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September 13, 2021

5 Everyday Examples to Exercise your Jobs-to-be-done Mindset

By Aggelos Mouzakitis

“The customer rarely buys what the company  thinks it is selling him”. 

– Peter Drucker 

Jobs-to-be-done is all about the underlying tasks that people are trying to get done in their lives. Despite the fact that JTBD theory exists for quite some time, it is still quite intimidating for founders and entrepreneurs. Stephen Wunker has spent the last 16 years operationalising JTBD theory and he brings some amazing practical elements through everyday life examples. 

Stephen Wunker is managing director at the consulting firm New Markets Advisors and author of three popular books on innovation: Costovation (HarperCollins, 2018), Jobs to be Done (Amacom, 2016), and Capturing New Markets (McGraw-Hill, 2011). 

He has spent several years working with Harvard Business School Prof. Clayton Christensen, who first popularized the idea of JTBD in innovators solutions. As Stephen says “We worked on translating this great story about JTBD to actual consulting work. Eventually, we developed a methodology about how to go from very high-level jobs-faced insights, to very grounded.”

He also has a long track record of creating successful ventures for his own companies and on behalf of clients. In this article, we will go through some amazing practical and actionable elements Stephen gave us, by analysing everyday examples from well-known brands. 


Why do people eat ice cream?

The Ben & Jerry’s example

Let’s start with a story about ice cream. Let’s imagine that you work for an ice cream company and you need to sell more ice cream. What are some ideas?

Let’s turn the story around. Forget about working for an ice cream company. Think of yourself as a consumer. Ask yourself that: Why did you have ice cream the last time you had ice cream?

Stephen explains: “If you really think about it from the perspective of the customer, you get a totally different variety of things that you can execute. Yet, it’s so easy to put on the blankers and forget what it’s like to be a customer.

He continues: “When you think about what are people actually try to get done in these circumstances, you realise that ice cream competes against going to a playground with the daughters, or sitting on the beach rather than on the board block during the evening, or having a glass of wine, or a beer while you watch TV.”

So for those Jobs-to-be-done, you can compete from totally different directions

Ben and Jerry’s, for example, have introduced a new ice cream line called Core. They added a pillar of a thick chocolate stick in the centre of the ice cream bucket, surrounded by 3 different flavours of ice cream on the sides. 

So how is this related to JTBD?

Stephen explains: “Well the mixing of the ice cream creates a different kind of ice cream every time. It’s really about customer’s taste, its a “me moment”. Or if choose to share it with my kid it combines the “me moment” and the bonding. It also gives you the opportunity to choose only one flavour or to try different flavour combinations, which makes it even more indulging. It offers a unique experience.

Oftentimes, people who are having an ice cream aren’t out to just have a sweet flavour, they are out to have an experience. And Ben and Jerry’s has figured out how to package experience into a cart board. That’s memorable!

Stephen boldly states: Don’t think of yourself as an ice cream company that needs more flavours and lower prices and better distribution. Realise that you are selling experiences and bonding and indulgence and connection. That’s what the customers actually buy, even if ice cream happens to be a mechanism for them to acquire.”

So that’s the power of JTBD thinking. 


Why do people actually buy new cars?

The BMW example

Stephen shared the incident that introduced him to Jobs-to-be-done theory. 

Back in the 90s, he was part of a project of redesigning a car. They decided that they would go and ask people what do they want in a new car and what’s important to them, based on a list of 300 variables. According to the research results, the No1 need that people want in a new automobile is breaks (!).

Stephen admits “What we had done, was that we had asked the wrong question in the wrong way. It’s paint that sells cars, it’s not breaks!”

And he continues: “People want to be unique, they want to feel special and there are handful action triggers that relate to how people actually decide to make their purchase today. If we had gone to a car dealer shop and seen what happens when people buy a car, we would have probably realized that!” 

At the very same time, people at BMW were doing it the right way! 

They were about to bring back the Mini, a car that had been dead for almost 30 years. People in the industry back then, strongly believed that nobody makes money by selling small cars. 

But BMW went out to its target consumers, who, at first, were women in their 30s. They didn’t reveal they worked for a car company. They just wanted to understand what was important to these peoples lives

An overview of what their target group said was: 

I am still fun. I may have 3 kids and 2 dogs, and drive to 15 soccer practices per week, but I am fun and special and unique.” And so BMW came out with a car that can be fun and special and unique.

