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  • 06.14.11

The Beautiful Consumer At The Ball: How Consumers Can Lead The Choice For Brands

Consumers are like the beautiful lady at the ball. They have all the power and the time in the world to make their choices. But her suitors, the marketing and product development teams, really have no idea what she wants. We’re about to find out.

A team of
consumer researchers at a Michigan think-tank, The Re-Wired Group, seemed to have solved
the mystery of why consumer markets seem chock full of choices, but contain very
little in the way of what we really want.

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Re-wired Group

That team–co-founders
Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek, along with Brian Tolle,–is re-writing the “rule
book” on how marketers, developers, designers, and consumers work together in creating
the value market in consumer goods. The results of over fifteen years of
applied research have led to some surprising insights.

It helps to look
at it with an analogy.

A beautiful
woman at a ballroom event is spoiled for choice. She can choose any suitor and
she can take her time to command the attention and the respect she deserves,
while she weighs her options. At the same time, her sometimes inconsistent
choosing can appear downright fickle to those who have something to offer. She
doesn’t always pick Prince Charming and sometimes other Princes-to-be wonder
just why she made the choice she made.

Dancing

She has her
reasons.

So do consumers.
The trouble is that often the consumers’ real choices or preferences are not known,
and there is a fundamental disconnect in the process her suitors use to
understand those preferences. As a result, that value code is not included in
what is on offer.

What if you
flipped the script? What if we looked at the development of products,
marketing, research and advertising from what the consumer was really feeling
and thinking?

The vast and
abundant choices out there leave us consumers with the feeling that we’re
actually like a castaway on a desert island, surrounded by meaningful options
but no perfect solutions. This is a new way of thinking for many companies.

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The process that
gets to this missing value code is called “Jobs-to-be-Done” and it is
arranged around a fundamental idea: that consumers and individuals in the marketplace
have a “job” to do. A job in this sense means: Consumers search the
marketplace for products, goods, or services to “hire” to help them
complete a job. What guides their choosing among the myriad options in the
global marketplace is their value code. To tap into this dynamic, the Re-Wired
team has developed a consumer research system that works like this:

• Interview
techniques designed for the Jobs Research framework are used by researchers to
consult with consumers who have “hired” a particular product. The
interview approach replays the decision, and slows down that moment to uncover
micro decision-making in the moment of choice.

• Researchers
work with the consumer to organize these moments into a storyboard as they
actually unfold, creating a “movie” of the choice. It is at this point that the
Re-Wired researchers begin to unlock the consumer’s “value code,” what
guided their consideration and ultimate choice.

• They
use spatial and engineering models to look at emotions, and life factors as catalysts
— or energy–that go into supporting a choice.

By scanning each
layer of the decision sequentially, researchers arrive at a causal point that
defines why the consumer made that purchasing decision.

“We pull apart the energy going into a situation and energy going
out. What are the different dimensions that work to form the job-to-be-done?” explains
Spiek. “Was there anxiety, joy, anticipation, tiredness before the person
consumed? Was there guilt or stress afterwards when they reflected on the
satisfaction of the choice? By unpacking the energy surrounding choice and
consumption, we begin to understand what product attributes were important in
that specific situation.”

Because the
analysis focuses on actual versus espoused behavior, the Re-Wired researchers
can “see” causality in context–a multi-dimensional model of
consumer choice with all its variables. What was once abstract is now concrete.
No longer does the lady-in-waiting seem fickle.

Bob Moesta puts
this very straightforward but revolutionary model into context.

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“There must be 50 to 150 variables that go into the choice sets that
consumers construct to help them decide what to pull in to help them get a job
done. These variables can change in terms of priority and how consumers
conceive them in their minds. But they all flow into the consumer’s value code.
It’s incredibly powerful to see how a particular variable can be linked to a
consumer choice. But these choices are not in isolation. I can only talk about
a particular decision in the context of an old choice. It’s a web of past
decisions that we don’t often see as integrated. The Jobs Framework is about
integration and finding the cause.”

Armed with these
insights, developers and marketers can design offerings that “fit”
these job requirements. No longer are they relying on how well the consumer likes a particular product or service —
in the Jobs world, satisfaction is tied to how
well did the choice finish the job?
In
the process, new opportunities emerge in what Re-Wired researchers call White
Space.

As Spiek points
out, “It’s all about creating useful products that can grow categories and
consumption.”

Knowing her
code, the lady in waiting chooses what she wants, when she wants it.

About the author

Douglas Crets is a Developer Evangelist and Editorial Lead at the Microsoft BizSpark program. He works to tell the story of thousands of startups hosted in the Azure cloud platform built by Microsoft.

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