Meaning Illuminated

06 Apr 2006|Added Value

I read recently about Mr. Luna, “a guy from Long Island who teaches kids science, and cares about the world in which they will live.” Mr. Luna is remarkable because has turned a simple lightbulb into a meaningful experience. His goal is to have “every child in America plug just one Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulb into their favorite lamp. [By his estimates,] this will help fight global warming by reducing our carbon emissions from electric power plants, save Americans at least $2.3 billion in electricity costs, and help put America on the path to environmental sustainability.” Ultimately, he says, it’s about our kids’ futures.

How great is it that one person can take something as simple as a lightbulb and make it the hope for our children’s future? How cool would it be if GE, instead of marketing their CFL bulbs based on functional benefits like light quality and longer life, focused on the more meaningful benefits of CFLs? In fact, how much more profitable might it be?

How much more likely would you be to invest a few dollars in a CFL if it made you feel empowered to change the future? (did you also know that if every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road? Honestly, I didn’t until I began writing this blog).

Meaningful experiences from products don’t have to strive for such altruistic and lofty goals though. And in fact that might not be such a good strategy as Lee Gomes and his WSJ readers pointed out recently (Apple’s ‘Righteous’ Message Is Just Good Marketing, April 7, 2006). To be clear though, meaning isn’t something that can be “stamped” on a product or campaign – the user is integral in the equation and it’s their experience that creates meaning. As one person pointed out in response to Gomes, “I think the real point is not that “buying” a Macintosh will change the world, but rather it’s what you can “do” with the computer as a force for change.”

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