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Sex appeal works! Engineers (and IT guys) are people too

No, I’m not talking about that kind of sex appeal; I’m talking about appealing to people’s emotions. Engineers and IT folk are emotional creatures too, just like the rest of us. You’d be amazed how many technical people, pitching products and services to other technical people, concentrate on the dry-as-dust details of functional purpose and price. How about finding a way to make your product or service appeal to the emotional side?

Let me give you a mundane example. Mobile phone cell-site antennas all look much the same on the outside - light gray metal boxes with a light grey plastic radome (or cover). Light grey is the least intrusive colour against the sky, but beyond that, no-one cares too much about the design aesthetics - they are installed 30-100 metres above ground. Most radomes are just bland smooth plastic, and one looks very much like another.

Deltec’s plastic supplier didn’t have a smooth extrusion roller set of the right size, but they had one that could be smooth on the outside, if we didn’t mind having an embossed leather-look grain on the inside (they used to make those nasty “leather-grain” plastic briefcases). We gave it a go, but when our design engineers saw the extruded sheet, they immediately decided to make the radomes grain-side up. Who would see this feature 50 metres above the ground? No-one. But at trade shows and product demos, the radome is at eye level. The grain-effect had no functional purpose at all, but it gave an impression of quality and aesthetically-pleasing design which greatly appealed to our technical buyers, and supported our very real superior functionality and value proposition (and much higher price). A happy accident from which we learnt a valuable lesson.

Ask any car designer (and most car buyers). Functionality is important, but so too is sex appeal. How can your product or service appeal to your buyer’s emotions?

First posted September 6th, 2007