In the movie The Matrix, the computer hacker Neo learns about the true nature of his reality – that he is actually trapped in a complex computer simulation, used by artificial intelligence to control humans and harvest them as an energy source.
But what’s a kung-fu fighting hacker, dressed in black leather, got to do with innovation? Well if you’re going to design a smash-hit product, then you need to understand the current reality surrounding your customers.
Just like The Matrix, many consumers feel there is a system that's unbeatable and uncontrollable. Constantly bombarded each day with job losses, out-of-control healthcare costs, school closures, higher food prices, "innovative" bank fees, and environmental disasters, many people are looking for a sense of control.
One aspect to wrest back control, in a system that makes control difficult for people, is the desire to “win” by making small gains. Deals, rewards, or other positive experiences satisfy these motivations. Look at the explosion of savings sites like Groupon, Dailydeals, Gilt, or RueLaLa. Discount stores like Dollar Tree in the U.S. or Lidl in Europe have experienced a boom in their businesses too. Then there are the multitude of cash-back programs, 2-4-1 coupons, free shipping offers, gift with purchase, or loyalty rewards schemes.
Since it's difficult for many people to win in the overall game of life, they go for wins that are more tangible and understandable – the small everyday “wins.”
For consumers, moments of winning and control are treasures and value propositions that incorporate small "wins" now have greater appeal. So when you design your next product, make sure it helps customers feel like they are keeping up, rather than being kept down. Because if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the Matrix.