He's documenting his story on a blog -- not unlike the book, Soul of a New Machine, by Tracy Kidder, but a lot easier to read and the pictures are better.
Guerilla Marketing, Direct Response, Research & PR all in one package
Customer experience designers should care about this because this fellow is conducting on-the-fly consumer research, collaborating with his target market, engaging his future customers, and building loyalty even before he has the product.
And he's doing it using a blog, so the research is costing almost nothing. (Certainly less than a single focus group, if you don't count the time to write the blog)
It's a good story, so Fortune's Daniel Roth has provided priceless PR: The Amazing Rise of the Do-It-Yourself Economy.
This thing is interesting from so many angles. Here's a few that come to mind:
- more evidence of virtual organizations -- these are not going away, and we need to start figuring out how to manage them
- the Pez dispenser is more important than the candy inside. If you doubt me, do an image search on Google for "Pez Dispenser". Pat Misterovich, the guy building the MP3 player, plans to hide the USB connection under the head, and have interchangable heads.
- No one really owns their brand -- it's an illusion. The whole thing exists inside the hearts and minds of the customers.
- The company that makes the candy -- PEZ -- is now in a position where it can look good or bad. They can enter a whole new territory with their name, or they can look like corporate Godzillas. Opting out? Not really an option, is it?
Using a Blog for Research
To see how this blog-research thing works, you need to look at the comments people are leaving on the Pez MP3 Blog site about design issues, whether the PEZ brand is essential to the product, and so on. It's qualitative, yes.
Does it replace what people like I do for a living? Of course not. But why not use all the tools at your disposal to connect with customers?
Let's find a few more examples of companies that are collaborating with their customers -- anyone?