Monday, March 03, 2008

Making next popular cellphone can be study in psychology

Knowing the user becoming more important ...

"These days, designing a new mobile phone can seem something like running a self-help group.

LG Electronics begins by asking focus groups to keep a journal, jotting down feelings about features they like most. Participants can call a toll-free number to share their emotions about the phone they are testing. And sometimes they are asked to draw pictures that represent their mood when they hold the phone.

"Our job is to be behaviorists and psychologists," said Ehtisham Rabbani, the vice president for product strategy and marketing at LG. "We constantly have to be reminding ourselves that we tend to be geek types and our customers are not."

Executives and industry analysts say it has become more important than ever to understand the psyche of consumers and why they pick one phone over another. That is because LG, Motorola, Nokia and others are in a fierce battle to please finicky customers as new entrants like Apple, with its popular iPhone, seek to upend the traditional mobile phone business.

At stake are millions of dollars in profits and the fortunes of entire companies. Like fashion or entertainment, the cellphone industry is increasingly hit-driven, and new models that do not fly off the shelves within weeks of their debut are considered duds. The most gadget-conscious shoppers buy new phones every nine months, twice as fast as they did a few years ago. And teenagers, one of the fastest-growing markets, are especially quick to dump a brand if it loses popular appeal.

"The world has changed," said Jeremy Dale, who is in charge of marketing for mobile devices at Motorola, where fortunes tumbled with the decline of its once popular Razr. "There is more relevance in what other consumers say than what the company is saying."    (Continued via Putting People First, International Herald Tribune)    [Usability Resources]

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