Rogier Vijverberg, Founder and Executive Creative Director of SuperHeroes, would like smartphone companies to be more ‘fluffy’. Specifically, to allow more of a human element to influence products, to work outside in, rather than letting developers define the technology.
In the tech world, hype can be something of a double edged sword, says Vijverberg, which can stifle innovation before it can be fully explored: “It helps us ride the wave, perhaps, but what it also does is disguise potential.” He cites the ‘glass wars’ sparked by Google Glass – manufacturers became so embroiled in the gadget race that he believes they overlooked what people actually want.
This is evident throughout the wearables market. While certain devices have been adopted in niche sectors like health and fitness, Vijverberg argues that there is a reason people have yet to connect with them on a mass level – because brands are giving us functionality that we would never have thought to ask for, rather than things we find genuinely useful.
Stop Specification Inflation
The issue when shopping for something like a smartphone, Vijverberg believes, is that there is simultaneously too much choice, and yet everything is more or less the same. Why can’t selling a complex product be simpler? For instance, somebody might only want a great camera and little else from their phone. But they would have to buy an expensive phone to get that level of specification in the camera, and the device would include plenty of other confusing, distracting features which they don’t need.
Telling people a story they can make a connection with, on an emotional or instinctive basis, is one of the cornerstones of advertising – but Vijverberg is convinced we can go further by tapping into pre-programmed behaviours. We all remember Tatia Pilieva’s ‘First Kiss’ video, which evoked the ‘cringe factor’ and had people watching through their fingers – this kind of involuntary response is what we should be aiming for.
Vijverberg’s ‘super agency’ SuperHeroes specialise in this, with a prime example being the ‘So Real It’s Scary’ campaign for LG. A team equipped the floor of an elevator with LG screens, in order to fool a number of individuals into believing that the floor tiles were falling down the shaft. The people in the lift were terrified, sure, but viewers watching the video would also have a strong reaction, as the fear felt in this kind of situation is universal.
The Personal Touch
Not all innovation has to be for everyone – go too big and you’ll never please everyone. But catering to small groups and addressing individual needs can lead to some nifty ideas. Tzakuri, for instance, is a Japanese designer who created a pair of glasses with a chip which makes your phone buzz if you walk up to ten feet away, lowering the chances of you actually losing them. Similarly, the iFind device was designed for those forgetful people who are always losing keys, phones, wallets etc. What originated as a relatively small, personal problem turned into a highly scale-able solution.
“Don’t look for technology,” advises Vijverberg, “look for human needs. What really drives people? What is the problem we are solving?” He recommends that tech companies bring in an artist at the early stages of development, or at the very least for developers to start thinking more like artists, as it is these universal emotions and experiences which can be leveraged to help connect users with products. As already stated, many consumers have yet to be convinced that they need a wristband device; what if it were marketed to a father, as a means of knowing his daughter was safe and well while playing outside? There is immediately more of a reason for a large number of people to purchase this device.
Says Vijverberg: “We want to stay closer to people’s brains and people’s skin, essentially.”