Forget “surprise and delight” give me the “Damn! Factor”

Great product is emotional. It is experienced, not purchased and consumed. It draws you in and changes the way you feel about doing whatever you are doing when you use it.  In my early days at AND 1, carrying a bag of samples to playgrounds across the country, I would test hundreds of designs to create a line of 4-5 styles in 2-3 colors each. Part of this exercise was quantitative but the real winners, the products that would carry the brand all had one thing in common: the “Damn! Factor”

I saw this in the sample that the kid held in his hand while he looked at all the other stuff because he couldn’t put it down. I saw it in the laughter and clowning that would break out when they discovered the hidden trash talk on the bottom of a shoe or printed on the lace-tips. I saw it in the crowds at Footaction who would wait around for 25 minutes to see the original MixTape clips come around again on the in-store TV loop.

Damn! (click to see the hotness)

When you build something that hits a deeper nerve and a consumer experiences it, they get excited, they smile, and they feel the need to tell someone, anyone about the product. “Damn! That shit is hot!” It could be packaging, customer service, design or functionality, but it has to create emotion. You cannot write a product spec or design brief that has the Damn! Factor as a requirement or a feature, but when your product has the Damn! Factor, you can’t miss it.

At First Round Capital, we recently released our annual holiday product; a.k.a. the FRC holiday video and I think it had the “Damn Factor.” The whole firm transformed into an entertainment production juggernaut replete with writers, camera crew, stage hands, talent, extras, producers and directors and created something that people had to share with their friends. As the responses started to light up twitter, my phone and e-mail, I was reminded why design, product and service have re-emerged as the primary voice of consumer facing companies.

The social web has made it possible for individual customers to convey their emotional connection to your product or brand to a large, interconnected audience of potential consumers. Great product has always made marketing easier, but now it cannot be separated from your marketing. With social, every point of contact between you and your customers can be broadcast and has the potential to achieve viral syndication – and product experience is the primary point of contact between you and your customers.

If you touch consumers make sure you are running a Damn! Factory. If not, keep grinding.