Reinier Evers founder of trendwatching.com can always be counted on to weigh in on new trends every month. As is the case with all prognosticating, there’s always the risk of being wrong. But in Evers’s case, I think he’s had considerably more hits than misses.
Trendwatching’s latest caught my eye more than most. The headline screams one word: "Functionall." The subhead: "Why simple, small & cheap appeals to all."
The definition of Functionall: Captures the phenomenon of simple, small and/or cheap products and services designed for low(er)-income consumers in emerging markets, with cross-over appeal to consumers in mature consumer societies.
Hmmmm... "function for all." Love the idea.
As a designer, this resonates with me. I think Evers is on to something important here. When designing products for emerging markets, several important aspects must be considered. One or more of these factors might be incorporated to ensure success.
- Limited features to keep pricing low, or smaller in size.
- Simple, easy to use; especially good for consumers who may have limited experience using products in developing markets.
- Energy efficient or requiring little, if any energy; and/or easy to repair; and/or creating little waste.
- Ruggedly made: remember developing markets are sometimes “rugged” markets.
- Designed with “democratization” in mind. Translation: no matter where these products are designed and/or made, they will have global appeal, even for consumers in developed countries who demand more from brands.
- Offer ways that help users to help sustain themselves.
A couple of years ago, this whole article might have been solely about consumers in the developing world. But the recent global recession has reverberated around the developed world creating continuing ripples that are changing consumers in profound ways.
Think about it. Consumers everywhere have eschewed luxury for practicality. They’re proud of their new-found frugality, as well. Consumers are looking to simplify their lives. They still want and need convenience, though.
And how about the urban consumer? Transient, upwardly mobile customers want the newest, latest and greatest, but please: can we do it simply, with as much built-in convenience and value pricing as possible? And please: can it be smaller in size to fit apartments the size of shoeboxes?
Does this mean more expensive, upscale or luxury brands are dead? No. But it does signify new thinking as far as many consumer brands are concerned. If companies want to be global, then they’d better think “global”. That means getting up to speed on all that entails.
So the challenge for the latter is: how can brands from both developed and developing societies come up with innovations that are cheap yet rugged, convenient, easy to use, offer energy efficiency, cut down on the waste stream and empower people in new ways? Whew! Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?
But remember the starting point is: Function for All.
You know what? The design community and the world community are up to the challenge. Just turn us loose. For examples of currently available Functionall products, check out the article link.
- What kinds of recent brands can you think of with Functionall offerings? What kinds of products fit in with this philosophy?
- What kinds of consumer products do you think best suited to this Functionall thinking? That would have massive global appeal?
- Do you see ways in which this thinking could have broad appeal to what Trendwatching refers to as “eco-(status) conscious consumers”?
I’d love to hear from you.
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