Learning from products YOU love

by Geoff Nesnow

Learning from products YOU loveLet me start by saying that I have no interest in any of the companies/products I mention below. But, I AM fascinated about why some products really stand-out to me and what I might be able to learn from that.

Seth Godin’s Purple Cow basically makes the case that great and differentiated products are their own best marketing (i.e. being remarkable).  He basically argues that a $ spent making your product better – especially better to the “sneezers” – the people who tell everyone they know about a great product – is worth many $ spent on traditional marketing.

I was reflecting on this as I was trailblazing in a foot of snow a couple days ago in a nearby park with my dog – using 1 of my new favorite products – Mountain HardWear Ascent Gaiters.  My thoughts about why these specific products resonate so much for me and what they have in common:

  1. Their edges aren’t rounded with compromise. They are very specialized.  They don’t aim to solve every problem for every person.  
  2. They do exactly what they’re supposed to do
  3. Their design stands out from competitive products
  4. They get better over time. Each new version is notably better than the previous version
  5. There is usually something endearing about their flaws – something raw about them

For the most part, I’m not really a “brand guy”.  But, these products just get me talking.  Here they are (and why I love them).

  1. Shure in-ear headphones
    • First, the ugly – they are stupidly expensive (you can spend $500 for the best ones and even the cheapest are about $100) and the replacement foam pads cost almost as much as regular earphones ($15-20 for about a years worth of them!)
    • The bad – while my last pair seems to have fixed the design flaws, I’ve broken 6 or so pairs along the way (about 1/2 covered by warranty)
    • Why the bad and ugly don’t matter – they make you feel like musicians are playing at a studio in front of you and only you – even while you’re on an airplane or train.  You only hear the music, no white noise, nothing around you and you get great technical sound.
      • Why are they so much better?  They have a superior design for in-ear headphones.  I think it is the combination of a smaller diameter tube and a higher quality foam that sits around it.  The smaller diameter tube means that there is more foam to fit the contours inside your ears.  The foam itself is comfortable.  Because of the cost and that they broke so often, I tried about every other product on the market.  Nothing was even close.  When you have them in properly, they make everything else in the world disappear.  They’re not noise reducing headphones that “pipe in” white noise.  They’re sound isolating.  The naturally block the sounds of your surroundings out – almost completely.  And, they sound amazing – better than all but the very best large over ear headphones.
  2. Weathertech floor mats – How or why could someone love floor mats???
    • I didn’t think there was anything wrong with floor mats until I tried out a Weathertech.  Now, I can’t imagine not buying them for any vehicle I buy.  In the snow or rain, I just walk right in and don’t think twice about damaging my car. Here’s why:
      • First the bad: They are expensive.  You can’t get them in your local store.  They’re a little bit ugly (debatable)
      • They are made a very solid, durable and waterproof material
      • They are cut to the EXACT size of your car.  This means that they completely cover the carpet and are quick to remove/replace
      • They have a simple, but innovative design principal – don’t let liquid escape.  To do this, they have channels, walls around the mats and clever mechanisms to use the car supplied hooks without having to let water through those holes
  3. Dyson cordless DC44 Vacuum
    • Despite Mr. Dyson’s slightly arrogant ads about his vacuums and inventions, I love my cordless vac for one simple reason: it can completely take the place of a corded vac. I’ve used other cordless vacs and they can be great for little things here and there.  But, I found that I always had to “take out the beast” to finish the job – that they just didn’t have the power, attachments or other capabilities to clean everything.  This one just works.  It does a bunch of little things differently that make it just work
    • I do have some complaints about the vac – cheap feeling materials despite being 2-3X the cost of competitors, non Li-ion batteries, no way to know when power is running low.  But, I’ve seen his products improve over time and I’m sure many of these will be fixed by the next time I need to buy another
  4. HardWear Gaiters
    • Here’s what I love about my gaiters – they just work, without any inconvenience:
    • They take about 20 seconds to put on and 5 to take off
    • They don’t make me sweat
    • They’ve worked perfectly every time, even in pretty severe conditions (hiking in 12-18 inches of soft snow)
    • They are very light and compact (i.e. can put them in bag or keep in my car easily)
  5. Kyocera Ceramic Kitchen Knife
  • The bad: These knives aren’t for everyone or every task.  They look a little cheap (though they’re not), they’re prone to chipping/shattering if you use them incorrectly and it’s very easy to cut yourself with them (they’re really, really, really sharp)
  1. But, for slicing, chopping or basic cutting, they are the sharpest, easy to clean and very light (making them easier to hold for large prep work).  They also hold their edge for a very long time

A few others that I love, but don’t quite make the top 5:

  1. Roku player (soon, we’ll all be able to fire our cable/satellite companies)
  2. Innov8 crossfit shoes – shoes, more than any other apparel benefit from specialization – and these are perfect for crossfit
  3. Auvio BlueTooth receiver (RadioShack brand) – allows me to stream to my stereo(s) from my iPhone – inexpensive and just works

Editor’s note: this is not Geoff’s dog; image credit: thoughtsnax.com

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    Geoff Nesnow‘s career began in IT where he learned about the power of technology to solve tough business problems. Leveraging that experience, Geoff’s career evolved to building and growing many different technology solutions. Today, Geoff is an experienced entrepreneur, and passionate coach, inventor and transformation catalyst, who likes building businesses across a wide spectrum of industries.

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  1. Great insight. Love these products too.

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