What makes an amazing product?
UPDATED 14TH SEPTEMBER 2023
What makes a product stand out? What are some of the qualities of a unique product? As the founder of Holly & Co and also notonthehighstreet, I’ve learned to spot original, showstopping finds. Read on as I share some of what I’ve picked up with you…
What makes a product stand out?
Having spent a career promoting, selling and ultimately loving incredible products, I like to think I know a thing or two about what makes something ‘stand out’. I’ve helped price thousands of finds, looked at countless packaging ideas and seen what feels like millions of ideas, from sketch pad to the shelves.
Creating a ‘great’ product isn’t easy and relies on so many elements coming together. Now, as you can imagine, I’ve been asked, “What makes a product magical?” quite a few times and I have to say, it’s not an easy one to answer! Because when it comes to describing magic, is that ever straightforward? Well no, but let me give it a go…
Products that actually sell? Focus on the unique
I think one of the reasons it’s hard to create a bestseller is that the process hasn’t been formalised yet and I don’t know if it ever will be. That’s what’s magical about it. How does one describe the decision to paint your product rather than spray it? To etch the bottom of the bottle rather than leave it blank? To serve a miniature milkshake before the starter has even been brought out? Are these choices or your creative instinct kicking in? I don’t always know what will take off and make money but I do know that to catch the imagination, it needs to be unique.
The Pareto Principle — use the 80/20 rule to create brilliant products
Creating a brilliant product is like looking for the holy grail and so if you’ve ever struggled and thought. “Is it just me?” — it’s not! It’s officially not easy.
Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule (also known as The Pareto Principle)? It’s a way of looking at life and the world where everything is either 80% or 20%, where 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. So 80% of our profits might come from 20% of our output. When you apply this rule to product creation, you’ll see that you probably only create 20% of your range as a bestseller, but that’s actually all you need. No wonder we’re always in search of the magic source though, because once you hit the jackpot, so many things fall into place:
- Creating a winning product enhances your brand and reputation.
- It seems to communicate your beliefs far more than your marketing and your sales even.
- Oh and speaking of sales, they go off the charts too!
Great products seem to tell the world all about who you are and help make you memorable — which can be quite a humbling experience I’ve been told. For more ideas on why innovation is important in business or why I believe that the riches are in the niches, read my articles.
What are some qualities of an excellent product?
From my experience, great products fall into at least one of four camps.
1. Is the product unique or ‘novel’ in some way?
What you’ve created is brand new. It can change a sector or even an industry. I think a brand like The School of Life is constantly designing products with this element of innovation and newness through their clever and witty use of language on everyday, practical items, such as their ‘emotional baggage’ tote bag. The more novel a product is, the better.
2. Is the product useful?
The product or service makes something which was once difficult, annoying or even impossible, easy. I’d like to think of notonthehighstreet here. It took the fragmented world of amazing small businesses and housed them under one virtual roof.
3. Is the product easy to use?
Using this product is effortless. It’s an extension of what you do already and who you are. You just press something or download it, and hey presto, a problem is solved. Think of the revolutionary fitness apps you can now get that log all your metrics in one place and advise you of your levels and intake. They make it so much easier to be healthy.
4. Is the product surprising or delightful?
I can feel you all smiling at this last one and that’s the point — what you create makes everyone feel a sense of wonder; a feeling that’s underestimated. It taps into the psyche and lifts the soul. As I’m typing, I’m surrounded by objects that delight me, such as a knitted cactus, a ceramic budgie with nipple tassels and a Donald Trump pin cushion — they truly make me smile.
Walt Disney: a maker of magic
Someone who knew all about magic and who we can all learn so much from is Walt Disney. He said. “Magic is made by optimising the mundane” and boy was he right. It’s all in the process and the details.
The story goes that Walt had studied other theme parks and found that people would generally not walk more than 30 steps before throwing rubbish on the floor after they’d eaten. He felt not only was littering unattractive to the environment, but it also subconsciously dulled the other guests’ enjoyment of the day. It was not what Disneyland was about and so Walt built Disneyland with this in mind.
When Disneyland launched there was an abundance of rubbish bins, never more than a few feet away. It’s safe to say, he did sweat the small stuff and as you read more about him, there are countless examples of his attention to the magical details. If we apply this same theory to our products, we can help anticipate needs and create a memorable experience.
What makes a product unique?
The final piece of advice I’d give on this is to remind you to trust your instincts as a maker or designer. Ask yourself, “Would someone be moved somehow by what I’ve created?” Would their eyes widen? Mouth open? Would they exclaim ‘Wowee!’ and feel compelled to tell someone else about it? If so, these are all great signs. There might not be a secret formula to creating amazing products, but there doesn’t need to be if the magic is in you. I wish you all the luck!
What makes an amazing product: key takeaways…
Here are my three main points to remember.
1. When innovating a product, focus on the unique:
Make sure your product is one-of-a kind somehow to ensure it stands out.
2. Use the 80/20 rule to create new products:
Not everything you make needs to be a bestseller.
3. Make sure the products you create have at least one of the four magic elements:
Is it novel/useful/easy or delightful? And always remember that the magic is in you!