The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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An Interview with Bill Buxton on The State of Design

"What do you see being the biggest trends in technology over the next three to five years?

I see a shift to a place where we won't be dazzled just because a product is well designed and works well. Our collective customers should be able to take that for granted, and it is our job to make it so. But that is not enough. The problems of design and complexity do not go away, even if we all surpass that bar. Rather, they just move to a different place: the complexity that is emerging in terms of how all of these (individually) easy to use devices work together. We need a comprehensive ecosystem that combines elements of each to produce an integrated set of experiences for people, so they don't have to manage each of the underlying separate devices."

Full post on Engadget



Video Advertising: How New Consumer Habits Are Driving the Advertising Community to Innovate, and the Challenges with Scale

Traditional television is moving to the Internet. Though today's consumer can effectively avoid watching advertising on TV through new time- and place-shifting technologies, the “opt-out” function and other choices make it easier than ever for consumers to skip ads online too. Yet when asked, 75% of consumers prefer advertising over paid subscription models. To keep up with these new consumer video viewing habits and trends towards watching video content online, content owners, advertisers, and technologists must turn into entertainers, or lose precious eyeballs and dollars. To keep audiences captive, advertising must become the new form of entertainment. As content owners, advertisers and technologists begin to better understand video advertising opportunities, one important challenge has come to light: SCALE. On top of creating compelling advertising content, the problem for video advertising isn't targeting or ad formats. 

Join me and the fantastic line-up of panelists at Digital Hollywood 2012 in Marina Del Rey, CA.

Dmitri Lisitski, Commercial Director, 1+1 Group of companies (Ukraine)
Michael Knott, Vice President, Meredith Women's Network
James Citron, CEO, Mogreet
Michelle Cox, Vice President of Marketing, Metacafe® Entertainment Network (M.E.N)
Dean McCormick, Vice President, Advertising Solutions, BlackArrow


More On Creativity - John Cleese And The "Tortoise Mind"

It is easy for a professional comedy writer to advocate making definitive time and space boundaries in your day to enable creative thinking, but before you completely dismiss the possibility that John Cleese is actually a voice of corporate reason, take a listen to this video excerpt from a several years old lecture that he gave.  


In the full lecture, Cleese references a British psychologist's study of the "tortoise mind, [which is] a slower, less focused, less articulate, much more playful, almost dreamy" side of ourselves that must be allowed time to roam in order to be creative.  

And what does Cleese really think is the enemy of creativity?  "The widely held, but misguided, beliefs that being decisive means making decisions quickly, that fast is always better and that we should think of our minds as being like computers...The pressure on managers at all levels to act quickly is enormous." Cleese acknowledges that while we need to be able to multi-task, and let our "hare brain" dominate, we have to carve out time to balance our thinking with our tortoise mind. The book, and Cleese's application to business, are  detailed more in this New York Times article.




Guest Post: How Luxury Brands Can Prepare for Affluent Millennials

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a company that provides a to do list app for businesses and individuals, and who also consults for an inspection company that offers various Pre shipment inspections in China.

Millennials, meaning those between the ages of 18 and 29, are easily the fastest-growing market for luxury goods. Not only did they spend 31% more on such goods in 2011 than they did just one year prior, but due to their age, they have the potential to continue that growth for a lot longer than their older counterparts.

Clearly, Millennials are going to be a core target for luxury brands, however, they also pose an interesting set of challenges. Simply put, Millennials don’t buy luxury products in the same way as baby boomers or other generations nor do they value the same things in a luxury brand.

If luxury brands are going to appeal to Millennials, they need to start thinking about how to shift their marketing and their message to prepare for a very different type of consumer with very different wants and needs.

Luxury Alone is Not Enough

One of the biggest differences between Millennials and boomers is that, for Millennials, saying that a brand is a luxury and pricing it accordingly is not enough to convince them to buy.

Previously, buying a luxury good was as much about showcasing wealth as it was buying a superior product. Simply pricing something higher and marketing it as exclusive was enough to get most luxury buyers in the door. However, Millennials want to know what they are getting for the extra amount they are paying and how it will benefit them.

A recent study by Luxury Society found that shoppers favored quality, craftsmanship and design over brand name when promoting a luxury brand, making these elements key to showcase in any promotion.

