What do women want? And what does that have to do with innovation?

I can still see Mel Gibson trying to get into a pantyhose in the movie, “What women want?”. It was super funny. While we can laugh at him, and as a marketer, he was absolutely on point. After all, the whole idea is to “Know your customer”. And consumers are becoming more and more difficult to understand.

Like understanding, a woman has been a pursuit, more and more marketers are realizing that the traditional methods we learned to segment markets, build brands, and understand customers- are broken.

As a woman doesn’t need solutions, she finds them herself, she just needs you to hear her problems. Customers don’t want your products, they want you to hear the problems they are having in getting their jobs done.

The Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt used to say, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!

Market segmentation has gone haywire

Segmentation methods that most marketers learned in business schools are a key reason why product innovation has become making product features that can do everything for everyone. I am fascinated with how little attention is given to value propositions. And even if these value propositions are being designed, sometimes, it is product managers making them in a silo, without interacting with the marketing teams or customers themselves. So, there is no relative understanding of what the customer desires. And is born another me-too product.

Also, slicing customers into the small, medium and large enterprises or pigeonholing customers into age, demographic, lifestyle brackets – marketers are getting busy only understanding the needs of representative customers in those segments. This gives marketers at best the ability to make an informed guess about the probability of a typical customer buying the product.

The purpose of Product Innovation

New growth markets are created when innovation in designing a product, followed by positioning its brand on a job where no optimal product exists. Most products fail to achieve reasonable sales goals because the focus is on “better” rather than “speed”.

Introduce your product before anyone else and establish market leadership. With massive marketing power behind it. Yet, most companies do the opposite. Many companies waste valuable time on improving the product and make launches on a shoestring marketing budget.

A good purpose Brand

Gucci, Virgin, Starbucks, Apple are purpose brands. A good purpose brand is two-sided, on one side, it gives customers the right products for the job. On the other side, it gives customers a reason to feel a certain way, you can call these aspirational jobs. A need to feel – amazing, pamperer, macho, special or prestigious.

The mystery behind finding what customers want is an on-going saga as they expand, always increasing and changing desires – the good news for innovation is that – it is never complete and never done.

Hope this also hints on what women want….:)

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  • Deepika Bajaj: Marketing and Growth in an era of disruption

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