Arena Blog

What makes a "killer" product?

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A friend recently posted the following Facebook status: “Krysten has just achieved her first Sock Wars kill by delivering a pair of hand knit socks to a stranger in Sacramento—on to victim #2…” Sock Wars is like the game of Assassin, where players knock each other off using suction cup darts based on assigned contracts—but the death blows here are delivered by socks, not suction cups.

Krysten’s socks, the first of her weapons, were knit in a color nicknamed “Bloodstains” and delivered with a ghoulish “Mwuh ha ha ha ha.”

sock wars

Although I am not a knitter myself, I find the whole Sock Wars premise incredibly appealing. What’s not to like about a creative product-making enterprise with an edge of competition? Every participant ends up with a pair of handmade socks and a chance at the title of the Knitter with the Most Kills. The combination of creating a lovely product, sharing the joy of creating it with a larger community and the thrill of game play is hard to beat.

In my mind, Sock Wars also captures something at the essence of truly successful products by giving a pair of socks meaning above and beyond its pure utilitarian use. A handmade item already has some special cachet, due to the time invested in producing it, and the fact that the design, color choices and skill of the maker render each one unique. Add to this the fact that the socks made for this game are imbued with the participants’ memories of the game itself. The socks take on something of the personality of both the maker and the receiver—in essence they represent a little bit of who these people are. This is what great products have that run-of-the-mill products do not—in addition to being useful and functional, a great product allows the user to define him or herself in an emotional way.

About the Author

Kathy Davies

Kathy teaches at Stanford University, where her students use Design Thinking to design cutting edge products and to reshape their lives, at Stanford and beyond. Kathy has worked with Arena ...

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