Clayton Christensen, one of the most prolific business professors and influencers from Harvard Business School, suggests that this segmentation is a major fail. People within a certain demographic don’t buy because of being within a certain demographic segment. For example, 12-18 year age teenage girls don’t go ga-ga over Justin Bieber just because they are 14-18 year old teenage girls. It may be a correlation but not the cause. If you can find the cause, you can create the right product.
Rather, Clayton suggests thinking about products as being “hired” to do a “job”. Think of people as not “buying” a product or service but “hiring” it to solve a problem, then provide a product that can deliver the necessary result(s). Each job has functional, emotional, and social dimensions. You must get into the mind of the customer, follow him or her throughout the day, and as Clayton suggests, ask “Why does he do it that way?”
Professor Christensen gives a profound example with his famous “milkshake” experience. A fast-food restaurant wanted to improve milkshake sales. It followed the classic segmentation by product (milkshake) and then by customer type (who most likely will buy milkshakes). So they followed the normal opportunity evaluation route of asking people who fit that particular customer type profile to evaluate the product and provide feedback (read: feature changes). The feedback was clear but product “improvements” based on this feedback did not increase sales.
So a new researcher went in and watched when and how each milkshake was purchased, the time and whether other items were also purchased, whether they drank it at the store, etc. It turned out that 40% of all milkshakes were bought in the morning, with nothing else, and buyers took them back to their vehicles. So the researcher then asked customers basically (but not in these exact words),”What job needed to be done when you came here to hire that milkshake?” The answers were that these customers had a long commute, weren’t really hungry but knew that they be hungry soon, and wanted something to keep them going until lunchtime. They also had an extra hand to keep busy and wanted to make something to make the commute interesting. Other products such as a bagel, banana could not do the same “job” (too dry, didn’t last long enough, etc.). However, a shake was nice and thick, took time to suck down, was clean, and kept you full until lunchtime.
So now, by understanding the job that needed to be done, the fast food company knew how the milkshake could do the job better. Make the shake thicker so it lasts longer. Add fruit bits so it’s more interesting during the drive. By understanding the job that the product is supposed to do, you end up growing the category. It’s not just milkshakes but taking share from bagels, donuts, etc. (Think about this: milkshakes were not even being considered a breakfast item when classic segmentation is applied!) The product is improved and the market is expanded by knowing all dimensions of the user experience (the ultimate user experience).
Professor Christensen's talk about his Milkshake experience is linked here: