The message of the product
“I would say that our product has multiple layers, but what is then the core of our product? In principle, we could ask what the customer takes with after going through our programme. I know, they take with a good feeling. Certainly, the core of our products is the good feeling and pleasure that our customers experienced and take with them back home.
How do we produce it? Well, we have this basic product, which then includes different elements, for example, sensorial ones. Then we have additional things around this basic product, which back up the customer in reaching a feeling good level.”
A meaningful product is a story that is not only appealing to customers’ values and sense of experience but also supports them in their holiday and everyday practices. The story is the core of the product and the main reason why a customer chooses a particular product over others.
The core of the product is basically the message to tourists, partners and other stakeholders. When the message is clear, the product is experienced as being personal and unique: this product is just for me, for my customers or this company is based on values that locals and employees share and identify with.
A solid and credible story as the basis for product development: Arctic Reindeer and Agriturismo
Most tourists today are highly sophisticated and experienced. Key factors influencing customers’ buying decision are not based so much on demographic (gender, age, nationality, etc.) or climate-related factors, but grounded on the tourist’s own way of life. Experienced tourists are demanding credibility from the products they buy. The producer’s own commitment to the story – the life-style represented in the product – and close connections to the local culture contribute to the credibility of the product.
Arctic Reindeer is a small family business situated in Rovaniemi, Finland, whose core story is based on traditional reindeer herding and the preservation of Sámi culture. As the company was trying to develop a reindeer hiking tour into Santa Claus forest, they realised that it was impossible to combine this particular story with the main story of the company.
Indeed, not only the core story of the product but the identity of the company is built around Sámi culture, narratives of the reindeer year and life according to it. Product development helped Arctic Reindeer to make a choice that strengthened its own entrepreneurial identity and its differentiation strategy.
Photo: Jose-Carlos Garcia-Rosell
Italian strong agriturismo network serves not only as an inspiration for rural tourism but it is also attracting tourists off the beaten track and from most frequented destinations. Slow tourism, slow destination, slow food and the slow life movement seem to play a particular role here. It offers producers and consumers an alternative strongly based on local values and traditions. It is an ideological change of mind, in which customers are helped to get rid of – at least during their holidays – their fussy life, materialist consumption and mass tourism. Agriturismo opens a wide range of business opportunities from cuisine, lodging, and transportation to even movie genres.
Product development as the starting point for supporting customers’ practices: Hotel Furgler
Who among parents with small children would not have dreamed of a holiday, where parents also can relax? Travelling with children is already challenging due to the amount of stuff parents need to carry with them. Not to mention the disruption of the daily routine and the lack of time the parents have for themselves. Families with children are not able to have a break from their everyday life if their particular life-situation is not taken into account.
Hotel Furgler – a Tyrolean family-owned hotel – has been able to identify its customers’ practices and use them as the basis for product development. Having a romantic dinner together is almost impossible for parents on holidays as they have to guard their sleeping children. To help parents spend time together, the hotel installed a baby monitoring system. This allows parents to monitor their children from the hotel bar or restaurant or even from outside the hotel. This is a solution that helps parents to relax, making the whole family holiday more enjoyable.
The hotel also wanted to make family vacations easier by offering possibilities for keeping the daily routines of the children and their eating habits. The hotel restaurant has arranged in the dinning room HIPP®-baby food corner with kitchen facilities where parents can prepare meals for their children at any time. Pushchairs and buggies are also available at the hotel so that parents would not need to bring their own. Feeding children, moving together as a family, parents spending quality time together and baby monitoring systems are some examples of how the hotel has been successful in supporting family practices and making family holidays more fun and enjoyable.
Tourism products originating from popular culture phenomena and nostalgic memories: Santa Claus, Jack London and Treehotel
For the customer a product can be important because it is associated with nostalgic memories or even because it is connected to some particular cultural phenomenon. Finland’s most successful international tourism product “Christmas” and its main character “Santa Claus” are based on popular or folk culture.
Nostalgia and popular culture are also present in other tourism products. For example, stories of adventure have made many readers familiar with dog sledding. In the mind of some tourists, who ride a dog sled, might be childhood memories of reading Jack London’s novels where dogs play a central role. Dog sledding represents an opportunity for them to realise their dreams of accessing the world of books: adventures in harsh conditions but together with brave dogs.
For the sake of the long-term
sustainability of the product, it is not irrelevant what kind of a story
is offered to customers. The Christmas product can be related to many
different meanings. Santa Claus as a Christmas gift giver and Santa
Claus as a goodwill ambassador are two contrasting examples. The former
means Santa Claus’ instrumental commercial value, a limited time period
of Christmas and differing cultural meanings of Christmas. The latter
means the idea of good life, moral values, temporal limitlessness and
easy product transferability to other cultures.
is known worldwide as the official hometown of Santa Claus. How would
it sound, if Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi Airport and Santa Park, all
situated around the Article Circle, would be known as “Niceland”, the nicer place on Earth – the winning proposal of Rovaniemi Design Week 24h design contest?
Photo: Rovaniemi city
Out of nostalgic memories it is possible to develop appealing tourism products also by merging different elements from today. Treehotel, which is located in the village of Harads in northern Sweden, has brought tree houses into the world of adults by combining a trendy landscape hotel, ecological construction, atypical architecture and high technology. From this hotel, which has been a worldwide hit, it is worthwhile to look at Kiruna’s Icehotel, also a similar success story.
What is this about?
It is not enough that a company has a room full of good ideas if they carry no emotional, appealing story and have no connection to people’s life, life style and everyday practices. In a similar way, the story of the product should be a reason why partners want to co-operate with – or why employees want to work in – just such a company.
Product development starts with the assessment of the company values and business principles. On what exactly are our products based? What are the values and principles we do not compromise at any price and why? Which widely known theme or narrative is our product part of? What are the customers’ practices we want to take part in or support our customers with?
A meaningful product appeals to different stakeholders: tourism entrepreneurs, employees, business partners, domestic and foreign tourists, locals and the media. The product reaches the customer when it can be seen as part of a larger identifiable narrative. Only then the product message remains decipherable from one cultural context to another. Such large narratives can be, for example, legends, dreaming, enthusiasm of exploring and discovering, the eternal battle of good an evil (good overcomes evil), hoping for a better tomorrow, expanding our world view, living in harmony with nature, learning and adopting new things, back to the roots, feeling good, survival and transcending oneself. The product offers tourists a possibility for building their own identity, telling others what kind of persons they are or would like to be.
Open the product developer’s workbook (link on the right). It will help you to apply the content of this page to your own case.