Four words: Brad the Tweeting Toaster. It just had to be said. Anyway, more of him later, let’s get back to the very beginning.
Today, desirability of products is manufactured by a brand – messages from an army of advertisers, spending billions of pounds, euros and a mixed variety of dollars yearly to create product awareness and perception. Tomorrow, according to J.F Grossen, Executive Creative Director at Frog, the desirability of products will be more about the relationship created between an object and consumer.
“Desire is very personal; it might be joy at the first taste or smell, or it might be nostalgia,” he says. “More likely, desire is created by us, our family and friends and media telling us what is desirable about a brand or an object.” Working with his client IKEA, exploring and developing the ways that shopping can and will evolve and predicting how consumers will connect and interact with the products in store, is a key part of his remit.
According to Grossen, the future of product design will be in bringing products to life – quite literally. He firmly believes that the best way to forge an emotional connection with customers is by making things project a human quality, or making them warm and cuddly like a pet. He calls this “seductive anthropomorphism” — on a base level it’s as simple as IKEA giving male names to chairs and desks, and female names to fabrics.
Taking it to a more complex level, however, brings us right back to yes, you guessed it, Brad.
Part of a project called Addicted Products, Brad wears his emotions in his slot. Use him infrequently and he gets upset. Make him feel useless by not making toast and it’s over – he’ll probably send a message to a courier to come and fetch him. Then you’ll be put on the “black toast list” – a fate worse than burned toast any day.
The point Grossen is making is that whilst we currently give the product an emotional meaning in advertising, we need to actually do that to the product itself. He cites a desk which might say “I’ll look great in your new office” because it’s seen what you’re looking at on Pinterest. Or maybe “the jealous chair” which can see you looking at other chairs online, makes its case for being more comfortable, and then offers you a discount if you buy it. As Grossen foresees it, the challenge will be creating voices for these individual products that are authentic and not creepy.
His aim, he says, is to promote “product monogamy” by rewarding people for sustaining a long term relationship with that product. It’s an incredibly interesting idea, attributing personality and “soul” to inanimate objects in a way reminiscent in ways of Pixar’s Toy Story. To infinity and beyond for Brad, perhaps?