Alex Osterwalder is the lead author of the global best seller Business Model Generation and inventor of the Business Model Canvas. Currently, working on Strategyzer.com, a strategy and innovation platform. Blogging at http://www.businessmodelalchemist.com
“I was pretty impressed by the launch of Sifteo Cubes. The online presentation, the packaging, and the product itself are great. I’m a big fan of the “unboxing experience” I got used to with Apple products. Sifteo provides the same for their cubes. The packaging is so beautiful, well designed, and practical that you can only love unpacking their product. So what about the product itself? My kids, the final users, simply love playing with the cubes.”
We did not expect anything less inventive coming from Alex after hearing him deliver the keynote address at the Front End Innovation Symposium in Boston two weeks ago, Sifteo Cubes are just plain cool. “Sifteo Cubes are small computers that display graphics on their top surface and sense one another and how they are being moved….were developed as a platform for hands-on interactions with digital information and media (Wiki)” No surprise that they were derived by two MIT grads. OK, let’s talk brand.
We love names without preconceived notions. They eliminate domain name fights and they are ready to be branded by the sole marketing of themselves. Sifteo is easy to say, but it’s not the easiest to remember. For a kid, it’s not sticky, a kid wants something fun to say that evokes an emotion or recollection of the product. Sifteo sounds latin, which is to say rather serious. So what does Sifteo mean? It is not clear if much sifting is going on, unless we go deep down into metaphor abyss of which we will spare you. Siftables was the name of the prototype product, which must have turned into Sifteo, the company and then Sifteo Cubes, the product. What’s next? If their product offering grows in the future, will all product names be sifted through the same siev? Matching names between a parent company and its product lines can limit expansion opportunities and create a dynamic between products in which successes and failures hinge upon one another. A short term solution that is missing long term naming and expansion strategy.
The identity design is as uninspired as the product itself is inspired, and inspiring. The type is bland (very ‘techie’), the colors are expected and as a combo it simply fails to stand out. The attempt of a somewhat, not really square typeface could have been explored further and as such starting with the letter ‘o’ (aka a real square) a story could have been told by integrating the three cubes (aka the product) into the logotype. It would have served as a strong foundation of the brand identity as a whole. A lost opportunity.
Alex praised the packaging, to say the least, it nearly sounded erotic, so we take his word for it. From the outside, the packaging takes the same straight forward, clean and product focused path that the web site promises. The online experience often being the first touch point of parent as well as offspring (aka ‘end user‘), the site fails to connect with the target audience on an emotional level though, may it be with the kids looking for a fun and engaging element or the parents looking for an online experience that matches the product price point. An experience needed to be crafted and content catered to a specific audience. The sifteo web site feels like a site where strategy and design were derived by an overwhelmed developer and content strategy by the sales team. All of it organically, so it seems. With that being sa(i)d, we do prefer its clean and to the point design over bad design and UX altogether. Gotta go and play with these shiftable, ah, siftable cubes now.