"People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill," wrote Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt, apprising us of our "myopia" and unleashing a whole new school of new paradigm thinking. "They want a quarter-inch hole!" Citing the old master, Clayton Christensen (of Harvard Business School), Scott Cook (of Intuit) and Taddy Hall (of the Advertising Research Foundation), encourage us to rethink marketing yet again.
As they see it, we have become wedded to marketing dogma that revolves around demographic segmentation. We see our customers through the prisms of age, gender, race, income, geography and lifestyle. We think in terms of averages. "The problem is that customers don't conform their desires to match those of the average consumer in their demographic segment," they write in a recent piece in the Harvard Business Review called "Marketing Malpractice."
Instead, they argue we should see our customers in terms of the "jobs" they are trying to get done. "When people find themselves needing to get a job done, they essentially hire products to do that job for them. The marketer's task is therefore to understand what jobs periodically arise in customers' lives for which they might hire products the company could make. If a marketer can understand the job, design a product and associated experiences in purchase and use to do that job, and deliver it in a way that reinforces its intended use, then when customers find themselves needing to get that job done, they will hire that product."
The job, not the customer, should be the "fundamental unit of analysis for the the marketer," they contend. The authors cite Procter and Gamble's Swiffer, which was designed to do the job of cleaning floors, and Pierre Omidyar's eBay, which was designed to sell personal items. Neither solution was designed for a particular demographic or psychographic.
They speculate that marketers focus on customers for historical reasons -- harking back to a time when the overlap between customer demographics and the job itself were more closely aligned. Even Scott Cook's Intuit developed a Quicken Financial Planner product in the mid-1990s only to discover that it had enormous market share in a relatively unimpressive market (and eventually pulled it). "[W]hile the demographics suggested that lots of families needed a financial plan, constructing one actually wasn't a job that most people were trying to do," they note.
Interestingly, the authors find, "Job defined markets are generally much larger than product category-defined markets. Marketers who are stuck in the mental trap that equates market size with product categories don't understand whom they are competing against from the customer's point of view."