Captivating Customers

Professors Cagan and Boatwright

Some companies have an uncanny ability to introduce products and services that generate a firestorm of excitement into the marketplace, captivating customers. The result? Unparalleled success and profits, and a growing and loyal customer base. Is it just luck?

Not according to Carnegie Mellon University professors Peter Boatwright and Jonathan Cagan. Their latest book, Built to Love: Creating Products that Captivate Customers, examines how product emotions correlate to market success and explains how companies can, through their products, instill desired emotions into their customers.

Take, for instance, the recent phenomenon surrounding the release of the iPhone 4.

"The success of the iPhone4 is not a result of a PR blitz from Apple," write the authors on their blog. "[I]t is Apple's products that captivate their customers, time and time again."

There is a science to emotions, and Boatwright and Cagan have developed a method for infusing emotions into virtually any type of product or service.

"When you think of a product you love, the emotions it evokes in you are what really grab you," said Boatwright, associate professor of marketing at the Tepper School of Business. "Given comparable quality standards, performance and function, two competing products do not always stand as equal in today's marketplace. The difference is emotions."

He added, "Unfortunately, companies often miss this concept in their innovation processes, which has led to the diminished success, or outright failure, of many products and services that functionally perform quite well."

Traditionally, advertising has been used to create emotional associations with products, but Boatwright and Cagan show how this is changing as companies recognize how to offer a more authentic expression of emotion directly through their products and services.

"In an era of expanding social networking, product emotions are more important than ever in determining success in the marketplace," said Cagan, the George Tallman and Florence Barrett Ladd Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Engineering.

"Consumers are looking for information on products and services from 'third-party' sources through social communication channels such as word-of-mouth, blogs, online-reviews, tweets, and Facebook posts," Cagan added. "And what makes people talk about products, whether online or offline, is product emotions. That is part of why companies that do better at creating 'high-emotions' perform dramatically better in the marketplace."

Based on consumers' emotional response to companies and their products, the professors studied a wide spectrum of companies, identifying "high-emotion" firms and creating an index for their stock performance.

Related Links: Buy the Book | Blog | Tepper School of Business | College of Engineering

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