Every basic economics class teaches supply and demand, it is the cornerstone of the capitalist economy. But what has often been a mystery is how demand is created in the first place. We all know the urgency of demand when we feel it, that spark of lust for the newest iteration of the iPhone or the latest Marc Jacobs purse. It's more than price that fuels this desire, it's the intangible, the magic.
Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It
by Adrian J. Slywotzky seeks to deconstruct that magic by looking at successful brands
, companies, and products that inspire this type of response.
Demand can makes moguls of the unlikely. It can strike like lightning, unpredictable and volatile. It can turn a simple fisherman into a wealthy businessman. Two products can have similar features and yet one can be a huge success while the other is a quickly forgotten also-ran. Attraction is of course a factor but so is an emotional engagement with the company. One example used in the book is the popular Wegmans grocery store chain. Wegmans customers don't just like the store, they have a deeper relationship with it. We see this again and again, that it is not just the product but the social culture of the organization that create the success.
Another factor in demand is creating a product or service which solves a problem that the consumer may not even have known that they had. But new technology by itself doesn't breed demand. In fact the technology can be around for years before it connects with people. Hybrid cars were available as early as 1999 with the debut of the Honda Insight but it wasn't until the runaway success of the Toyota Prius that hybrids became ubiquitous. What's necessary is the trigger that converts interest into action. Triggers are tricky, they can be word of mouth, advertising, they can be multifaceted or simple.
Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It makes the point that like artists, demand creators often imitate the small things so that they can focus their energy on the bigger game changing pieces of the puzzle. The midpoint of the book gets into the meat of the lessons behind a successful launch. Much of successful demand creation involves a certain ruthlessness in troubleshooting for the fatal flaw that can curdle demand. Like most great novels, many great products require revision. The simple and familiar red Netflix envelope was the result of an intense period of trial and error as other designs and materials were tried out and eventually discarded.
This book doesn't totally deconstruct demand because in the end there is no real answer. We can look at successes like Pixar studios and its string of blockbusters and examine the corporate culture of collaboration but really get no closer to what makes the movies resonate with the masses. In the end, what can be taken away from this book is that part of creating demand is endless tinkering, approaching each situation from different angles, and creating a climate where ideas can be shared and worked on in a collaborative manner. There are no great secrets here, just a lot of solid inspiration from the minds behind some of the world's great products.
Photos Courtesy of Amazon.com & Bachrach Photography