When Apple first released the iPod, it seemed like everyone had to have one. Not only was it a new product, but it was a new take on portable music players, which had remained basically the same for years. It was cool, well-designed and had the basic, necessary functionality – the ultimate blend of form and function. It’s a great example of how to redefine a market or create a new one – an important lesson for large companies and startups alike. This strategy is being used for what could be considered unlikely markets and product categories.
Markets change for all kinds of reasons – changing habits, outdated trends, economic conditions, globalization, new technologies, and others. Companies often respond by developing new products and services (without much thought given to design), changing prices, using different marketing strategies, and so forth. However, aesthetics can have a large impact since they increase perception of quality and value, and success can be achieved as long as the actual quality and value is there. This goes back to having both form and function, as with Apple’s products. It can also give a company a competitive advantage since a brand perception is created that belongs to the company and can’t be duplicated.
It may seem unlikely, but one market that design could be said to be redefining is tobacco. This includes electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), which, despite not actually containing tobacco, has leading tobacco companies getting involved. Consider tobacco maker Lorillard, which last year paid $135 million to acquire leading e-cigarette brand Blu. Murray Kessler, the chairman and chief executive of Lorillard, recently told the Wall Street Journal that he wants to de-normalize smoking and normalize vaping in part by replicating the behavior smokers are used to. He also noted that the company wants to differentiate its e-cigs from competitors like Njoy (which recently received venture funding) by offering a black e-cig as opposed to the usual white so they won’t be mistaken for regular cigarettes by people nearby. Kessler says the black outsell the white by eight to one.
Further supporting the shift from regular cigarettes to e-cigs and other specialty devices with new designs is a recent study predicting that the premium “novel nicotine delivery devices” market will quickly gain momentum in the coming decades. This is part of an evolution away from the usual cigarette iconography while at the same time fulfilling a demand for healthier options as cigarette use is declining.
Startups are also jumping into the market with design and functionality beyond e-cigs. The Pax by Ploom, a vapor device being offered by Vape World resembling an iPod, has an anodized aluminum exterior and a motion-sensing shut-off feature. Unlike e-cigs, it uses real loose-leaf tobacco heated and turned into a vapor without combustion, avoiding the harmful chemicals and byproducts in smoke. Its design appeals to both tech enthusiasts and those who want a vapor device that has some style and advanced functionality.
If a normally staid market like tobacco can be redefined with the help of design, almost any market (and related products) can do the same with a bit of imagination.