Social Product Development

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do People Really Want to Sleep Inside Dead Animals?

Ok, so I’m a little behind. I’m a lot like my dad this way; stockpiling reading material until I have a chance to get to it. I was reading the November 25, 2009 NYTimes Magazine recently and came across this great article entitled “Sleeping Gag” by Rob Walker. Rob talks about ThinkGeek.com, an online retailer that, on April Fools’ Day, devotes its home page to products that don’t exist. They’ve conceived of some pretty funny products over the years, some of which have turned into real products due to their wide spread interest. But this article talks about the Tauntaun sleeping bag. Tauntaun, you ask? Well then, you must not be one of the many thousands of Star Wars fans who wouldn’t mind curling up in the body of a dead lizard-like animal.


Turns out that ThinkGeek introduced this sleeping bag on their April Fools’ home page only after they had tried to make it a real product. ThinkGeek’s attempts to reach Lucas Films had gone unanswered, so they decided to use their concepts as an April Fools’ product. Not only did tens of thousands of people try to buy it, but Lucas Films suddenly started paying attention and wanted to help ThinkGeek turn their Tauntaun sleeping bag into reality. Through their little joke, ThinkGeek learned that their original target audience (i.e. kids) was off-base. It’s the parents who grew up with Star Wars who are the real consumers of the Tauntaun sleeping bag.

ThinkGeek used social media to validate their idea and collect input from their customers, all towards a goal of delivering a marketable product. When I read this article, aside from getting a good laugh, it made me think of social product development and how capabilities to collect feedback from customers and prospects is a perfect use case for using social computing as part of early stage product development. This example is a little less sophisticated than the process of creating a new hand-held device or automobile, but there are parallels to be found, none-the-less. Companies looking to engage their customers on a specific idea or solution to a problem could hold a virtual event, broadly or with a targeted set of customers, where they could share interactive visual concepts, collect comments and new visual concepts, discuss the concepts, make adjustments, and hone their ideas.


ThinkGeek didn’t go down a traditional path for soliciting feedback from its customers – after all, it was serendipitous that the feedback about the target audience came to their attention. The fact remains, though, that they responded to the wisdom of the crowds – they embraced social media to make a more sound product decision. Has your company used some interesting ways to solicit feedback from customers other than a traditional survey or focus group? What types of products lend themselves to crowd sourcing ideas with social media or does it apply to all products? Let us know in the comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment