Jobs To Be Done

This year, I was sitting with a rather baffling question. What if there is a kind of successful product in the market, you do lots of research and such. But in the end, you still ask yourself: so what are those users really doing there? You can always ask them nicely. But you know, there’s this difference between stated preferences and reality. Ask people, and they read the NY Times and watch CNN. See the data, and you won’t believe what happens next.

Right. Stated preferences mostly reveals more about the guy asking than what’s really going on. People try to keep up appearances. That’s the human condition. If you’re not a registered sociopath or a saint or another type of fringe personality.

All users lie. But only if you ask.
All users lie. But only if you ask for it.

#JTBD to the rescue

Guess what. There’s a really nice solution out there. Because the problem of not knowing what your customers really do and want is a fairly common one. Clayton Christensen, professor at the Harvard Business School, came up with the concept in the 90ies.

Jobs To Be Done refers to the core concept behind: people don’t buy “a product”. They “hire” a product to get a “job” done. Have a look at those four guys in a subway car. The “job” is always the same: How to not get bored on a subway ride. But three totally different products got “hired”. A book, a smartphone, a magazine (we don’t know about the gentleman to our left).

But that’s not the hard part. The hard part is finding out what the job really is people hire your product for. Think about a newspaper publishers. A weekend issue of the NY Times is a nice thing to stack up in your spacious living room. But unfolding it on the A-train needs lots of manual dexterity, yogi-like body mastery and a certain disregard for the people sitting next to you. It took decades to come up with newspapers sized for subway rides (and no, the NY Times isn’t one of them).

One job, 3 different products hired.

The beauty of Christensen’s concept is its simplicity:

“The fact that you’re 18 to 35 years old with a college degree does not cause you to buy a product,” Christensen says. “It may be correlated with the decision, but it doesn’t cause it. We developed this idea because we wanted to understand what causes us to buy a product, not what’s correlated with it. We realized that the causal mechanism behind a purchase is, ‘Oh, I’ve got a job to be done.’ And it turns out that it’s really effective in allowing a company to build products that people want to buy.”

You want more? Watch Christensen a bit more in detail.

To get to the bottom of the jobs question, you start with interviews. No surprise. What you want is an xray of your customers mindset when he’s using your product, when he decided to buy, and finding out what is really the job he is solving by using it. So you better start talking, and forget all your assumptions (even if they turn out right).

The interview style is pretty interesting: laid back and trying not to be leading you walk your customers along a scripted timeline. I liked it. Seems like my former journalistic life not only lead to excessive noseyness (an occupational hazard). But then, I had some help (thanks, Tor) and many helpful resources. The Jobs be Done Handbook might look rather pricey for being a self-published booklet of just a handful of pages and really hideous typesetting. But hey, it get’s its job done.

More of a challenge: most scripts, guides to scripts and examples of interviews out there are geared towards real products, bricks and mortar style. Tangible goods. Which makes it a bit hard to follow advice like “build around the Point of Sales“. As the PoS will be most likely your customer’s living room.

But hey, I got it to work. It’s just that the how part might have to become another post.

Coins are Brands (and have to work on that)

The known world is divided into three parts: if you say Fiat,

Fiat: public image
  • 30% (estimate) will describe something like this red thing here: four wheels, metal, internal combustion engine. Italian. Depending, of course, a bit in which part of the world you live. In Europe, you’ll get >99.9%, in South-Korea probably <1%.
  • 0.5% will talk about evil bankers issuing fiat currencies.
  • the rest will just say: huh? Whatever.

Brands are about relationship. When launching their cuddly 500, Fiat (the Italians), had to put a little bit more effort into that. In the US, just 8 percent had any brand recognition at all. Fiat did some nice things: they hired JayLo, had a nice viral video making inroads, and pushed themselves up to 30%. Still room to grow, but a nice base.

If you now think, that a brand is something you can create in a lab, or by hiring a branding agency, you are wrong. Brands are the collective public image of who or what you are, in the eyes of the consumer. You can try to nudge their perception into a certain direction (hiring Roseanne instead of JayLo might not have been that kind of perfect fit for the Italian accessoire-car for the generation Desperate Housewife). But that’s just about it. Your core values will still be represented in your product, you service quality, your tonalities.

