Touchy Feely

It’s been almost  a year since the release of Apple’s iPhone 4.   I traded in my old iPhone 3G just a few months ago.  I love the 4’s speed, video features, functionality. Ultimately, I’m glad I made the switch.  But I have to be honest with you; there’s something that’s just not been quite right with my new iPhone 4.  And I until this morning, I hadn’t been able to put my finger on the reason why. This morning, as I was reading a book by Tim Mathers, I realized that my fingers are the reason why. 

In Relevance:  Making Stuff That Matters, Mathers devotes a chapter to Design as a function of brand experience.  Specifically, he writes about “Tactile Tactics” noting that the iconic Coca-Cola bottle was one of the first packages so unique that it could be identified by feel alone.  Additionally, Mathers cites the reinvented pillbox developed for GlaxoSmithKlines’s drug Alli.  The shape and texture of this pillbox was ” … almost like you’re grabbing the hand of a friend, almost a clasp … a friend and ally.”  He goes on to say that tactile branding works because as humans, we are hardwared to judge people and things by the way they feel in our hands.

For me, the shape and feel is the only disappointment of the iPhone 4.  My old phone had beveled edges which fit comfortably in my hand.  Those edges allowed my phone to slip easily in and out of my pants pocket and they allowed me to tell if my phone was screen up or down in my pocket.  The iPhone 4 gained more usable space when it eliminated the bevels, it is thinner, and stronger, too.  But now, it is a rectangle that feels out of place in the palm of my hand.  So, for me the in the tactile sense arena, the Apple brand has taken a little step back.

I think the lesson here for me is the simple reminder that brand development encompasses everything within realm of human experiece: sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch.  An encounter with you and your business or product is an interaction with all of those human senses and we need to be mindful of each one.  Which of the human senses does your product effect most and how are you ensuring that it is the best experience possible?