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

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.

Re-wired GroupYou know the feeling. You're hungry, or you want something for the home. You have a smorgasbord of choice in front of you, but nothing you really want. How did you get here? The answer lies in discovering, unlocking and using a fundamental value code that a consumer often does not get to exercise in the current market, according to the team at 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.


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.

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.

"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.