“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

7 12 2007

Innovation is at the core of the relationships we want to create between our brands and their consumers. We believe Innovation to not only be fundamental to success and business growth but also essential to the way brands are communicating with their consumers.

I’m often being asked about the innovation processes we’re trying to set up with our clients to make sure their campaigns will perform accordingly. While it may sound intuitive, the first logical step – to define the innovation strategy – is often bypassed by a lot of organizations. Remember my post on the low percentage of marketers setting up marketing objectives prior to the set up of their marketing strategy? So it goes with innovation.

One of my readings (well rather listenings) this week provides a good explanation on the reason why 50 to 90 % of the innovation initiatives end up as flops. Brands think they know their customers’ needs without considering the fact there’s a crucial difference between what consumers say they need and what they really need – that is between what they need and what they really want. Brands focus on products when consumers’ concern is on desired outcome.

Harvard marketing prof Theodore Levitt illustrated this difference with this straight forward analogy: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” Focusing too much on demographics segmentation and qualitative research methods, marketers are improving their products in ways that become mainly irrelevant to their consumers needs- focusing on the drill, not the hole.

Tony UlwickIn his last Shop Talk Podcast, John Caddell comes back to the basics with Tony Ulwick, CEO of Strategyn and author of ‘What Customers want’. Ulwik’s simple starting point is to remember that what consumers want is to get a job/task/activity done (a quarter-inch hole). Marketers’ role is thus to develop the products (the quart-inch drill) that will help customers to get their jobs done (the quarter-inch hole). He’s going further explaining how customer requirements should be used to determine what tools will be developed to helped them get the job done. What is the correct definition of ‘customer need’? What ‘metrics’ will be used by the consumer to measure the success of the job she wants to be done? A lesson of business process improvement apply to innovation in products development. A must listen to put ‘thinking’ into practice.




2 responses

30 09 2010
Michael Wentworth

Right on, Marc. A great message. What we’re finding is that many Sellers still believe they can “push” product to the Buyer with the right packaging, price and sales technique. Keep sharing these great insights.

20 03 2012
Econis Labs LLC. (@econislabs)

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about information and love learning more on this. If possible, as you gain expertise, it is extremely helpful for me. Would you mind updating your blog with more information? Thanks

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