If you're like most people reading the above title, you've probably automatically assumed that the topic concerns humans, not brands. After all, who has even discussed the notion of brands getting "hired" for a job?
Yet that lapse is a large part of the problem plaguing the growth trajectories of many brands in the consumer packaged goods space today.
In reality, consumers don’t simply buy products or services; they hire them do to a job, or to enact progress in their lives. From purchases as large as a home to as trivial as a chocolate treat, consumers are constantly hiring (or "firing") brands. As one of us, Taddy Hall, uncovered in the book he co-wrote, Competing Against Luck, the missing link in most innovation approaches is consumers' needs, which in this context we'll call "jobs."
Put differently, what separates innovation success from innovation non-success is a company's ability to align with a consumer Job.
Let’s begin with some definitions. A "Job" (capitalized here to help make our point) is the progress that a person is trying to make in a particular circumstance. A Job meets four key criteria: First, a Job helps a person achieve a goal or aspiration. It is a process by which he or she makes progress.
Second, a Job has context within the daily flow of life. A successful solution can only be created relative to a specific context or circumstance. Third, and most critically, a Job has important social and emotional dimensions, which can be more powerful than its outward function. Finally, a Job is ongoing and recurring.
With that context, how well do you understand the Job or Jobs for which your products are currently being hired? Equally important, how well do you understand the Jobs for which your products "aspire" to be hired?
What separates your brand’s resume from the resume of the "ideal" brand competing for the same Job?
Analyzing consumerJobs, or Jobs Theory, is a strategy employed by the world’s fastest-growing and most well-respected companies, such as Anheuser-Busch, Kraft and Nestle. Jobs Theory describes the notion that consumers effectively hire brands and products in order to make progress in their lives.
When applied correctly, Jobs Theory is a principle that revolutionizes a company's ratio of innovation success.
Consider, for example, OnStar. Left to their own devices, Onstar's team members could have compiled an endless list of services for which consumers could hire them. The problem was, that laundry list of services was too confusing. Consumers desired peace of mind, and OnStar needed to align against that Job.
So, what are the steps a brand should take to align with Jobs Theory? Actually, there are five:
Step 1: Find a Job.
Look for Jobs you can fill by reflecting on your personal experiences. Find people who aren’t using your product, or consider what tasks people don’t want to do. Your consumers can provide inspiration as they problem-solve their own workarounds. Tidy Cats Lightweight, for example, found that consumers actually stored clean litter in the trunks of their cars and replenished their litter boxes from the car until the boxes were light enough to bring indoors. This was a clear job Tidy Cats could solve.
To find a job, ask:
- What progress are your consumers trying to achieve?
- What are the circumstances of their struggle?
- What obstacles are getting in the way of your consumers making that progress?
- Are your consumers compromising with imperfect solutions?
- How would your consumers define the “quality” of a better solution, and what tradeoffs are they willing to make?
Step 2: Solve the Job.
Once the Job is clear, solving it in a manner that's beneficial for consumers and company alike is key. The Tidy Cats team exemplified this rule, asserting that its task had never been "about achieving acceptable minimums." Instead, "We were focused on maximizing the opportunity,” according to brand director Rebecca Schultz, quoted in the Nielsen 2015 Breakthrough Innovation Report. The team worked to deliver on the promise of uncompromising litter performance at half the weight -- and deliver they did.
To achieve this:
- Outline what your consumers want to accomplish from a functional, emotional and social perspective.
- List the tradeoffs the consumers are willing to make.
- Make yourself the preferred solution, even if the Job is already getting done. List competing solutions and other obstacles.
Step 3: Get hired.
Tell consumers why they should hire you. For Tidy Cats, "feeling was believing," so the Tidy Cats team offered in-store lift tests during its product launch, thus proving its lightweight benefit to consumers in a tangible way.
Why should consumers change? Two strategies to use:
- Share the "push" of the unsatisfied job and the "pull" of the new solution.
- Address the forces prohibiting change such as anxieties about a new solution.
Step 4: Organize around the Job and reap the benefits.
Focusing on a clearly defined consumer Job yields four key benefits:
Distributed decison-making. Employees throughout the organization are empowered to make decisions that align with the Job, and to be autonomous and innovative.
Resource optimization. When an organization is focused on getting hired for a consumer Job, it can better prioritize resources around solving that Job. If any resources aren’t being spent toward solving the Job, they can be rebalanced accordingly.
Inspiration. Solving a consumer’s Job is inherently inspiring to individuals in an organization, enabling them to see their work making progress in people’s lives.
Better measurement. With a focus on the Job, people will naturally seek to measure and manage to more consumer-centric metrics.
Step 5: Avoid the pitfalls.
Three fallacies threaten the success of a well-executed Job:
The fallacy of active data. Growing companies start to generate operations-related data (active data), which can seduce managers with its apparent objectivity. In fact, this data may be far removed from the true picture of the Job.
The fallacy of surface growth. As companies invest in consumer relationships, they focus their energies on driving growth by selling additional products or solving a broader set of Jobs -- known as surface growth -- rather than improving their solution for the core job.
The fallacy of nonconforming data. Managers focus on generating data that conforms to preexisting notions. This inherently blinds managers from emerging opportunities beyond their perspective.
Implement these five simple steps and you'll be well on your way to improved innovation results. Achieving that improved growth trajectory will come down to the choices you are willing to make, or not make, as the case may be.