Inventor Labs - Blog

Product Design Vs. Product Marketing

MONDAY, AUGUST 16, 2010 AT 8:34PM

There is a yin/yang relationship between a product's design and its marketing. It seems simple on the surface to say that great products will automatically be successful, and mediocre products will not. Except we know that not to be true.

Products are mystical and ethereal. What most people think of as a "great product" is something that catches our fancy, that excites us, that causes us to stop and look. Some of the most-read blogs of all time are product blogs: Gizmodo, Engadget, Boing Boing. People love to hear about (and forward links to) cool, innovative, wacky, and weird products.

Do they buy them, though?

Sometimes. A product is successful when people buy a lot of them. A product is interesting when a lot of people read about it. A product is "great" when ... what, exactly, makes a product great?

One school of thought is that a product's design is inherently what makes it great, or clunky, or whatever. But it is not necessarily so. The relationship between greatness and design (or branding) can go the other way: if a product is wildly successful, it is considered to be of great design.

Our brains are not wired to appreciate pure aesthetic beauty entirely distinct from the underlying value proposition. A man is not attractive unless he is rich, capable, or successful. It may well be that a product is not beautiful unless it is useful, provokes admiration/envy, or otherwise provides value. We don't like to admit this, but I think it is true at its core.

This suggests that a brilliant, beautiful product design is not enough. It may provoke curiosity and admiration, but if it doesn't sell, it won't be considered to be a great design for very long.

I have always valued design, and consider it to be important to producing great products. But I am persuaded that a reasonably good design with excellent marketing is a far better bet than a truly inspired design with no push behind it.