Luring the Average Consumer 22:43 on Thursday

ADSM, a completely unrelated image found on Flickr and originally uploaded by Isaac Mao.

To launch a new product you should first do research, preferably with a lot of data points (ie. people). Then you should find out who the “average consumer” in each segment is. By targeting this “average consumer” you will most closely answer the needs of each segment. Not exactly, but close enough. Right?

As a hypothetical example, let’s take people who want a music phone. You interview 1000 people. 400 of them want a phone with nothing but calling, text messaging and an MP3 player. Another 400 want a phone with lots of personalization features along the basic calling and texting, FM radio, web browser, email, calorie calculator, spreadsheets, profiles, camera, video editor and an MP3 player.

Creating a statistically average phone for this “music phone segment” results in a product that is viewed as too complex for the first 400 people and not enough for the other 400 people. The rest of the users might be satisfied, or not.

As a disclaimer, I do realize statistics is field not limited to basic averages. Yet, I’ve seen people at Accounts Dept use Excel as a handy replacement for grid paper, then calculating the number using an external calculator. So you can never underestimate what people are capable of with numbers. ;)

7 Responses to “Luring the Average Consumer”

    Links from my other posts:

  1. /personal » Blog Archive » Why iPhone sucks
  2. /personal » Blog Archive » Failed recommendations
  3. /personal » Blog Archive » Jobs on the state of music

  5. Sami O Says:

    In a recent Time mag article it is claimed that Apple conducts zero market research with its customer base. That might very well be true. Average Joe does not know what he wants, you should ask instead the lead users. And Jobs is an uber lead user. Seems to be working.

    In your case few hard core music enthusiasts would suffice…

  6. Niko Says:

    Somehow I feel Nokia is great at asking lead users what they want… so the high-end phones have close to everything the hc users want. And Average Joes can’t stop complaining. So maybe asking the lead users is not good enough either.

    I’m a fan of the saying “users don’t need what they want, and they don’t want what they need”. I would throw out a guess that best results would be achieved by watching the user behaviour patterns long enough to overcome any wow that might obstruct seeing the real needs.

  7. Sami O Says:

    i’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced both, the average joe and lead user (as in lead user innovation) driven product development. i’d pick lead user almost in all cases, especially when there is room for novel innovations within a product category ie typically in early stages of product lifecycle,

    I’d suspect that in nowadays high-end phones there exists not that much what lead users want. lead users are not geeks or hardcore users per se

  8. Niko Says:

    I falled into the trap of mistaking the most vocal users as the lead users. My bad. ;)