Product Management Through The Lens Of The Seven Stages Of Love

This post was originally published on Forbes on Nov 3, 2023.

Love is an emotional attachment that differs in meaning depending on whether the relationship is between family, friends, lovers, a hobby or a deity.

According to ancient literature, there are said to be seven stages of love: Attraction, infatuation, love, reverence, worship, obsession and death. Let’s see how product management can be tied to these seven stages of love using the example of the product, Moviepass.

1. Attraction

Attraction may not have any logic. You are attracted to someone or something without having data to pinpoint the exact reason why. In 2017, if someone told you about a product that allows you to watch unlimited movies in theaters, this might seem too good to be true, yet you might immediately be drawn toward the idea. This was the selling point of MoviePass, and a rational analysis might involve questions about the sustainability of such a business model, but many others were immediately attracted to it as users are attracted by product value and not necessarily business model.

2. Infatuation

When Moviepass first started, the monthly subscription fee was lower than the price of a standard movie ticket. Instead of dishing out your credit card at the ticket counter, you dished out your movie card to receive a ticket. The movie experience inside the theater remained unchanged. The product proposition would lead to saving tons of money a user might have spent on buying individual movie tickets. Hence, users typically felt infatuated with the product. A feeling that has helped maintain fans.

3. Love

When you are infatuated with a person, you tend to spend more time with them. You find that they fill a gap in your life, and gradually, you fall in love. For simplicity, let’s divide users who used Moviepass’ product into three groups: heavy, medium and low.

Heavy users would be those who watch at least one movie in theaters per day. Medium users watch at least one movie in a theater per week. And low users are those who watch at least one movie in a theater per month. Love is typically tied with heavy users who cannot imagine a life without a person (in this case, the product) as it becomes part of your daily routine/habit.

4. Reverence

Reverence is the fourth stage of love in which a person is in awe of the other person. Using the MoviePass example, heavy users start explaining and sharing their admiration with others in their lives, which acts as word-of-mouth publicity. This is also a sign that a user has now become a loyal customer.

5. Worship

This is the stage where heavy users increase their product engagement. They engage with the product on social media, and in the case of Moviepass, they might feel connected with the mission and vision of the company and how it could revolutionize the movie purchasing experience for movie buffs. Just like when you worship a person you are in love with, your friends, family and loved ones start to see an impact on your personality due to this person/product.

6. Obsession

Suddenly, you realize that the person you love and admire is avoiding you, making it difficult to engage in a meaningful conversation. This, in turn, leads to an obsession with them. Regarding MoviePass, all of a sudden, you might find that you can no longer buy movie tickets in the theater using their service.

You start calling the contact center, sending emails and posting on social media, all with a goal of getting a response. No reasonable explanation is shared except that there are technical issues. Low and medium users do not care as much as the heavy users who are obsessed with the product.

Heavy users might be people with a lot of time, low responsibility or limited disposable income. They might be trying to fill a gap by spending time watching movies in theaters. They might be pure and simple movie buffs.

7. Death

And then MoviePass announced that it was shutting down for good, and the heavy users were left to suffer without an alternative. In terms of love, this is like when the relationship ends abruptly without closure, leaving a gap in your heart.

Typically, for a product to be successful, three objectives need to be met.

  1. Meet business goals.
  2. Exceed customer expectations.
  3. Offer a competitive edge.

In this example, the product was loved by customers, and competitors were unable to copy/price match the offering. However, the product could not sustain the low-cost model as it was in loss from day one due to its business model.

The product could not keep up with the supply side (movie theaters) due to conflicts in pricing and distribution. Buy-side (customers) suffered as a result, and so did the overall experience. There was no more trust, confidence and money to be lent from creditors. The business model was faulty from the start as it focused on revenue instead of profitability. Intentions may have been great; however, good intentions and a faulty business plan won’t work.

Key Lessons

A key lesson for product leaders and entrepreneurs is to ensure all three product objections are met for a product to be successful.

One area that remains untouched in our analysis of Moviepass, though, is the money lost by creditors. As many may be aware, Moviepass has started again. But when product leaders or founders start a new venture after closing down their previous venture, should it be their responsibility to repay the old creditors if the new product launch succeeds and generates profits through a reconfigured, viable business model?

I find that trust is often taken for granted in life. For customers to trust a product or founder, you need to be able to openly admit your past mistakes, bring closure to a healthy relationship and start again with renewed energy. Therefore, it’s important to gain this trust and detail what you will do differently. Otherwise, you might inadvertently subject users to relive the seven stages of love.

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