A real doge: Leonardo Loredan.

Brands are about trust. And that’s were the importance for Bitcoin and all other crypto currencies begins. As crypto currencies are backed solely by trust, supply and demand, and a mutual understanding of the economic value this produces.

Growing the whole ecosystem from 0 to 10 bn USD was already an amazing feat. But where will the future growth will come from? A network needs a reason to join. Get rich quick A.K.A. speculation on growth works only, if the underlying message comes across to a growing user base (which finally might make the step from investment to every day use). 0 10 bn is fantastic. But 10 bn USD is just about doubling the M2 monetary supply of West Samoa. So there’s some need for growth, if one wants to become a global currency.

Now, how does Bitcoinese currently sound? I’m not talking about the misinformed media misconception of yeah sure, just good for buying drugs online, tulip bubble, yadda yadda. I’m talking about how the community talks itself. Brand-linguism (if such a crazy thing would exist) would probably dissect the language as having heavy influences of survivalist, fortified with some geekspeak, with a side serving of free market lingo.

The doges of Venice would have been proud to become a part of that. But as far as I know, crypto currencies are not about creating another financial playground for the 1%.

Now, please watch this video, about another doge:

Yes, it’s a stupid one trick pony taking over popular meme and exploiting. And, no, this is NOT Bitcoin 2.0 or the future of monetary transactions and whatever else is in the DNA of crypto currencies.
But reddit, as always representing the virtual finger on the geeky pulse of the times, shows something happening here.

There’s something about this fuzzy nonsense coin, which the crypto crowd has to take serious. Because: Shiba Inu, so much impact. And nobody wants to hug any Austrian economist.

On Service Design

Back in the day, probably round about 1999, I held a talk about “interactive Branding” at one of the Internet World conferences. The gist: forget about fancy graphics and the likes. Branding on the Internets is foremost about service and a service culture. Usability beats flashy designs. And treating your customers well is more important than any splash page. Because the emotion delivered via craftsy colors and incredible images pales against the raw fury of disgruntled customers, amplified over the nets.

Back then, our ad industry partners (and investors) were not too pleased, found the proposition rather questionable, and the possible outcome wholeheartedly undesirable (you would not hire an ad agency for business process design, wouldn’t you?).
Now you’ll find a whole conference on Service Design, which tells you how wrong they have been (and yes, there’s quite some place for agencies and designers to better their client’s brands, and not just the perception of).


Long Tail = Dead End?

I ran into Will Page a couple of weeks ago at FutureMusicCamp. Will’s not just the chief economist of PRS (and a really nice DJ). Actually, he more or less singlehandedly convinced me, that collecting societies don’t necessarily look and act like grumpy relics from the shellac age, but that their people can vividly think outside the box.

Especially one part of his keynote got me thinking. After some extensive numbers crunching, Will declared Chris Andersons Long Tail as wishful thinking. According to his numbers, the idea of the Internet opening the floodgates for a huge diversity of content to make it on the market is just wishful thinking, a mere virtual myth.

What Will did, was analyzing We7 and Spotify in the UK – and comparing this data with a Long Tail curve. Have a look at his April interview in TechDirt. There’s a nice graph right in the middle, and some good explanation on the how’s and why’s.

Now, the interesting part is this: why differ the curves of We7 and Spotify?

… We7 has a strong editorial with excellent artist promotional campaigns, whereas Spotify is editorial free and allows the consumer to graze the field at their leisure. Consequently, you can see that We7 (blue line) is more hit centric with a 90/5 rule and Spotify (green line) is more democratic with an 80/5 rule which, when you step back, is common sense made complicated but it’s nice to see the math adds up!

Right. And this most likely explains the not so long tail of the curves. It’s mostly a matter of user interfaces. Compared to any physical store, all net-based services share one thing: the depth of their catalog. Just imagine your local music dealer (if he still exists), blown up to the size of an IKEA warehouse. Anything, which can be licensed, can be bought.

The problem is: we’re not IKEA talking here, where you stroll through nicely decorated storage areas. A typical media store on the net is more the equivalent of a 20 square meter booth. Yes, there’s this giant warehouse attached. But the shelfspace is rather limited. Look at iTunes: either you know, what you are looking for, and you directly search for it. Or you rely on the best sellers and recommendations.

