Dolls are girls stuff. I don’t count Action Man (Which I had a few of as a youngster) dolls. But being a Daddy of two girls, dolls start to be part of my world. Wandering down Michigan avenue in Chicago on Saturday I stumbled across American Girl. Not only have they have elevated the doll beyond a product and into an experience, they have created an experience around the buying and owning of their dolls. The product, the doll, is almost secondary to the narrative. Every doll has a back story, indeed they come with a paperback to describe this story. Books build on this story, as do DVDs computer games as well as the dolls clothes, furniture and accessories all extending the product experience.
Wandering around the store I passed the doll hair salon (dolls sitting on doll-sized hairdressers chairs with their hair being plaited, braided, styled, blow dried…), the hospital (fixing broken dolls, returned to the owner wearing a hospital gown and discharge certificate), the historical doll museum (dolls representing children from different eras)… Walking into the American Girl I had no intention of spending any money there. I ended up buying two dolls and clothes, I bought into the experience and took home to my girls not just presents from Daddy’s worldwide travels but also a story to tell.
Dolls are a product that it is (arguably) easy to create stories, narrative and experience around. It is easy to provide this as a case study, but harder for a completely unrelated industry (such as financial services) to learn anything from it. Harder, but not impossible. Look at comparethemarket and the way they are building a story with Aleksandr around what is a pretty dull product. As you develop a new product or application, can you build a narrative that supports the product? Once you start telling a story, what new insights come to mind? How can you build an experience beyond the immediate product?