I wonder how many CEOs have thought about what their customers would do if the brand they managed didn’t exist? If that brand was simply taken off the shelf, what impact would that have on your consumers and what would they choose as an alternative? Would they even care about it disappearing?     

Wouldn’t it be an interesting exercise for you to consider? Most boardroom growth discussions have been dominated over the past few years by the concept of disruption — more specifically, how to prevent a new Uber-like player agitating the market and how new technologies could disrupt a current brand experience. 

Studies support this. Last year’s IBM Global C-suite Study found that CEOs of more successful companies were highly focused on growth, including launching new products or services, finding new business models, pursuing innovation as a long-term strategy, expanding geographically, and creating deeper ecosystems. 

But wouldn’t it be interesting to think about growth in a different way? To think about your brand doing its job better as a way of growing?

In Clayton M Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck he explains this “jobs to be done” theory. This concept states that understanding what job the product is hired to fill will help drive more meaningful innovation. One case study he quotes in his HBR podcast is the work he did for McDonald’s a few years ago. The fast-food chain wanted to increase its sales of milkshakes, so it brought its perfectly profiled customers into a room to evaluate the product, the packaging and the flavours, and to give suggestions and recommendations on how to grow. Sales didn’t change. Clayton and his team convinced them to look at it differently.

Anchored in ethnographic and immersive customer insights, Clayton recommended observing milkshake purchasers. One of his colleagues stood at a McDonald’s for 18 hours and gathered a variety of data such as time of day, whether they were with other people, and what other things they purchased at the same time. The next day they went back early when most milkshakes were bought and asked the buyers: ‘What job are you trying to get done by engaging this  milkshake?’ If they couldn’t answer, they then asked them to think about the last time they were in the same situation where they needed to do the same job, but didn’t come here to engage a milkshake from McDonald’s. 

Wouldn’t it be interesting to think about growth in a different way? To think about your brand doing its job better as a way of growing?

Essentially they were told that the milkshake helped these customers stay full and alert on their long drive to work. These customers talked about other products they had tried to fill this job — a banana in some cases and yoghurt in others — but they failed to fulfil ‘the job’ in the same way as the McDonald’s shake. This was in fact only one job that the milkshake needed to do. At other times of the day, mums bought milkshakes for their kids and the job was about connection. What this meant for the McDonald’s CEO and his team was that there was a whole new set of opportunities to innovate now that they knew what job the milkshake was meant to fulfil.

Clayton says, “As a general rule, if you have a product that doesn’t get the job done that a customer needs to get done, then often you have to offer it for zero — because if you ask for money for it and it doesn’t do the job well, then customers won’t pay for it.” So what should you, the CEO, do to work out what job or jobs your brand is hired for so you can actually charge a fee or even a premium if it does it really well?

There are 3 things you can do:

3 steps to building a better brand

  1. Step out of your comfort of zone

    Your wife, your husband, your son or your daughter do not represent your customers, so asking them what they think will not give you a true picture of how your customers are using your product or what job your brand is being hired for. 

  2. Get among it

    We know you are busy. We are all busy. But if you really want to drive growth in a more meaningful way, then develop a proper empathic view of how your brand or product fits into your customers’ world. Observe instore, sit in your call centre, eat in your restaurant, ask questions about your customers’ choices and behaviour as they happen. Get your team involved with Empathy Mapping Workshops so you can all talk confidently about the people who hire your brand.

  3. Build hypothesis around your brand’s role

    Work out the job that your brand plays in your customers’ lives. This is not about product benefits or functional aspects; this is about the emotional reasons  people choose your brand. There will be a variety of them, so put them all on paper so that when your CMOs, CxOs or CIOs want to build innovation programs, you have some ideas to throw into the mix.

PwC’s 2016 CEO Study quotes that 90% of CEOs are focused on changing the way they use technology to ensure they get closer to consumers and deliver a better brand experience. That’s great for an ongoing experience, but to look at real growth and do it in a meaningful way, I recommend doing it the old-fashioned way: in person.