If you can’t convey clearly why your brand is worth more than cheaper alternatives, Millennials will not be likely to spend their money with you. They simply feel no need to show off their wealth and will gladly buy a cheaper product if they feel it’s of the same quality and meets the same needs.

The Human Element

Luxury brands that do well with Millennials, such as Whole Foods, do so in large part because they focus on the human element of selling and marketing.

This includes both telling the story behind their brand and their products (including how and where it was made and who made it), but also treating the customer with respect and looking out for their best interests beyond merely trying to get the next sale.

Whole Foods stores tend to be warm and inviting places, Apple Stores tend to have legions of well-trained staff, and they do so not to ensure that they maximize sales, but to provide the best customer experience possible.

However, this appeal comes at price. Whole Foods doesn’t carry a lot of high-margin brands that don’t fit with their image and Apple Stores tend to have a lot of wasted floor space. But like all human connections, it’s a matter of give and take. The brands that give more to their customers will find them more willing to buy from them.

Brands that have thrived on being exclusive and unapproachable are going to have to change their customer-facing operations to better appeal to younger consumers that seek out a more human connection with what they buy.

The Use of Technology

Obviously, Millennials are much more comfortable with and eager to use technology than their older counterparts. Millennials grew up in a post-Internet age, and they expect the brands they buy, especially luxury ones, to be tech-savvy as well.

This use of technology isn’t just about how brands promote to customers, such as with online campaigns or high-tech in-store displays, but also about how they communicate and maintain contact with them. Email newsletters, text alerts, live chats and even video conferencing are just some of the ways brands can keep in touch with customers or have their customers contact them.

Luxury brands need to be where their customers are, and this means online, on social media and on mobile devices. This not only increases convenience for the customer, bringing the brand to them rather than the other way around, but it helps keep the name relevant and modern, two things Millennials value.

If a brand can’t stay current, it’s likely to be left behind and forgotten by younger customers.

All in all, Millennials are far more demanding of luxury brands, and they don’t necessarily reward the brands that they do purchase with an increased amount of brand loyalty. Millennials, as a group, tend to enjoy exploring and trying new things, even if it means leaving behind a brand that worked hard to get them as a customer.

Turning Millennials into customers isn’t going to be a matter of creating an exclusive group and daring them to join. Even the wealthiest Millennials don’t feel the need to flaunt their wealth or be a part of a “club”.

Millennials want facts to back up their purchases, a real human connection with the company they’re buying from and to have access to their brand wherever they are and whenever they want to.

Providing that is going to mean making a major shift for many luxury brands but those that can do that, such as Apple, will be able to ride the wave of the fastest-growing and, most likely, longest-lasting growth segment for luxury goods.

Those that don’t, such as Cadillac, will likely find themselves being viewed as antiquated and struggling to reach a younger audience as their current target market ages.


A Big Payoff from Online Company Communities  

Membership engages customers, who spend more across the board.

Title: Social Dollars: The Economic Impact of Customer Participation in a Firm-Sponsored Online Community

Authors: Puneet Manchanda, Grant Packard, and Adithya Pattabhiramaiah (all University of Michigan)

Publisher: Ross School of Business Working Paper

Date Published: January 2012

Studies show that consumers are spending more of their leisure time online, and U.S. marketers are flocking to third-party social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to reach them. But companies as diverse as Amazon,, Disney, IKEA, Kraft Foods, Lego, and Procter & Gamble are also making major investments to build their own consumer-centered online communities. According to a 2011 survey, nearly half of the top 100 global brands host some kind of network.  Read the full report.


Humor: Has Google Gone Too Far? Wall Street Journal Op Ed

Excerpt Reprinted

Dear Google User: We're Sure You're Going to Love This

Dear Google User,

As you know, on March 1, we introduced a series of exciting changes to the privacy section of our terms of service agreement. Though we've done our best over the past month to systematically suppress search results and social-media commentary that have criticized these exciting changes, we have come to realize that this may not be the best way to deal with the massively negative feedback from those who use Google.

So we have decided to respond by doing what we do best: rolling out a new round of intrusive changes to the privacy section of our terms of service agreement.

But no need to worry. After using one of our patented algorithms to analyze a matrix of your Web-search behavior, online shopping habits, Google +1s, personal emails, confidential Gchat transcripts and cached browser data (including the stuff that you tried really hard to delete), we have determined, with statistical certainty, that you are really going to fall in love with our new privacy policy.

