I want a bud vase

Matt Linderman nails product emotions with his bud vase feature blog post. The comments and links miss his crucial point: an unexpected feature that recurs is what keeps consumers happy with their products. It’s not a matter of a free prize, as Seth Godin asserts; it’s a matter of the pleasant reminder, the thoughtful “hey wow” that humanizes the product.

Some more examples of this:

  • the happy “do-DOO-do” new-mail beep and the accompanying graphic of a chicken in old versions of Eudora (and the snake when you have no mail; alas, it’s no longer in the app)
  • the game included in the iPod firmware: the design is what draws people to buy, but the game is an item that makes them remember, “hey, I bought a really neat thing”
  • JetBlue’s customer service waiting loop, which includes comments like “Yeah, we know, we hate waiting too”
  • the way luxury car dealers do maintenance: most of them wash your car before returning it, and for a long time, Infiniti left chocolate mints on the seats, luxury-hotel-style

Nearly every product with differentiation can benefit from this kind of positioning, simply by including a little nicety that isn’t part of the typical approach to that particular commodity. Usability has come a long way—personality always has room for more.