I once created a spreadsheet of statistics for a shortlist of cars I was considering. I was a frustrated sports car fan, having owned a few in my younger years, and after some years in a Swedish estate car and then a small economical plasticy friendly thing I wanted to regain that thrill of owning and driving an exciting car.

I had a short(ish)list of ten models. I found out likely costs for the models I wanted, plus their performance figures, economy, and plenty of other stats and ranked each of them for each category, giving points depending on how they compared to rivals. I even spent time putting brand-coloured borders around each vehicle’s row.

At this point, what I should have done was get a life. But no, I muddled on.

At the end, the points revealed the winning car. Great! Maths has worked out my ideal car.

The number one choice, proudly atop the podium, was ready to spray its champagne and slip its key fob into my back pocket.

So which car did I buy?

The one in 10th place.

This wasn’t a deliberate attempt to be obtuse or unpredictable. Nor was it an obscure attempt at self-punishment. I genuinely just wanted that car and to hell with maths and science and numbers. How dare they stop me getting the shiny thing I want?

In the same way that tossing a coin usually reveals what you actually want by showing whether you’re relieved or disappointed by an outcome, this spreadsheet revealed to me the car I really wanted – because I was furious with it for coming last.

This is an idea that all car manufacturers, whether global powerhouses or bespoke craftspeople making one-offs (and everything in between), need to consider.

“It’s better for something to be loved by few and hated by most, than for it to be liked by everybody.”

I’d happily credit that to its source but I’ve corrupted it so much in my own head over the years that it’s baffling the popular search engines. But this is a phrase that applies to emotional purchases like sports cars as much as in any other walk of life.

It won’t matter how good the stats are, they’re just bonus items. But build a car that people either love or hate and you’re onto a winner – because some people (even if just 1%) do love it, and will want it, and will buy it.

My ‘significant other’ drives a brilliant Italian retro-styled city car, I don’t want to be seen to promote anything on here so let’s call it a Phiat Fife-hundert. There are loads of better choices from South Korea, Japan, Germany etc but she wanted that one, as do (seemingly) half the population of the planet right now. We’d even been into a car dealership for a Japanese manufacturer to look at a car which was much better on paper, and when asked what else we’d looked at by the salesman he said he’d buy the Phiat, and he’d even bought his wife one and they both love it, simply because it’s so loveable…

There has to be desirability.

There are two key ways to make something desirable. The first is the responsibility of the product’s designer – build-in that extra quirk and weirdness. Make it stand out, make it something people will want. Put your passion into it, even if it is against the wishes of the accounts team.

The second is the responsibility of the marketer. Make the product appear awesome – show it in awesome places. Show people using the product who could influence your audience (influencer marketing), and show it in situations your audience want to experience (content marketing). Show it as part of a life your customers want to live.

Don’t shout about stats, necessarily. Numbers become void without demonstration and context – they are just characters on a screen or on a page. But show a product living the life your audience dreams of, and it becomes a way for them to live that life they yearn to live; your desirable product can be an escape from the mundanity of chores, work, and (of course) colour-coding your spreadsheet borders.

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