July 11

Shock Value

To break the monotony, I’ll start this paper with an anecdote of an acquaintance of of my cousin who just graduated from Mapua Institute of Technology with a degree on industrial design.

In his thesis defense, the panel was not impressed by his product – benches in the atrium of their building that are not different from a normal flat bench you’ll normally see in parks on the first look but when you pull up the top you’ll have a 3-seat bench with back support. Honestly, the first time you see the product, you’ll find it lame or even hilarious. But a few months later, when we went back to his college one of the members of the panel who judged his thesis remarked, “akala niyo lang walang kwenta yung thesis ni Egay, ayan o, ginagawang tulugan ng mga estudyante.”

It’s maybe comical to have that old idea used in his thesis, but it worked. His benches were sought by many busy students who didn’t have enough sleep due to their killer subjects. What really made those once lame, hilarious benches useful or sought by many? Though he never intended those benches to become makeshift beds for sleepy students, we can get from this example that for a product to have its own niche in the market what it offers has to be aligned with the needs and wants of the end-users. When there is an existing need, consumers, given enough resources on their part, will do something to satisfy that need. And why include wants? Basically, this is due to the other expectations underlying a certain need. Just like in the case of Egay’s benches, the students are aware of their need to sleep whenever possible and for something to sleep on to besides the cold and dusty floor or the backbone-racking chairs that will really make your limbs numb if you pushed yourself to sleep on it and so they saw the flat feet-long benches as graces sent by God. Aside from this, there’s this underlying preference to have those (makeshift beds) inside the building and much better if they are near their classrooms (I presume no one wants to sleep outside exposed to every passerby Mapuan or not), and so the location of the benches added value to it. To illustrate this in a more business-toned manner, let’s take the example of Taser. Managers of Taser knew there’s this existing need to protect oneself from any possible danger with the society getting more dangerous. And yes, people want a better solution than firing or at least aiming a gun towards someone. And so using stun guns and escape danger leaving the attacker stunned to unconsciousness and alive is a better option. But to expect ordinary civilians to carry bulky or gun-shaped stun guns whenever they go out for a walk is foolish, especially to the ladies. And the awkwardness one can get from carrying a tool that looks like those used by goons or fighting freaks from action movies defeats the purpose of the product itself, rendering it useless and unwanted. From this we can infer that there is this underlying need for some sleek (or stylish) harmless-looking stun guns that everyone will feel comfortable carrying outside. It is brilliant for Taser to come up with their stylish line of stun guns and they were able to their market (from law enforces to include ordinary civilians) as a prize.

So what are in these for us, managers in training? First, we have to be sensitive to the needs existing in the society, because from these needs arise opportunities. Second, the inquiry doesn’t stop in identifying the need; it is equally important to identify what they (consumers) want more, what they expect or how they want their need to be satisfied. And lastly, to develop the product to satisfy such needs and wants and to continually develop the product to adapt to the usually changing needs of consumers.