Your Public Relations and Communications Community

To avoid confusing consumers, innovative products need clear comparisons


October 8, 2009

Early automobiles baffled consumers, until innovators hit on a carriage-like design and coined the term “horseless carriage” in the 1890s, providing a clear point of comparison. More than 100 years later, we can still learn from the early automobile designers’ example, Mary Tripsas, an entrepreneurial management professor at Harvard Business School, writes in The New York Times.

Humans instinctively sort and classify, so when companies develop innovative products and services that don’t obviously fit into established categories, managers need to help people understand what comparison to make, Tripsas writes. When people see something they don’t recognize, they try to make sense of it by associating it with something familiar.

Companies can use comparisons to create expectations that best match an innovation’s strengths. Conversely, problems often arise if consumers can’t place innovations into familiar categories. When first introduced, the Segway, the high-tech motorized scooter, had “no clear analogy, so people had no idea how to use it,” Arthur Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas in Austin, is quoted as saying.

But finding the right comparison is only one of many ways organizations can influence how consumers categorize a product, Tripsas writes. “They can also experiment with the product’s shape, packaging, pricing and retail store placement.”Compiled by Greg Beaubien for Tactics and The Strategist Online



Comments

No comments have been submitted yet.

Post a Comment

Editor’s Note: Please limit your comments to the specific post. We reserve the right to omit any response that is not related to the article or that may be considered objectionable.

Name:
Email:
Comment:
Validation:

To help us ensure that you are a real human, please type the total number of circles that appear in the following images in the box below.

(image of five circles) + (image of seven circles) =

 

Training Webinars Included With PRSA Membership!

Broaden your skill set with access to more than 50 live and on-demand webinars in 2014.