Creating what people love before they know they want it
By Adrian J. Slywotzky with Karl Weber
Adrian Slywotzky in this new book defines clever demand creators as those who map the everyday hassles that make life painful, inconvenient, wasteful, and even dangerous, and then fix those hassles by developing products that people can’t resist and competitors have a hard time copying. Sounds a lot like what Steve Jobs explained as “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Somewhere in this effort is the “magnetic” experience that the author refers to as the underlying force that supports his concept. The visionary finds that sweet spot in between what the engineers perceive looking from the inside-out and the marketers want looking from the outside-in. That alternative solution that they create, and which Jobs did so well, will excite, allure, and motivate customers to change their behavior.
Slywotzky, a modern management guru now working with Mercer, who has been described by the Times of London and Industry Week as one of the most influential current business thinkers, explains that demand creators spend all their time trying to understand people. They try to understand our aspirations, what we need, what we hate, what gives us an emotional charge – and, most important, what we might really love. Jobs was one of these demand creators. He seemed to know what customers wanted before they did and created things people can’t resist and competitors can’t copy as the author describes. Anyone can copy anything and Apple has many imitators, but there is something incomplete in the imitations which people sense.
Slywotzky argues that no matter how much we consume, there remain huge gaps between what we really want and the goods and services we settle for. He concludes that these gaps represent opportunities for all sorts of new blockbuster products like the iPhone and iPad. He cites numerous examples throughout the book of simple ways in which new devices and concepts changed people’s lives dramatically such as the Kindle, E-Z Pass, and what Bloomberg has done by creating a network around “any news that touches money.”
While Slywotzky makes a valid point he oversimplifies. These wonderful products and services did not emerge without an awful lot of trial and error over a long time. On average it takes about ten years to commercialize any new solution from the time it is recognized that there is a “gap”, or problem that needs be filled or fixed.
When it comes to creating demand, it’s not the first mover that wins, it’s the first to create and capture the emotional space in the market, what the author refers to as the “magnetic”. Sony was the first to develop an e reader, but Amazon gave us the emotional flame with the Kindle. Honda developed one of the first hybrids, but Toyota hit the emotional button with the Prius.
Slywotzky explains his idea of the “trigger” – the mechanism that turns fence-sitters into customers, which is not new conceptually, but when coupled with a magnetic value proposition becomes irrestible. Zipcar, for example, experimented by turning a good slogan like “Wheels When You Want Them” into an emotional incentive for many. Zipcar offers the “love it” car-sharing experience for urban dwellers who only need a car for short periods of time without the hassle of the typical Hertz or, Avis rental car experience. Zipcar handles the entire process electronically, much like Redbox does for short term movie rentals.
After years of experimenting, Zipcar found the “magnetic” quality for city folks – the ability to quickly and conveniently access a car without owning it. Zipsters now save thousands of dollars a year compared to car owners.
Other demand creators are working on automated guidance systems that maintain buffer zones between cars and dangerous obstacles that may make death by collision almost unheard of. Ford has started down this path and with each new model year they introduce more customer conscious safety and convenience features. They certainly seem to be practicing the “hassle mapping” technique described by Slywotzky.
Another example is Wegman’s, the supermarket chain that is often able to make an emotional connection with customers with any product – even one as mundane and familiar as groceries.
The author advances the idea of the hassle map – the array of frustrations, inconveniences, complications, and potential disasters lurking in most customer experiences. This, he says, is a crucial step toward seeing differently. By glimpsing how bad the present really is, a marketer can see the solution to how much better it can become.
Slywotzky explains that great demand creators become experts in the hassles that ordinary products and services generate. He concludes that what they do is an intense, problem-solving exploration that is both objective and subjective, often better couched in intuitive emotional terms than statistics. Demand creators immerse themselves in the lives of customers.
While Slywotzky’s advice make sense, in reality the implementation of his concepts are very difficult for the average CEO and their teams to enact given the day-to-day pressures of their respective businesses. Slywotzky even admits that many executives find the intense explorations of customer’s emotions difficult to master.
He concludes rather half-heartedly that if a CEO wants to master the discipline of demand creation, drawing the hassle map of the customer you seek to serve is an invaluable experience. I agree, but knowing the typical CEO as well as I do, I doubt if many will ever actually do it! What may make great sense theoretically is ignored in actual practice. If that weren’t the case there would be many more like Steve Jobs.
The ultimate management guru, Peter Drucker could not have made the practice of successful management any clearer in his teaching and writing. How many CEOs follow his advice?