In his book “Evil by Design”, Chris Nodder writes about how to create envy and use it to enhance the popularity of a product. The first step in creating envy, according to Nodder, is to create desirability for a product. Nodder gives ut 5 ways to create desire:
- Secrecy: Being one of the few in the know about an item, making people speculate about the product.
- Scarcity: Small numbers, low availability of the item. This creates an urgency for people to get the product while they still can, and makes people think other’s like it.
- Identity: Identify the item with a desirable lifestyle, person or activity.
- Aesthetics: The item is pleasing to look at, hold and use.
- Functionality: The item solves a problem in an elegant way.
As an example of how desire has been created in this way, Nodder brings up Apple and the iPhone. I believe that he is right, that Apple is a very good example of a company that has mastered the methods of creating desirability.
But Apple does have an advantage in being an old, well-known company. They are pioneers in the computer market, and they reinvented themselves in the late 90’s as a company creating computers, and later Mp3-players, with an exciting new design.
So what about a start-up company with a brand new product? How can they create desire? Point 3, 4 and 5 from the list above is certainly something a start-up can do, if they have reasonably good technical- and design skills, and some start-up money and a head for marketing. But point 1 and 2 are different from a start up company. Secrecy, that few people are in the know about an item, is automatic – because no one has ever heard of the company or product before. In fact, secrecy becomes more of a problem, as the company would want to get the word out about what they are doing.
The second point, scarcity, is also somewhat automatic. A start-up company may not have the finances to mass produce whatever they’re making. Crowd sourcing and pre-purchase is a good way to get around this problem, because the company can produce their products knowing that they are financed and that some of the items are already sold. It also helps to make people feel ownership of the product before they’ve bought it, which Nodder mentions as a good strategy later in the same chapter.
A start-up company has to create functional and aesthetically pleasing products with an identity first. Then forget about secrecy – get the word out about it. And while scarcity can be a good way to create hype about a product, it is also a gamble for a start-up who needs to sell items to stay in business. Nodder’s list of ways to create desire still applies to start-ups. It’s just that these companies should turn the list up-side-down and focus on functionality, aesthetics and identity first. And they should just forget about secrecy – they can’t afford to be secretive about what they’re doing.