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Perfection—The Devil is in the Details

By: Des McEttrick
Posted: July 13, 2011, from the July 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

Perfection is an elusive concept—is it even possible and is it worth the effort?

I say yes to both and hope to convince you. It is absolutely possible when there’s a focus on getting all of the details right. And perfection is definitely worth the effort because it can mean the difference between success and failure (or mediocrity). Perfection helps to create and define a brand’s equity, the value of a brand. Brand equity is largely built on the sum of consumer experiences with a product or brand and its products or services. Strong equity allows for more expansion and more opportunity.

The brand equity is built from the entire experience with the brand—from all its communication to all product and service experiences. Over time, these experiences create an image and a connection for consumers with the brand. The stronger and better the connection, the more brand value. So perfecting the product is definitely worth it because it more than returns in the value of the brand.

In marketing, perfection should be the goal in every aspect of the product and package design. Labels, bottles, metal parts are reworked many times to get the exact colors that the designer selected and the right feel or look. Slight imperfections—the wrong shade of a color, a barely perceptible streak, an incorrect parting line—are rejected. Arguably, few consumers would pick up a package and make a note of a visible injection point or a color that is just off the mark, say a blue that’s just a bit too dull—how would the consumer even know? But in the end, the overall impression would be different, not as strong or not as good, and that weakens the overall impression of the product.

Much of the connection with a product, except in some categories, is not on a highly involved and conscious level. Unless there is a strong involvement with a specific product or category, it’s most often expected to work and smell and look nice, but we often don’t concern ourselves with the details. However, the lack of high involvement doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter. Over time, impressions of the product are formed based on these seemingly “imperceptible” qualities. Some experiences form stronger impressions, especially things that don’t work. At the same time, unexpected delights and performance beyond expectation can also form an equally strong impression.