Once upon a time earphones were ‘functional black’, until Apple changed everything by adding a layer of meaning to what was once a commodity worth nothing more than a few dollars.
By making earphones ‘accessory white’ Apple gave iPod owners a way to be noticed and to belong.
The most famous roof line in the world brings in a billion dollars a year to the Australian economy. Those vaulted shells don’t make Sydney Opera House more functional, but they change how people feel when they stand in front of it. They deliver joy far beyond the cost of the concrete, wood and tiles used to build them. The shells enable us to attach meaning and significance to a building and give us a story to tell.
In the real world a disproportionate amount of value is placed on the tangible. Things we can easily explain, or put our finger on. Of course it’s easier to place a value on what can be weighed and measured. And yet all around us, every day we are surrounded by proof that ‘soft innovation’ and that which we can’t touch, or easily measure has a real world value.
Time and again the market proves that the value of stuff is finite, but that the meaning we attach to stuff, the experiences we create around it and the stories we tell ourselves about it has exponential value. The fortune, not the cookie is what people really care about.
Image by Ed Yourdon.