Can you tell me what you want?

Just watched a Malcolm Gladwell presentation about the work of experimental psychologist Howard Moskowitz. He talked about how people don’t know what they really want. They have trouble articulating it.  “The mind knows not what the tongue wants”.

One example he used is; ask people how they like their coffee, they will reply “a dark rich hearty roast”. And 25-27% of people do like their coffee that way. But the majority of people like their coffee “milky and weak”, but they would never tell you that.

Another example from the video is how they toured the U.S. with 45 kinds of spaghetti sauce, and asked thousands of people to rate them on a scale of 1 to 10.  There was never going to be one perfect spaghetti sauce, instead, the data was clustered into 3 categories “plain”, “spicy” and “chunky”. “Chunky” was a brand new category that noone had ever mentioned in focus groups, ever.  They made US$600 million with a range of chunky spaghetti sauces.

Have you heard that “focus groups don’t work“?. Everybody lies, and give you the answer that they think you want to hear, so they are very unreliable.

So you can’t ask people what kind of coffee they want. You have to ask them to buy.  You have to watch their behaviour to see what they want. Present all the possible options for them and let them choose.

Unfortunately, you will find that there is not one perfect coffee that you can sell to the masses.

Have you heard the phrase “market of one“? That’s when mass marketing doesn’t work anymore, so companies realise that people want something unique to them, personalised to their preferences (as long as it doesn’t cost more!).

I think that’s why Starbucks, and Subway do so well. They realised there is no such thing as the “perfect coffee” or the “perfect sandwich” that they can sell to the majority.  But each and every person can choose their own perfect coffee or perfect sandwich if the options are there in front of them.

So is there a way you can offer customisation of your products and services but without increasing your costs or the price the customer pays?

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