• Archive

Making Meaning


Short but well-written, Making Meaning offers an excellent, fresh look at catering to what consumers want as well as what they feel.

The authors begin with this basic premise: People are looking for more meaning in their lives. Consumer marketers who can't understand this, who think selling is all about features rather than expectations, about price rather than value, are doomed to a low-margin commodity existence. “We believe addressing this emerging desire for meaning is innovation's newest evolutionary challenge, one that will require a highly collaborative development process and a focus on experience design,” they write.

The goal is not for businesses to create meaning for their customers, but rather to evoke meaning through experiences. Example 1: Apple's iPod. “What makes the iPod an overwhelming success is the union of invention, design, and marketing into a seamless whole that evokes meaning in the enjoyment of music.” The iPod sells not only music but also freedom, control, wonder, and beauty, Making Meaning says. Example 2: Method, which sells cleaning supplies. The message isn't to kill germs, it's to create a positive environment in the home.

The book extends the more common notion of experience marketing—the idea that companies can create an experience for consumers by controlling and integrating such “touch points” as advertising, packaging, design, customer service, and even corporate values. Now the goal should be to manufacture “meaningful experiences” that create a bond with customers by tapping into what they most value in life.

What experiences do people find most meaningful? The authors supply a Top 15: accomplishment, beauty, creation, community, duty, enlightenment, freedom, harmony, justice, oneness, redemption, security, truth, validation, and wonder. Newman's Own food products, for example, would find itself in the “truth” category suggesting products that are “simple, upright, and candid,” the authors write.

Darrel Rhea is CEO of the innovation consulting firm Cheskin, where Diller is a partner. Shedroff is an experience design consultant.

- Sean Silverthorne

Table of Contents