Column: In search of value

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Commentary by Jim Ittenbach

Marketing teams struggle to find product and service insights that will grow their business. Their emphasis is on creating a new, highly valued product or service that redefines their industry.

By definition, breakthroughs are rare. When they do occur, they usually come from entrepreneurs. Though they may be worth pursuing, most companies seemingly benefit more from incremental innovation that adds value to their present products and services. The search is thus narrowed by focusing on what boosts the value of current offerings.

While the definition of value varies from one customer segment to another, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review identified 30 universal building blocks of value that meet human needs. These basic attributes address four kinds of needs: function, emotion, life changes and social impact. Functional elements, for example, include saving time, reducing risk and organizing. Think the Container Store or Intuit’s TurboTax, since both help consumers deal with complexities. The pyramid of value shows how value elements fit into the four categories.

The value pyramid built from the bottom up:

  • Functional (saves time, reduces cost, reduces risk, organizes, avoids hassles)
  • Emotional (reduces anxiety, fun and entertainment, design and aesthetics, provides access, nostalgia)
  • Life-changing (motivation, heirloom, affiliation and belonging)
  • Social impact (self-transcendence)

Throughout 2015, Uber added services to support consumers’ lives, from delivering meals and groceries to providing flu shots. Discover card now allows cardholders to instantly freeze and unfreeze accounts without canceling their card, reducing anxiety. Spotify added a feature for runners that detects their pace and finds music to match it.

The search for elusive breakthroughs can be discouraging. To help, focus upon elements of value that will resonate with customer needs, wants or desires – ones which can actually be delivered by your company. Adding such features and benefits will infuse life into existing products as well as boost customer loyalty. Live long, and prosper!


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