Consumer-centered product design is an emerging best practice in many industries, particularly those characterized by practical products that hold no emotional appeal; or in which competition is based on increasingly less profitable attempts to cut cost or improve performance; or in which once distinctive products are becoming commoditized; or in which there is little room left for product innovation. Among the best practitioners, design is understood to be a core activity conferring competitive advantage by bringing to light the emotional meaning products and services have, or could have, for consumers and extracting the high value of such emotional connections. The authors discuss how companies such as Master Lock, Procter & Gamble, BMW and Cambridge SoundWorks have employed design research — including the use of multidisciplinary teams and a variety of ethnographic and psychophysiological techniques — to build organizationwide identification with the customers’ needs and aspirations, keeping everyone’s eyes on the same prize.
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