A product’s design elements can significantly affect the marketplace’s perception and acceptance. Do you remember the first handheld mobile phones? They were big, clunky, and short on battery life. But we didn’t care because the utility factor of mobile communications outweighed the “inconvenience” of weight and clunkiness. As well, we didn’t have many choices. AT THAT TIME.
But after the utility benefits of mobile communications were received, consumers shifted their focus to new demands: smaller form, lighter weight, longer battery life. However, some of these items compete with each other. Typically, the smaller a phone gets the shorter its battery life. Additionally, there’s a limit to how small a phone can get while still being able to (accurately) dial it.
So we see that after the utility benefits from a product are received customers then demand new Form Factor elements. A smart marketer will know how to capitalize on these desires, and provide new offerings in color, weight, size, ergonomics, etc. These can be the new elements to position their offering on. We can now buy mobile phones in any color, sleek enough to fit in our breast pocket, which are light as a feather. Any manufacturer who denies the importance of the Form Factor is only asking for trouble.
This is not a new concept. In the latter part of the 1800’s, the Sear’s Roebuck catalog took on Montgomery Ward’s book for the top position in catalog retailing. Sear’s Roebuck won in part due to the Form Factor elements of its catalog design. At the time, many people had both catalogs in their home. Sensing an opportunity, Sear’s deliberately made its catalog smaller. Because it was easier to balance the smaller book on top of the larger, the Sear’s catalog was always the first within reach.