As brand has become defined by the experience it delivers, I’ve noticed a more prominent focus on understanding what makes our customers tick, and taking a consumer-centric approach to decision-making. I even have a stuffed animal on my desk wearing a “customer centricity” t-shirt, to serve as a reminder that we should keep the consumer top-of-mind as we go about our jobs. For the most part, my coworkers consider him part of the collection of “critters” I’ve acquired over my years as a researcher (anyone reading this who’s been to a conference or focus group facility may have a few of these as well). But I have also acquired a passionate belief that getting to know the people who buy our products and use our services and ultimately pay our paychecks can help create an invaluable collection of knowledge, that can benefit both businesses and customers.

When it comes to branding, it can be easy to appreciate the idea of research, but harder to justify the costs. But, with a “laser focus on the customer” so top-of-mind for senior leadership, this is a perfect time to use consumer research to start a conversation about more than just brand. Maybe it’s a conversation about business strategy, brand, and the experiences that we are working to create every day. 

Enter “Jobs to Be Done”

Recently, I came across an article on “Jobs to Be Done” from the September 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review. While not necessarily a new idea (in addition to having parallels in other fields– from Anthropology to UX), it’s a straightforward and catchy way to package an important principle– understanding the role of a product in the context of the consumer’s life. And like the customer centricity movement, it’s continuing to gain traction and broader application across industries.

Reading this article got me thinking about how we can leverage the framework of jobs to be done—now a hot topic after being featured on the cover of a major publication—to build better brands.

Historically, “Jobs to Be Done” has its roots at the product level; immortalized by the “milkshakes” case study. Instead of starting with the product (in this case, a milkshake) and asking consumers to evaluate it, they looked at the job consumers were “hiring” a milkshake to do. This resulted in not only an optimized product that ‘gets the job done,’ but also a specific purpose for the product and broadened view of the competitive set.

So how can “Jobs to Be Done” be applied to branding?

While “Jobs to Be Done” is often referred to in the context of product development, it can be applied just as easily to branding, and is just as relevant. Many brands do more jobs than a milkshake, so understanding the role your brand plays in customers’ lives can be an invaluable tool for building brands that resonate deeply with consumers.

  1.  1) Developing better brands.     When someone chooses your brand, whether she or he is a new or long-time customer, they’re doing so because it serves a purpose in their life. Just like with product development, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to create the need for your brand, instead of ensuring your brand is meeting a need. By understanding why consumers are hiring one brand versus another, we can build stronger brands that are relevant to what really matters to consumers and meaningfully differentiates from the competition. Brand equity research is one of the tools in the branding toolkit that can help us dig into how consumers perceive the category, what they want from us, and why they should pick us over other solutions.
  2. 2) Optimizing brand experience.     Whether you’ve just refreshed your brand and are in the process of bringing it to life, or looking for new ways to infuse your brand into your company, the theory of jobs to be done can be applied to your brand experience. By digging into the ways people interact with your brand—from the jobs you’re serving to the ways in which you’re touching and communicating with the customer—you can uncover opportunities to create an experience that seamlessly delivers from the perspective and context of the customer. Not only can we better understand the touchpoints from our point of view, but we can also discover new ways of thinking about the experience– ways consumers are or could be interacting with our brand that we’re not currently addressing. Therefore, identifying a new job we can solve for through our brand experience.

What does all this mean for your brand?

Recently, I worked with a client in the financial industry going through a brand refresh. One way we could think about territories for this brand is in terms of what the company and products do. Since the products provide financial security—meeting “safety” needs if we were to map it to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—we could start there to create a brand that’s true to who they are and what they do. It would check many of the boxes in terms of building a brand. But this inside-out perspective is missing a critical piece of the puzzle– why is the consumer hiring this brand?

We conducted consumer research to gain the outside-in perspective and a better understanding of the role of the brand in the minds and lives of their customers. What we found is that while financial security played a role, it was not the only job the brand was being hired to do. As a point of differentiation, customers were hiring this brand over the competition for the emotional job that it performed. This not only illuminated white space from the competition—most were already communicating their reputability—but also an opportunity to connect with consumers on another level.

By learning about the role your brand plays in consumers’ lives, you can open more doors for appealing to their needs through brand expression, standing out from the competition with a more compelling story, and creating a stronger connection with the people who are hiring you to inspire brand advocacy.

Whether you’re thinking about a brand evolution or you’re in the middle of one, “Jobs to Be Done” is a tangible way to approach how we think about the intersection of our consumers and our brands.

Want to continue the conversation about brand and “Jobs to be Done”? Connect With Us and together let’s make a case for customer-centric branding at your company. 

Andrea McCoy is a Senior Consultant with an emphasis in Insights. 

September 27, 2016 By Monigle