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Wii need more fun

Sony’s recent earnings report showed continued weakness in its PS3 business relative to the booming fortunes of Nintendo and its hot selling Wii.

Industry analysts and gurus will likely focus on issues such as price and technology to explain the dynamics in the videogame category. But over a recent breakfast with a Sony exec I heard the clearest explanation yet: the Wii is simply more fun.

Fun. Now that’s something they don’t teach in MBA programs.

My friend made a powerful point, citing the Consumer Electronics Show in which Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all made their competing announcements about their upcoming products. Sony and Microsoft spoke endlessly about power, speed, graphics, etc. Nintendo came forward and announced that the Wii was designed to be more fun. More social. More interactive. Just more fun.

That’s a great lesson for so many marketing categories. Appeal to the power of fundamental human emotions. Design products around these emotions from the ground up. Don’t rely on marketing to graft emotions onto the product. Toyota hit the mark with its “don’t you dare drive this to the dry cleaner” FJ Cruiser. And Carl’s Jr. has built its brand on unapologetically indulgent items like the Guacamole Bacon Six Dollar Burger or the new Strawberry Banana “Schmake” (aka, smoothie shake).

The brief for a designing a new product should begin with a single question: “How do we want people to feel?” With that answer we can design products and marketing that people actually want to experience and tell their friends about. But this may just be a pipe dream if we don't embrace research that gets at emotions rather than the rational feedback that focus groups and clinics tend to gather.