Read More...


Is There a Role for Product?

Recently, I have found myself in several discussions about the value of product management.  On the west coast, specifically in Silicon Valley and the Pacific Northwest, there is a engineering-driven notion of product, borne from sort of a "maker" culture, which values the kind of invention that comes from tinkering in your garage. On the other hand, though my time here in New York City has been short, I have gotten an acute understanding of how differently product is defined to the businesses and industries that populate this centuries-old city.  Not surprisingly, media behemoths and financial services mega-corporations have for decades conceived of their products in board rooms and b-schools, not in garages (although DUMBO lofts seem desperately trying to become the east coast version of a mid-century tract house garage.)  I don't mean to disparage either as a source for great ideas. On the contrary, I simply suggest that both produce vastly different perspectives of the value, scope and purpose of a pure product management role. 

Steve Johnson, in his e-book, The Strategic Role of Product Management, writes, "Companies that do not see the value of product management go through a series of expansions and layoffs. They hire and fire and hire and fire the product management group. These same companies are the ones that seem to have a similar roller-coaster ride in revenue and profit." Service industries, especially the kind of which New York has no shortage - financial and professional services, are the ones that seem to struggle the most with defining a role for product managers. Why would that be the case? The answer lies in how the service is delivered, and who owns that workflow and the resulting customer experience it creates.  

Think about it...the organizational handoffs to deliver a service-only experience can produce a mosaic of interactions and customer touchpoints, based on each individual or system required to execute it.  In some companies, the only team that can wrangle the responsibility to oversee how these all knit together is a Chief Operating Officer, who might use a legion of business analysts to offer performance metrics which drive business and technical priorities, budget and resource allocation and decision-making.

This would also explain the challenge product teams can have finding a home in the reporting structure in these kinds of companies. If product is to be a front-line oriented job as part of the sales and marketing organization, then positioning, pricing, promotion and packaging become the lion's share of that PM's job. Ten years ago, I used to hear people call this an "Outbound" Product Manager job. (Johnson refers to this role as a Product Marketing Manager, but in today's economy, few companies can afford those to be two separate positions, and even if they do, they may call both functions Product Manager.) Alternatively, product may be absorbed by IT systems, taking requirements orders from internal stakeholders to evolve their executional platforms, like CRM and point of sale. 

For a great case study to review that highlights the impact of these different perspectives of service and technology companies on the role of product management, one need only look at Yahoo, and the inflection point it has revealed it is facing. After Terry Semel re-chartered Yahoo from being a search and communications platform company to a media company, one supportive employee posted this on his blog, "Cisco is a technology company, Yahoo! is a consumer services company — the fact that those services are delivered via IP is just a detail." But did that perspective provide the optimal vantage point for products to emerge that would allow Yahoo to compete successfully? For the first year or two, maybe, but with the downturn in the economy came a number of missed product opportunities for Yahoo, notably the failure to grow Delicious or make any deeper move into social networking after Messenger, and the stock has never recovered.

Kara Swisher writes on AllthingsD, "The way products are made got a long look-see this past week, in a day-long meeting that Thompson had with Yahoo’s top team execs. Thompson reportedly quizzed the group on its plans, and pressed it to look less at short-term features and maintenance than on finding the next great thing.

'I think it’s fair to say that Scott is wondering why Yahoo did not come up with innovations like Pinterest and Instagram,” said one person about hot new start-ups that are in the sweet spot of Yahoo’s business. “Or, at the very least, why it did not even try to buy them.'"

Steve Johnson points out that "8% of product managers report directly to the CEO, acting as his or her representative at the product level," because those leaders believe that markets, not marketing, should drive product strategy.

Just this week, Yahoo's Chief Product Officer announced via a memo revealed  “We have a bias toward action in Products and expected that our new org design would be in place well before any corporate changes took place. However, it is clear now that the two efforts are starting to run in parallel, and making Product org changes prior to corporate changes no longer makes sense.” 

But that does beg the question, when does it make sense to not consider those efforts in parallel?


Pew Research On The State Of Mobile America


Going "Beyond the Obvious" to Spark Innovation


"The spirit of innovation abhors a vacuum, and human integrity wants to flourish in all organizations."




