There Are No Low-Interest Categories
Dev Patnaik is founder and chief executive of Jump Associates, a growth strategy firm. He is also the co-author of "Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy" (written with Peter Mortensen). Patnaik is a designer and strategic planner with experience in engineering, art design and business theory. He has worked with Fortune 500 firms and fledgling startups in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Australia. An assistant faculty member at Stanford University, Patnaik teaches design research methods to undergraduate and graduate students. He also speaks frequently at leading industry forums on product development, marketing and innovation.
Topic: The biggest myth in corporate America.
Dev Patnaik: We buy things for widely different reasons. We buy things because they satisfy basic needs like hunger, right, or thirst. We buy products because they make us feel good. They meet our needs of identity or needs of belonging.
On some level though, we buy everything because it meets some needs that we have and I think companies have gotten shy about the reasons why people buy their products.
The biggest myth I have heard in corporate America is the myth of the low-interest category. You’ll go into company that makes widgets and nails and say, “Those are relatively low interest category.” It’s something that people are not that interested of and so well, our biggest, or only choice is just slice it down and make it as cheaply as possible. I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think there is any such thing as a low-interest category.
Every time we go in and we study cleaning products, we may find out that it’s really about a mom caring for her children. And we study soft drinks and we realized there’s much more about feeling like you have a sense of identity and a belonging with a group of people. We study engineering thermoplastics, and we discover that it’s really about chemical engineers who use those thermoplastics feeling like they’re competent in their job.
There’s always a human being and a high interest factor associated with it. I’ve told more than one CEO that the first thing he needed to do was to walk around his company and ask people, “Do you think we have a low interest product? Okay, you’re fired.” Get rid of people who don’t believe that the stuff they make can change the world because it is changing the world whether they are noticing it or not.
Conducted on: June 24, 2009.
Jump Associates CEO Dev Patnaik debunks the corporate America myth that some products are only valuable if they’re cheap.
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