To unleash the long tail, you would either need a user interface, which IKEA-like unlocks the secrets of your warehouse. Or you find an affiliation model with the original rights holders, which offers curators and resellers some bit of a better cut than relying on a retailer sharing a bit of their slice with you.

Coming back to Benjamin

Did you know that? Almost a hundred years ago, Paul Valéry invented the remote control: Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign. As a reminder for the historically challenged: back then, “tele vision” was a weirdo futurist phantasy involving a Nipkow disk, placing a phone call started with cranking a bit of electricity out of a Bakelite contraption, and any HTML would have qualified as a typo.

Of course, some things didn’t change at all. Except for the pope, even back then most western men have been wearing (mostly) trousers, cars ran (mostly) on distilled dinosaur juice, and Valéry already had described the future cable ops as utilities.

Walter Benjamin With Valéry, that’s more or less how Walter Benjamin starts his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. In some parts, it got a bit dusty. The Frankfurt School has seen some better days. But in very many parts, Benjamin got hyper-accelerated:
Mechanical reproduction is so 20th century, and a bit lame.
But digital reproduction unleashes the powers Benjamin describes, just as the web brings Valéry’s science fictionesque image utility to an ultimate conclusion.
Digital is merciless in its binary absolutism:
0 vs. 1, off vs. on, dead or alive.

But other things have changed, too. Benjamin lived in the magic triangle of a world between capitalism, communism, and fascism. This world was a real mess: weirdo dictators ousting weirdo kings and dapper dukes and crazy czars out of their weirdo fiefdoms (the continental breakfast), megalomanic monopolists/monarchists squeezing out the continents (the anglos saxon model), with hyper-capitalists acting as stateless dictators and crowned heads running commercial empires.

We left at least some of that behind, and good riddance. But our globalized economy, our fully commercialized western life style comes with its own pitfalls. And, coming back to Benjamin and his theme: The most important thing which happenend to The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction is not a scratch in its aura, but the economic damage towards its creator.

You still could put your hands on Benjamin’s mechanically reproduced piece. The medium was a thingy, a tradable good. But on its way into the networked Nirvana, the work lost this handle to the commercial world. A file is a file is a file. And an unlimited supply of any good means usually bad business. Selling sand in the Sahara. Ice cubes on the north pole. You name it.

Can we change that? Sure we can. We already started to melt the poles (which, for various reasons, is not an advisable approach). We tried some crazy DRM-schemes (ankle-high dikes vs. terrible tsunami). We’re messing around with civil liberties (protecting a Lady Gaga recording’s right vs. everybody else’s rights).
Again: can we really solve that conundrum? Most likely not, if we just pretend, that everything has just to stay the same. Mind you, the medium isn’t dead. But it has lost some of its commercial magic. So if you think you might need some new fairy dust pretty soonish, please crank up your Bakelite contraption and buzz me. Otherwise, you might just have to wait a bit for ionicc’s ideas on how to hedge against billions of bad boys copying your creative goods.

Bootleg Distribution

This sounds smart: MySpace leverages their mass of uploaded bootlegged videos (as long as they are properties of Viacom’s MTV Networks). Every uploaded video (80 000 per day) will be run through Auditude’s “fingerprinting” system. MTV content will get some ad overlays, the 3 parties involved will share the ad revenues. The “benefit” for the 4th party, the uploading MySpacer (a.k.a. the editor) seems a bit weaker: he will not get reprimanded …

The Google Set-Top Box

TechCrunch has a pretty interesting write up on this. And of course, it’s not about a settop boxes at all. Think Android For TV, says Erick Schonfeld. Right. Google getting into CE hardware would make as much sense as King Midas getting into copper mining.

Still. With an Android TV, we should finally stop thinking of settop boxes. First of all: what’s an STB anyway?