Flexibility - It's the Next New Thing

It seems flexible is "in" with the next gen credit card leading the way, and thanks to organic radical batteries, we'll soon see these ultra-thin flexible plastic credit cards. Also recently, Slashgear explored Samsung's flexible display patent, and the variety of form factors it might take when commercialized.

And then there is this Nokia prototype of a flexible and transparent mobile device, unveiled last fall. I might dump my current smartphone for this baby.



Have You Created a "Golden Rule" Culture?

Whether or not you believe in the Net Promoter Score methodology of measuring customer satisfaction, or some other metric that gives you a sense of your customer's propensity to be an evangelist for your brand, if you are the steward of your company's customer relationship, you need to ask yourself, "Have you created a golden rule culture?"

What is a golden rule culture? It is where your employees treat your prospects and customers as they would like to be treated themselves. (I mean, really, do the people who work at call centers ever want to hear someone tell them when they have a problem, "I am sorry, but that is not a choice in my drop down menu" or "my screen won't let me do that"?) 

In a recent post on, entitled "The Value in Wowing Your Customers," the author, Fred Reichheld, discusses the value of "intelligent" acts of surprise and delight, those moments of "wow" that individual employees feel empowered to administer and which enable brands to connect with customers on a personal level. The notion is simple to understand, but not always elegantly executed - recognize that your employees are the embodiment of how important your customers are to your business.

Then ask yourself if your employees are in the best position - empowered mentally, technically, and physically - to reflect the level of kindness and empathy your customers should expect? 



Fun Tweets of the Week

There have been a flood of tweets this week from Austin, and SXSW. Some are tech related, some are personal, and most are intended to make you feel like you are missing the biggest and best party in the world. Here are a few of my favorites.

@aprils_pen: Things heard at #sxsw "I didn't know you guys had so many freeways here in Texas" said by New Yorker"//NY view of the world!

RT @aschweig: My Hotspot's Name is Mark

RT @ConsensusLive: Up next at #sxsw w/ @Pinterest CEO. We just need to know is it only for housewives in Oklahoma? If it is, that's cool we just want to know.

RT @michaeldain SXSW ~ brought to you by Apple products, wi-fi and Twitter. None of them are advertising.


When The Consumer Doesn't Matter

Courtesy of Seattle Times


Creativity, Madness, and Genius

In this TED clip, "Eat, Pray, Love" Author Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.


From Ubergizmo: How Far Can You Leverage A Brand?

[Excerpted from a guest post on Ubergizmo the past week.]

With the launch of an Android-based Sidekick and the close of the Danger service, can the brand recover its status as a cultural icon?

The inevitable shuttering of the Danger service earlier this month came and went without a lot of hoopla, providing an inauspicious end for the original T-Mobile Sidekick, the first truly consumer-focused smartphone. The Sidekick name was cleaved from the Danger intellectual property after the acquisition of the company byMicrosoft and the subsequent dissolution of the exclusive distribution agreement that Danger had with T-Mobile.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile, which maintained the rights to only the Sidekick name and the subscriber base, transferred the moniker to an Android-based device produced by Samsung (previous generations were made mostly by Sharp,). Built over eight major releases and six Limited Edition co-branded versions, the Sidekick name lives on as the moniker for a new mobile phone experience, and raises the question – how far can you leverage a brand?

For the rest of the post, click here.

Jun252011 on Thinking Inside the Box at CM Summit

How does an artist like from the Black Eyed Peas take on a role at corporate technology giant, Intel, and maintain his personal brand as an innovative businessman? Oddly, he doesn't recommend thinking outside of the box.


Retail '11 - How Technology is Changing the Customer Experience

Holly Brown, the Chief Innovation Officer of our company, r2i, and I attended a great conference today at the University of Washington on retail management. The event was keynoted by the elusive EVP, Jamie Nordstrom.  I asked Holly to share what she thought that was the most interesting takeaway from today's discussions. Here's here answer. 


The D9 Swag Bag - AKA My Soon-To-Be-Favorite Things


My Philosophy of New Product Development

"We should cultivate the ability to say no to activities for which we have no time, no talent, and which we have no interest or real concern. If we learn to say no to many things, then we will be able to say yes to things that matter most." Roy Blauss via Compendium