Today, let’s ask a question that I know everyone has been thinking about: Where do multi-functional tools come from? Why combine scissors and a nail clipper? Who decided those are the two things I would need the most in a multi-functional tool?
In order to provide value to consumers, a product needs to be relatable. It needs to solve a problem or make something easier on some level. You want a consumer to say, “Oh, that’s cool, I could really use that.” Not, “When would I ever need that?” If we’re looking to provide value to modern consumers, we should think about modern life and all of the situations and struggles that come along with it. Let’s take a look at how some existing multi-functional tools and products evolved so that we can challenge ourselves to develop products that are both efficient and valuable.
Combine common use items
Let’s get warmed up by thinking about tools or products that make life easier by combining common use items. These are life hacks, if you will. For example, why carry around your phone and a wound up charger, when you can have a charger built into the case itself?
Brainstorming Challenge: Follow yourself around for a day.
What do you pick up? What do you handle? What do you use? If you have a purse, dump it out. Look at what you’re literally carrying around with you. Note that if you don’t have a purse, it is not recommended to borrow a stranger’s. They generally do not go for that sort of thing.
Minimize steps in a process
Now let’s think about products that help to minimize or combine steps in a process. For example, an inflatable can holder. Why swim to the edge of the pool, push yourself awkwardly out of the water, walk to the cooler, open the cooler, select your beverage, and climb back into the pool, when all you needed in the first place was this inflatable can holder? By being able to keep your beverage of choice with you in the pool, you’ve eliminated multiple tedious steps.
Another example would be scissor tape. Just ask EN’s own Mike Bland. When you’re wrapping presents and using these two tools in tandem with one another, it just makes sense to put them together in a multi-functional tool.
Brainstorming Challenge: Think of a process that requires multiple steps or tools.
How can you eliminate a step to make the entire process more efficient? How can you combine two or more tools into one multi-functional super tool?
Survive an emergency situation
Finally, let’s look at multi-functional tools that arm you with what you’d need to survive an emergency situation. Sure you’ll find things that look like they are straight out of Edward Scissorhands, but I challenge you to think about what constitutes “emergency situation” in the modern age.
For example, Pinch Provisions’ Minimergency Kit for Her. When a 20-something is out on the town, she is likely to run into a few snags. This handy kit arms her with valuable personal care essentials to survive any “crisis”.
Brainstorming Challenge: Although tempting, please do not put yourself in a life-threatening situation.
Instead, maybe think about the disparity between what we are likely to have on our person at all times, and what we might need when we are not in the comfort of our own home. Have you ever been out when you or a friend ran into a problem and you weren’t armed with the tools you needed? What kind of problem was it? How could it have gone differently if you were prepared?
Multi-functional tools are useful because they are efficient. But a consumer needs to see value to make a purchase. So how can we create a multi-functional tool or product that provides added value to today’s modern consumers?