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The value of a physical product is ever more closely tied to information about it. Thomas Redman uses the term of "informationalization" to describe the phenomenon in an HBR.org post "Integrate Data into Products or Get Behind" in late June. To quote Mr. Redman's words on informationalization:
"The basic idea is simple: Make existing products and services more valuable to your customers by building in more data and information. [..] Virtually every product and service can be made more valuable through informationalization. [..] Coors has informationalized the beer can. The mountains turn blue when the beer is cold enough to drink."Adding one peculiar example of informationalization: The New York Times recently run an article "He Takes Stuff Seriously". I'll summarize some of its core messages to a few lines:
- nearly worthless objects (figurines, buttons, etc, of max value of couple of dollars) were collected from flea markets and thrift stores
- short stories were created around these objects, in essence, the objects were "storified"
- ..the outcome was that nearly worthless objects with a "story" became much more valuable
Another, perhaps even more peculiar example, is the study conducted by Dr. Sally Linkenauger and referenced in an HBR article "You'll golf Better If You Think Tiger Has Used Your Clubs". The result of the study was as the title implies. An amateur golfer plays better if he believes a pro has played with the same equipment.
The effect is named "positive contagion": a johndoe golfer thinks that the skills of Tiger have somehow an effect on a club that Tiger has used. Meaning that he at least subconsciously assumes Tiger has left the essence of himself on the club. Rather magical, yes, but somehow real for the individual.
The two phenomena, the effects on storification of flea market object as well positive contagion of Tiger's clubs, fall into the realms of psychology (and marketing, good marketers have understood them since long...). Nevertheless, assuming they are real, they touch Product Information Management. Stories on the background of products should be managed systematically. And both on general level and on level of particular instance of a product.
Many leading companies have recognized this. Stories are embedded in products: for example name of the designer, time of the original design, famous events of people connected to the product, are made available to potential consumer. Engaging stories can then be told about these people and events related to the product. Web allows a platform to transmit the stories, in many formats. Old-fashioned paper leaflet in the physical box of a product is not dead either.
But do organizations manage this information as part of product information model, as part of systematic product information management? Or is it a separate island, disconnected from the main processes of PIM?
In many organizations it is the latter.
If it were managed in a structured way, product information model would cover the elements related to "storification". There would be ability to systematically connect descriptive texts, binaries, perhaps something harvested from the streams of social media to the product.
In any way, the scope Product Information Management, throughout the lifecycle of products, becomes ever broader. Traditional supply chain centric or technical perspectives on product information is not enough. Incorporation of marketing oriented information, including "stories"of different kind, should become ever more integral part of managing product information. Master Data Management systems beware: there's going to be need for storing and managing stories soon.