What is the real job that products do for clients?

There are many companies that declare to be “client oriented”. They go to clients asking them “What do you want?” and they develop their services or products considering the feedback received. The problem is that many many times the clients don’t know what they want but it became necessary observing them to understand which are their needs.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”

Henry Ford

It is possible find a good example of this concept with McDonald that wanted to increase its milkshake sales . McDonald researchers invited potential clients inside a conference room giving to them different kind of milkshakes to introduce in the market. They asked them “how can we improve these products to sell more?”. All suggestions that they collected didn’t take any impact on sales and profit.


McDonald researchers understood that to increase sales they had to understand what is the real job that milkshakes do for the client. They spent time documenting when each milkshake was bought, what other products the customers purchased, whether they were alone or with a group and whether they consumed it on the premises or drove off with it. They discovered that half of them were sold in the very early morning, the client was alone and it was the only thing that he bought and drove off with it.

Why clients came at 6:30 in the morning to buy it? They faced a long, boring commute and needed some- thing to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more interesting and they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. People could buy Banana but it is gone in three minutes and you need to eat something else after an hour because you don’t fill full. Bagels are dry, with cream cheese or jam, they resulte in sticky fingers and gooey steering wheels.

The best job is made by milkshake! It is so viscous that people need 23 minutes to suck it up and it will stay inside the stomachs until 10 o’clock and don’t make fingers dirty. Furthermore in U.S. cars have a glass older so people can make their hand free and answer to phone.

“The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him. One reason for this is, of course, that nobody pays for a ‘product.’ What is paid for is satisfaction. But nobody can make or supply satisfaction as such—at best, only the means to attaining them can be sold and delivered.”

Peter Drucker

Once it was clear the milkshake job it becomes possible improve the product.  Make the shake even thicker, so it would last longer, and swirl in tiny chunks of fruit — not to make it healthy, because customers didn’t hire the milkshake to become healthy. But adding the fruit could make the commute more interesting — drivers would occasionally suck chunks into their mouths, adding a dimension of unpredictability and anticipation to their monotonous morning routine. Just as important, they could move the dispensing ma-chine in front of the counter and sell customers a prepaid swipe card so that they could dash in, gas up, and go without getting stuck in the drive-through lane.

The Market of milkshake is very big because it includes some portions of Bananas, Donuts, Bagels and sinkers bar and so on… Once we understand which job the product does we can see that the markets are generally much larger than product category–defined markets and the sales increase at least four times.

Simone Mastrogiacomo



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