Professor Kano's model may have been developed for Japanese shipyards ( and we know how well they did!) but it is very useful as a scaffold for discussing people's behaviour around ideas, concepts, prototypes and products. John Maeda's BusinessWeek article on Apple's newly released products can be read through this scaffold- and we can understand differentiating affordances of the competing offers- from the point of view of the customer- and their contributions to brand building.
Picture uploaded by tallkev . Used with thanks under CC.
So here is my quick thought on Kano and Maeda's notes on the visit to AppleStore
So we have an exciter in the form of the look and feel of the new iPod nano; something we want to share with others. Performance needs are not so dominant as all rivals have access to similar technologies, but if Apple had access to faster, bigger, thinner, disks, say, then they could highlight a cluster of differentiating performance attributes.... or they could just decide to design an even "sexier" next generation nano... "mine is so 2007!". But if we offer a very sleek model (iPhone) at a high price and then reduce that price dramatically a month or two later we get really annoyed. (enrager). And why do we keep introducing new versions? Well over time exciters get adopted more widely and become performance comparators and lack of a feature can be very annoying. Newspapers in Britain have commented negatively that when the iPhone is released here it will not have 3G.. does it matter? Only if you expected it as one of your main needs (read also my experiences in a Kano scaffold),
otherwise you might decide "cool" is great, and you can make telephone calls as per usual but on a "sexy" interface.
As my experience with a new Nokia Phone illustrates enragers are not articulated.. the first a marketer will know about it is when the abuse starts to fly after its hit the 'fan'. No Apple marketeer thought to stand outside an Apple Store and ask people "I see you have bought an iPhone.... how would you feel if we knock 200 dollars off the price next month?"
The other challenge is that we do not articulate the exciters... imagine the focus group's reply when the moderator asks if they would like 10,000 songs in their pocket or would you like a little pad of paper squares with glue along one side?... by the way its not very good glue.
And performance attributes? Well we can get tables of those in most magazines; you can log onto the Apple site and find out which iPod are you? So we can easily home in on performance attributes that are very similar and eliminate them from our decision table leaving only the differentiating cluster for each item we are comparing. In fact as producers we need to be thinking hard about that cluster and be looking for differentiating attributes to offer that takes you out of the crowd. Both Bill Buxton and John Maeda keep reminding us that Simplicity for the customer is a competitive advantage that will in-use be accepted as innovative. Trouble is adding features is simple, building simplicity is very complex! But Kano can help us walk through an experience and discuss how our affordances will offer the potential of innovation for our customers!
So let the walking begin!
Title picture from Apple iPod nano gallery