me to visit Loof, a rooftop bar. It is located across the famous Raffels Hotel, a colonial-style super luxury hotel in the downtown. According to the website, this bar is

Awarded as Singapore’s best rooftop bar, Loof serves up quality whimsy, fresh nostalgia and unbridled playfulness in an urban garden atop Odeon Towers in downtown CBD. Enjoy carefully crafted Southeast Asian inspired cocktails with bar snacks that have a local twist. Then take a trip down memory lane and purchase little gems of locally-curated nostalgia at The Mama Shop. Bask in the cool shade of Loof’s urban garden and take in the best view of Raffles Hotel. Soak up infectious beats from resident DJs and themed party nights.

 

 

I wanted to drink energy booster since I spent a hot and humid daytime outside. I ordered “Milo Cocktail” because Milo is the chocolate malt beverage. Interestingly, this cocktail was served by a milk carton shaped glass. Although this glass did not capture the unique aroma the cocktail, it certainly improved my drinking experience because Milo is often served with milk and thus it tasted like Milo milky cocktail.

Stephen Hoch and Young-Won Ha proposed in their seminal marketing paper, Consumer Learning: Advertising and the Ambiguity of Product Experience (1986) that experience is a piece of evidence to test a hypothesis and the hypothesis is the advertising message. This cocktail glass led me to think that product design or package can be a hypothesis now. I thought milk was in there! 🙂

 

Cow shaped cheese board

About 6,700 cheese boards and cutting boards sell on the Amazon.com. Their prices vary between $5 and $370. Majority of them are rectanglular. However, not a few boards interesting shapes. At one of my favorite Canadian stores, West elm, I found a cow-shaped mini cheese board and cutting board. Its price was $22.

 

 

I bought this board mainly because it looked interesting to me. However, a board designer cut a significant portion of it to make it look like a cow, it was not useful to cut vegetables and fruits but ok for serving cheese. This is a typical situation that marketing researchers often study: a trade-off relationship between aesthetic appeal and practical utility. Does this trade-off work? Unfortunately, I do not know whether adding design flavor attracts other consumers or helps makers charge more. However, it successfully attracted at least one person who had virtually no interest in boards before. Probably, this funny-looking board will remind me of a Canadian store and bring much to share with my guests.

 

 

Umbra, Toronto-based global design company

Umbra is a Canadian design company. I have bought a few home decorative items including its signature garbage cans (Later I learned it is called Skinny Can and was designed by Karim Rashid and David Quan). Interestingly, Umbra items are not expensive. Its affordable price might have allowed me to try several different items. Every single item I have ever used has absolutely satisfied me. The website says,

We are a Toronto-based homeware design company born over 30 years ago when graphic designer, Paul Rowan, couldn’t find a nice window shade to hang in his apartment window. So, he made one and people liked it. He soon teamed up with childhood friend, Les Mandelbaum, and Umbra (in Latin, “shade”) was born. Les and Paul began reimagining everyday items into modern ware.

Today, Umbra is recognized all over the world for bringing intelligent design to everyday items. An in-house team of international designers allows us to come up with original design that speaks universally and personally to a broad customer base. The journey that started in Toronto continues—our designs can be found in over 120 countries.

 

Recently, I had a chance to pay visit to its flagship store located in downtown Toronto. This store welcomed visitors to enjoy Umbra items. In particular, I had a brief meeting with Paul Rowan, one of the co-founders of Umbra. He is approachable, funny, and lively. We discussed the design competition successfully held in Seoul in 2014. He also introduced me a Korean designer who is currently working at the in-house team of international designers.

With a lot of curiosity, I visited the Umbra design studio located in Scarborough the next day. I met with Sung Wook Park. He graduated from OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) University and joined Umbra about 4 years ago. He is now a creative lead for jewelry, photodisplay, and wall decor items. He explained to me the overall history of Umbra and kindly taught me the trend, the popular material in the next couple of years, and several counter-intuitive international (e.g., Canada vs. US vs. Japan) sales patterns regarding photo frames and wall decor items. I have asked any business issue his design team needs to address as well while introducing numerous successful design items to the global market. Meeting with Paul and Sung Wook gave me a glimpse into the life of the North American designers.