Wanna sell a toy? Talk to a child!
Most people don't get it. To get consumers to buy, either you need to know what is it that they want, or you need to pre-empt what they may want and then give it to them. Its about being either 'market driven' or about 'driving markets'. What some people 'don't get' is that consumers don't want to buy what these people want them to buy. I mean, its not about what I want to sell; its about what the consumer wants to buy. I can try and sell him whatever I want to, just that, he will not bite. He will, only if he NEEDS whatever I am selling.
Now that's a lesson the IITs have to learn. It seems that as a part a tripartite agreement between the Toy Association of India (TAI), the IITs in Delhi and Mumbai and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), students at the IITs are conceptualising and designing a whole range of playthings, traditional and contemporary.
Well, nothing wrong about that except, that, their 'toy ideas' include recasting the traditional 'Snake & Ladders' as as a game that tracks the migratory habits of birds around the world. In this new game, a wrong number means a spiral down the snake but the right number takes you up the step ladder towards migration. The idea is to try and ensure the kids who play the game not just play but learn while they play.
I laud the desire among the IITians to try and teach kids while at play, but the only problem is, do they want to? I mean the kids. Do they want to learn while at play. Oh, there's an added question too. Should they in fact be taught while at play? Lets leave the latter question for the moment, as it it is veiled in 'philosophy', and I am no good at it. How many kids are out there, who play, and want to learn while keeping at it. OK, I see it. Maybe the learning wouldn't be made apparent to them, so they would play on scarcely realising that they are in fact learning something?
Well, underestimate kids at your peril. The truth is, kids just wanna have fun at play. Isn't that easy to figure out? To laugh, to scream, to just have a good time.
The lesson IITians need to learn is simple. Products and services must always built around and from customers. Surely, they can be innovative, born out of imagination, and not consumer research, yet in the end they must respond to needs. And again, products and services can respond to needs that are expressed or latent. But they must never be designed in isolation where the consumer has no place. Err on that and product is doomed, ab initio.