Customers hire a product to do a job. Products find their market only when they help customers do that job. They need something specific from the product. If it fulfills the need, it’s good. If not, the brand is tainted for a long time.
Segmentation of product categories and customer categories reveal very different views of an opportunity. The analysis can be deceiving. The ultimate question of usefulness or appropriateness belongs to the customer, not the product manager.
Identifying the job can redefine who the competition really is. Positioning against the correct competitor may create a unique set of features, greater differentiation and longer life cycle.
Using the Blackberry as an example, Christensen suggested that traditional category segmentation thinking would confine the product as wireless handheld devices. It competes with Palm, Nokia, Sony, and HP products. Each has a long list of features with many similarities. There is little differentiation based on that view. A demographic view might reveal that Blackberries have high penetration among mobile sales people. That redefines the job the device is hired to do. If that device provided access to the corporate resources for sales and customer data, or direct access to travel information, industry news feeds and summaries, simple games or activities to fill time productively while waiting for planes and trains, it would be uniquely different form traditionally defined competitors and provide specific value for the target demographic.
Market segmentation by category reveals little valuable information. Innovation in the dark generates multiple features with no real benefit to the core user, complicates the device, confuses or stresses the user who doesn’t understand, need or care to pay for most of the features.
Innovation, by definition, precedes market acceptance. In Christensen’s view, consumers change habits or learn new skills associated with new products only when it makes the job they need to do easier. The digital camera system is another example. An innovative early feature was a feature to edit out “red eye.” Additional features included online photo sorting, storage, sharing and automated distribution. After reviewing habits of traditional photographic print buyers, the job most photos are hired to do is to share with a friend or relative. Few people use the edit features. Everyone uses the “attach” function to send copies to others.
The focus becomes the foundation for what he termed a “purpose brand” where the name of the device helps define its purpose. A purpose brand, like a Walkman, identifies the job it is designed to do. In this example, it makes music mobile in a form the boom box was not able to do.
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