I love it when products/companies/individuals impliment “small” changes that signify something far greater.
These “incremental” changes or innovations can be so slight as to be nearly subliminal to the customer, but the impact these changes can have is anything but small.
The most recent example of small change having a disproportionately large effect that I’ve noticed is Audi’s headlights.
I’ve never paid much attention to Audi as a car manufacturer. As is so often the case with durable good type products, the feelings you establish (good or bad) in your early experiences with products tend to inform your life-long opinion of them. This is why brands try so hard to capture the loyalty of the 18-24 year-old male; they know if they get them at that stage in their life, they’ll have them forever. I had a bad experience with an Audi back when I was in college, and, thus, embargoed the company as a possible choice for me since then.
It wasn’t some car review that made me reconsider the company. Nor was it word of mouth (either from an actual conversation or some social media variant).
Rather, it was this:
The line of LED lights that Audi has introduced (I don’t know how recently) into their headlights just pops out. For me, this “small” detail completely differentiates the Audi from other cars of its ilk (BMW, Mercedes, Lexus) that, truth be told, otherwise really do sort of look all alike.
What keeps this detail from being “small” is that it represents something larger. In literary theory, you refer to this as “synecdoche” (a part representing the whole; e.g. Blake’s opening line of “The Tyger”: “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/”).
The LED lights in these headlights represents something much larger in my mind: adherence to quality, innovation, style, etc. This detail has made me completely rethink Audi.
As another example, Apple is, of course, masterful at this. Think of what happens on your iPhone if you tap the camera icon on the lock screen rather than slide it upwards. The entire screen bounces up a bit — subtly and stylishly showing you precisely what you need to do in order to launch the camera app from the lock screen.
Too often, we feel we must make wholesale change in our products, services, (selves), etc. In reality, a slight change that is illustrative of something deeper going on below the surface tends to have a more profound impact.
“Small” change has the power to absolutely surprise and delight users. A customer may not comment on these details, but — in aggregate — they register and accumulate powerfully in their mind. The overall outcome is tremendous loyalty.
Tom Waits “Small Change”: