Carbon Design Group

It’s Not the Suit, It’s the Sizzle: What Tony Stark Can Teach Medical CompaniesJune 3rd, 2010

It's not the suit; it's the Sizzle Feature on Fast Company

I caught Iron Man 2 this past weekend with my two boys.  It was every bit the fun, summer romp you’d expect. But as I sat there watching Robert Downey, Jr. own the screen, it struck me that medical device companies could learn something from Mr. Stark. It’s not the suit, it’s the sizzle.

True, medical companies don’t live in Tony Stark’s world. They live in a world filled with people with very real, very life-challenging problems. Medical devices must function without fail. But often in designing medical devices, we confuse function with purpose. The function may be to keep you alive, but the purpose is to enable you to live–to really live.

The added challenge for medical devices used by consumers is that when you need a medical device, the not-so-subtle subtext is that without it, you are “less than.” Less than healthy. Less than normal.

And this is where the great Iron one comes in. People don’t want to lay down their hard-earned cash to just feel normal. They seek out and bond with brands that make them feel like Tony-freakin’-Stark. And the suit? If the Iron Man suit was solely about functionality, it wouldn’y be detailed in hot-rod red. The suit’s sizzling design succinctly says, “I’m Tony-freakin’-Stark and you’re not.” Sizzle goes beyond tried and true desirability into gotta-have-it lust. Sizzle matters. Sizzle sells.

For a company that gets the importance of addressing user’s emotional needs, check out Wicked Wheelchairs.  They sell hot rides (like those from Mogo Wheelchairs) with top-end functionality and loads of personality, style, and–you guessed it–sizzle. The company was started by Dion Reweti after sustaining spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident. Reweti looked at the wheelchairs available, and knew there had to be a better way. He knew there were others out there like him who didn’t just want good wheelchairs; they wanted wicked ones. Reweti understood from a first-person perspective that, besides saving and bettering physical lives, medical device companies must also address users’ emotional well-being.

Though studies have shown clear links between positive emotions and surgical recovery, you don’t have to be a bad-boy rocket scientist to understand the healing power of a megadose of self-esteem-enhancing sizzle. Sizzle can be the difference between being singled out for being different and envied for being superhuman cool. When a souped-up medical device can address and heal emotional wounds, not only will the device sell better, it will make a bigger, more positive difference in people’s lives.

And if making that kind of difference doesn’t make you feel like a superhero, nothing will.

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