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Boost your marketing expertise to guarantee cut-through for your next campaign.

It really is worth reading everything you can to improve your marketing. And if you’ve launched a new business or added new products or services, you should be putting together your marketing plan specifically for this.

In the early stages of a business, you need to be a focused business person, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why is it hard to get a product off the ground?

According to a Harvard Business Review article on marketing, 30,000 new products are launched each year and 90 per cent of them fail.

Professor Theodore Levitt of Harvard thinks he’s worked out what’s wrong with marketing. “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill,” he argues. “They want a quarter-inch hole.”

This is an important point, so stay with me on this. Levitt says marketing professionals do a whole lot of smart things that in the end could be dumb or, to be fair, of limited value.

They segment market by type of drill and price points. Then they measure market share of drills, not holes. They benchmark features of the drills against rivals, not their holes. They add functions and features to increase price and market share but these solve the wrong problems by over-improving the product! And finally, they segment customers, try to understand them and create products to match different needs. What’s wrong with this? Customers aren’t average consumers. This is demographics gone mad.

What’s the lesson?

Levitt believes there’s a better way of thinking about market segmentation and product innovation.
Customers see a market as a place where things get done and they ‘hire’ products to make it happen. Believe it or not, every job that needs to be done has a social, functional and emotional dimension to it. Great marketing requires you to understand these dimensions, then use this to design a product that precisely targets the job.

The lesson? Target the job not the customer!

Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, created his business for no other reason than for making the job of selling stuff easier.

So the lesson for a business wanting to be in a new growth market is to design a product and position their brand on a job that customers want done, where no optimal product actually exists.

Why segment by job?

Segmenting by job has shown smart operators that their market actually is bigger than expected and the goal should be to build a purpose brand — a product that is known as a brand that will do the job.

FedEx is a case in point. When it came on the scene in the US, no one was known for doing parcels well. Those who did had ordinary brands, so FedEx set out to do the job reliably, time and time again.

This sort of company turns a brand, which is a noun, into a verb. And now, people talk about FedExing it. So, the brand is linked to a purpose.

Can you explain more?

In contrast, a general brand, Levitt explains, can mean some customers go for a product for the wrong purpose. The banks lost out to mortgage brokers because brokers did one job — get home loan choices for customers.

And building a great purpose brand means you have to spell out the features and functions relevant to the job. Results can be a better price that customers will pay for the brand because it delivers precisely.

Targeting the brand effectively works on customers’ emotions. “Customers have a need to feel a certain way and branded products come to our rescue,” Levitt says. And he is absolutely on the money. Upmarket brands such as Montblanc and Bollinger make us feel successful. Qantas makes us feel safe and that’s the job many of us want out of the airline we select to travel with.

What result does the customer get?

A really good ad should focus on what job the product does and not what it is.

Michelin turned around what tyre ads said to customers when it focused on the safety it gave to a mother and child. And it really hurt the retread business, and other tyre companies followed the lead. Until that time many husbands allowed their wives and kids to drive around in a second car with retread tyres because the trips to school and sport were seen as small trips. But that was until Michelin posed the question: how important are these people to the husbands buying tyres for their families? The job was obvious.

So you need to get the message right?

Yes. Levitt reckons many companies are wasting their money on ads that don’t really give out the right message to customers and confusing customers could be a very costly mistake.

On the flipside, when you have a brand that screams out its purpose, the evidence is that you can also charge higher prices. When you’re not wasting money and you’re also making it, it’s a win-win situation.

Published on: Saturday, July 11, 2009

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