"This is intentional": Setting Customer Expectations for Unexpected Product Features

When you do something differently from what your customers are used to, you need to address the issue directly. You need to let them know that your new feature is intentional, not an oversight due to negligence or bad design. This is especially true if your new feature is something that can be misinterpreted.

For example, let’s look at the tea category. Consumers are used to seeing tea bags with a string and tag. If you don’t have a string or tag on yours, what might they think?

“This company is so cheap. They don’t even put string on their tea bags. This is not the premium tea experience I’m looking for.”

Customers might:

  • Complain about quality control
  • Criticize your bad product design
  • Feel frustrated that your product lacks what all other competitors in the category have

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How do you solve this problem? By proactively communicating that what you’re doing is intentional.

This tea company proactively addresses potential misunderstandings or questions, by adding a message directly on the package flap that customers see right before they take out a tea bag. (If you put it on the side of the box, customers might miss it in the crucial moment right when they are taking out a tea bag.)

“Our unique pillow-style tea bag is the result of our commitment to doing what’s best for the environment. Because these natural fiber tea bags don’t need strings, tags, staples or individual wrappers, we’re able to save more than 3.5 million pounds of waste from entering landfills every year!”

So now, the customer doesn’t think that the company is cheap or forgetful.

Now they think, “Wow, this brand is really forward-thinking. They care about the environment and have even created packaging that allows them to save millions of pounds of waste, without impacting my tea experience. I didn’t really need the string or tag anyway. Why don’t all brands get rid of those pesky things?”

You’ll see hotels use this type of messaging when they offer guests the option to re-use towels. They position the action as reducing environmental impact to avoid guests thinking that the hotel is simply trying to cut costs, which paints the company in an unsavory light.

Another time when it’s important to say “this is intentional,” is when you have products with subtle variations due to their handmade nature. This is the case for denim, tie dye, hand-painted products, hand-sewn beading on clothes, etc.

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Again, the brilliant idea behind this tag from a Rebecca Minkoff purse is that the brand communicates that variations in product quality are intentional. They even tell you to look for differences in color, marks, and grain in the leather, and to notice how the foil embossing fades over time. This goes one step beyond explaining. The brand actually highlights the impending wear-and-tear.

This creates a sense of pride so that each customer feels like her purse is truly hers and will develop with her over time. When the purse does in fact fade, you’re not surprised and angry – you’re excited that this product has grown with you.

This concept applies to products outside of consumer goods and retail. Anytime you have a product feature that is different from the industry norm, or what your brand has traditionally done in the past, you need to make sure customers know that your product decisions are intentional, deliberate, and thoughtful.

Set customer expectations up front. Communicate why you chose to create a product this way and use it as an opportunity to elaborate on your brand decisions.

UncategorizedWes Kao