  • a mostly ugly piece of cheap plastic and some electronics, attached to a mostly beautifully designed displaying device (vulgo: tv set)
  • a crutch, which assists your standard compliant displaying device (we’ve got it all set: NTSC, PAL, DVB …) in descrambling a standards compliant signal, which has been artificially crippled (I mean, protected) by your network operator
  • a wheel chair, to carry yer good olde analogue tube into the 21st century
  • Now, let’s take a step back. There’s this wonderful new HDTV set you just bought. It probably already has more computing power than NASA needed to put a man on the moon. The descrambling part, well, think CableCard 2.1. You just need a card reader, like the SIM card on a GSM phone. There’s no need for a stupid box to be attached to a smart tv.
    And of course, as the history of computing teaches us, the smart tv – if you really want it to become smart – should have something like a nice, stable standardized OS as a foundation. The basics, besides handling all the standard stuff like putting moving images on a screen, would probably be something like

  • intelligent handling of distributed storage: attach an USB-HD. Connect a NAS via W-LAN. Access your network PVR. Get stuff from your PC. Or any othe connected PC.
  • intelligent handling of different networks: all IP, broadcast networks, anything networks. Why should you care?
  • intelligent handling of the user interface: consumer electronics still tend to look like a pre-war (Gulf War I, I mean) game console. And the appeal of retro does have its limits.
  • Now. Forget about storage and networks. The really interesting part will be the UI. Why? Well, Google is in the ad business. And the quantum theory of adverising teaches us: an ad nobody looks at does not exist.
    Now look at the status quo. In one corner, we’ve got the media sales super giant with a market cap higher than the stratosphere. In the other corner, we’ve got the incumbents: cable MSOs, satellite operators, some DSL, and last but not least: the tv networks and stations. Representing the allocation of the largest piece of global media cake. Backed up with a finely interwoven network of legalese and some well greased, age old business relationships. Don’t try to push some interstitials in between their shows. Because that’s exactly the incumbent’s billion dollar business. And a well protected turf.
    So. Where’s your disruptive moment? Your leverage? It’s not that the tv ad sales business is desperately looking for some streamlining.
    Now think UI again. And have a look at the Electronic Programming Guides of nowadays: thick as a brick. TV means: you’ve got time to waste, but no screen real estate to do the same. And what does your run of the mill EPG? It wastes your valuable tv-time AND your screen real estate. Instead of waiting for the scrolling listings of the TV Guide on Screen (late 20th century), now (early 21st century) you click, click, click until you might find (or, most likely, not) the craved for nugget of information. Even worse: with all the computing power in your household at its (virtual) finger tips, an EPG stills treats your grandmother with the same relentless indifference as it treats you. For an EPG, The Weather Channel (TWC) comes just after TCM, because it’s spelled like that.

    Current EPGs are just plain vanilla displayed data. Not even information, because this would imply some intrinsic value. How comes? It’s a structural problem: “Premium” EPGs, which are slightly better, cost you a premium.
    You meaning: the operator. And the question you’re asking yourself (or your market researchers) is: is a better EPG a reason to subscribe? Would it reduce churn? Good question. Your panel won’t be able to answer that. Because they’ve never seen a really good EPG.
    Or you meaning, the manufacturer. Mostly trying to keep cost down, down, down. Because if you want to ship units, it’s a really low margin business.
    Or you meaning: the consumer. Yes, friends of Tivo, if you’re really good, a company might find some handfuls of consumers, paying a monthly premium. But tv is a mass market. Paying premium is not. Therefore, Tivos are the CE equivalent of a Beemer.

    Now how about this. If a well known company offers you (the manufacturer) a piece of software for free (hey, no licensing fees!), which even handles most of the basics things you’re going to have to implement anyway? Maybe you’ll have to add some dollars for hardware. But at least, that’s a business you understand. And it’s still cheaper and it even gives you some leverage with your operator clients. Because it’s not just a better device. There are even some ad revenues the well known company is offering to share with the operator. But wait, there’s more: how about if you (the operator) doesn’t just get a new, incremental business. They’re even throwing in the additional incentive of lowering your cost of operations (it has been nice working with you, Gemstar). And that’s just the beginning.

    Sorry. I got carried away a bit. This wouldn’t be Android TV, but Trojan TV. And maybe, you do not even need the operator that hard. As long as you are in the tv and got a net connection. What the heck. As long as your Android powered TV set chats happily ever after with your Android powered cell phone, filling iGoogle with all the behavioral data it needs to serve you the ads you deserve.