Asymco author and analyst Horace Dediu, on the race to build a Blackberry killer, provides a great analogy demonstrating the importance of understanding your consumer:
RIM was like a barkeeper who enabled socializing on his premises by selling beer. The product he sold was not really beer but meeting services. A brewer looking enviously at the high margin beer being sold there might try to compete by launching “Pub-style beer” but the product won’t help people socialize any more if they drank it at home. Bar patrons were paying the high price of bar beer because it had an implicit rent attached for using the meeting site…
So no matter how much a brewer tried, unless they got into the business of managing taverns, they won’t ever put the barkeeper out of business.
This is because none of the products addressed the real question of what makes Blackberry live and thrive. They were just pub-style beer, not thinly disguised meeting places.
History repeats itself today as the Blackberry maker struggles to match the iPhone and iPad devices with its features, without understanding exactly why the products are so very loved, used and profitable.
Unfortunately, this happens all the time to marketers. Its critical that you develop the meaningful insights that drive your activities looking forward. We can sometimes be so blinded by the seemingly obvious that we immediately chase the tail of WHAT is beating us – and then try to meet or out-do their specifications. In doing so, we often miss WHY they are beating us. Reaching the underlying motivations driving consumer behavior is the most important thing for a good marketer.
My 3 year old is constantly asking, “why”? – it’s the core question that she uses to make sense of the world around her. Perhaps she is on to something?