June 7, 2011

How Lady Gaga is Influencing the Product Design of a Generation

I just read a great article, Four Keys To Creating Products For The Lady Gaga Generation | Co.Design , and it's clear idols like Lady Gaga have a more profound effect on design than their fashion statement. Lady Gaga in her own way is making her fans yea or nay your brand and products. The pop singer influences her fans by who she is. Fans, by identifying with that image, are then using the Lady Gaga lens to look at the world and judge and decide if your brand has what it takes. 

The author, Sarah Nagle , goes on to talk about the four keys for the Lady Gaga generation. 

Everyone is Awesome

"Unconditional positive encouragement. Just think of all the trophies we got just for showing up.'" Reading this, it's no wonder Foursquare is such a hit! You just show up, pay the merchant and get points - WooHoo! Through those lenses it makes me feel like Homer Simpson for using Foursquare. And this is what the author says when she talks of the TV show Glee celebrating "we're all losers". In short, your brand must celebrate its customers for who they are, with honesty. 

Change is Mandatory

"Lady Gaga and her ever-evolving persona are a perfect example and expression of these evolutionary ideals -- she never wears the same look twice."  Her fans are expecting changes. She goes on to say though that somehow Gen Y wants to retain the notion of nostalgia. I think we see this in the behaviour of recording every moment of their lives. In other words technology is part of their lives; it's literally in their pocket or purse just like their home keys. In another space continuum, while waiting in line one might have brought a magazine to read. For Gen Y, this is the perfect opportunity to pick up their mobile and update their status or check-in, or snap a picture and share it. 

Thus in our design we must be very aware that we're dealing with a generation that is afraid of getting bored - that doesn't want to get bored. Our designs must constantly find ways of fighting the boredom of the target audience; what is it that your brand can do with the times during the day when there is nothing else to do. In the case of the iPhone, the author talks of infinite customization; I talk of infinite app choices. All the app choices are the way if the iPhone is to be the fallback mechanism when Gen Y has idle time.

Sharing is Second Nature

The author says parents of Gen Y have instilled a philosophy of "we can share anything". The fact that more and more people have grown up online is only making this more true. What can this possibly mean for product design? Access to extra capacity has never been easier to get than on the internet. It started as brick and mortar against online where online didn't have any of the infrastructure. Now it has evolved into what can you do with the excess infrastructure you have. What again started with Amazon and its elastic cloud is now into our home. What excess capacity can be shared across my neighbourhood or contacts. Think relayrides or getaround letting you rent your car, or airbnb letting you rent your extra bedroom on a per night basis. As per the author it means they are more interested in using than owning. 

The utilization of what is consumed is about to go up and that's a good thing for the overall environment!

I Can Make it

As per the author, this is the instant idol phenomenon; Gen Y has been raised thinking they can do everything. Innovation will come about differently and it has never been so true that it will be coming from the outside. It's also true that they will want to tweak and fix. Go back to Lady Gaga's look, it needs to evolve. The maker phenomenon might be a trend to pay attention to. People will create from what is available to them. If your product allows for innovation, Gen Y will find way to make it innovative.

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