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Could you standardize a custom product?

Target’s (TGT ) focus on value brough unique products to the average consumer with their design-for-the-masses housewares by big names such as Philippe Starck and Cynthia Rowley. So how did Target transform what has been highly customized products for the rich and famous and bring it to the masses?

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
1 min read
Could you standardize a custom product?
Could you standardize a custom product?

Design quickly becomes one of the key differentiators in highly competitive markets.  Furniture, fashion, architecture, and products have benefited from a focus on design.  The standard belief is that if a product can be highly customized (a product of 1), then the even higher value can be extracted from the creative output.  The challenge is that this prices the item out of the reach of the average customer.

Target's (TGT ) changed all of that for the average consumer with their design-for-the-masses housewares by big-name designers.  So how did Target transform what has been highly customized products for the rich and famous and bring it to the masses?

It all started when the company agreed to give money to support the renovation of the Washington Monument. But during an early visit to the site, executives were horrified to find the sacred Target logo was plastered next to rotting scaffolding and ripped plastic. After much brainstorming, Target decided to sponsor an architectural competition to build scaffolding. The winner was a well-known architect named Michael Graves, who proposed an elegant, lighted structure made of flexible PVC foam.  Given the support that Target showed him for his design, Graves presented a stack of product designs “the size of a phone book.”  and asked Target executives “Do you think Target would have any interest?”.

Later that year Graves' iconic, affordable tea kettles and kitchen gadgets hit shelves. “People have within themselves a paradox,” says Robyn Waters, a former Target executive who now runs consultancy RW Trend. “Fit in and belong, and also stand out and be unique.” With Target's designer wares, shoppers could do both. The company followed up with “mass/class” collections by the likes of Philippe Starck and Todd Oldham and started to market Target as a destination for design.

The moral of the story — Don't be too quick to attach value/price/affordability to customer segments.  Everyone would love to have what has traditionally been out of reach.

Given your customer based, what do they have a desire for but cannot afford?

Source:  CNN
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Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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