As Stephen explains: “In BMW they realised that this car isn’t just about getting from place A to place B. It’s about expression, it’s about identity. People were accomplishing those jobs in very different ways. They were taking vacations, they were buying themselves different clothing, they were maybe getting a scooter to get around town on the weekends.”

Because of all that, BMW was able to price, what would be a fairly ordinary small car, at a 5.000$ premium to other offerings out there in the market. 

They ended up making big profits in a part of the car industry from which very few people did. Mainly because they realised that people are trying to get these Jobs-to-be-done


The JTBD Atlas

Stephen sets a reminder: “People are not computers. Emotions, as well as functions, matter to them and it’s usually a hand full of factors that really drive the difference. That applies both on B2B markets as well as B2C.”

That is the power of JTBD. It’s not about asking people to calculate their satisfaction gaps or express their needs. It’s about drilling in and understanding how do decisions are being made and what are those underline drivers that lead people to act in one way or another. 

Yet, there are 2 key questions:

  1. How can we ensure we focus on what customers really need, without imposing our own preconceptions or providing too much?
  2. How can we do this in an organised, disciplined, repeatable way?

At the core of Stephen’s book “Jobs to be Done”, there is a framework that is called “The Jobs Atlas”. 

We call it Atlas because it lays out a landscape of opportunities in a very solution agnostic manner, in a very detailed, objective and rigorous way.

Stephen took us through the 3 basic steps of JTBD Atlas using examples of well-known brands and everyday life. 


The JTBD Atlas – First Step:

The bank example

  • Discover the Jobs, the tasks consumers are trying to get done in their lives.
  • Uncover the job drivers, the underlying factors by which consumers prioritize their jobs.
  • Determine how consumers are interacting with current solutions.
  • Distinguish the pain points, the areas of difficulty of frustration in the consumer’s current approaches.

Stephen brings on a B2B example: 

We worked for a leading bank outside the US to understand how we could serve small and mid-sized businesses in new, differentiated ways. So, we investigated what are the pain points, challenges and JTBD that these small businesses had. As it came out, they were struggling with predictability and unpredictability. That was the real enemy of small businesses. So when customers paid late, or suppliers paid late, or a bank took 6 weeks to approve a loan, mid-sized businesses faced life-threatening crises. What they really needed was predictability. Banks could help ensure against some of those surprises, through credit lines or other things, but they could also do much more. For instance, they could help businesses forecast.”

So, by understanding the overall job of improving stability and predictability, the Bank could reveal the possibility to serve these companies in totally different ways. They could also segment their solutions and target them in a more efficient way.


The JTBD Atlas – Second Step:

The Colgate example

  • Chart the destination, identify the success criteria or indications of whether a job has been satisfied.
  • Investigate the obstacles that hurdle that limit where a consumer is willing to buy or use a new solution.
  • Make the trip worthwhile by accessing the value of the new product.
  • Beat the traditional and non-traditional competitors that help consumers complete similar sets of jobs.

A brilliant example is Colgate Wisp, as Stephen says, “The worst toothbrush ever invented that yet is a runaway consumer success!” 

Why is such a bad toothbrush, a huge commercial success? 

Stephen explains: “The job the Wisp helps people do, is not to impress their dentists or stop gum disease. It’s about helping people become presentable and confident for the afternoon. So Wisp puts Colgate in the business of selling confidence. And selling confidence is a great business to be in!

But why do people don’t just brush their teeth in the middle of the day?

At least in a lot of countries, there is a taboo against spitting in public restrooms, so they don’t use toothpaste. That’s why Wisp added that flavour bubble on the centre of the toothbrush. It doesn’t just give you a burst of flavour, it looks and tastes a bit like toothpaste. So it gets to that ritual of teeth washing that people have, without the toothpaste and the spitting.

Stephen continues: “Colgate has navigated those obstacles to adoption in an intelligent way. They figured out the pain points and designed a product that goes around those and helps people get their job done.

Oftentimes, if you have a very clear understanding of the jobs that you’re trying to get done for customers, you can avoid over-engineering the solution. You can design a simple product targeted at those JTBD, that is low cost and really delights the consumer. 


The JTBD Atlas – Third Step:

The Chuck E. Cheese example

  • Access the value of the new product idea for the consumer.
  • Assess the competitive landscape and your unique opportunities to create value for the consumer.

Stephen continues with another example from a chain of establishments called Chuck E. Cheese, which has a little mouse as a mascot. This is a group of stores that offers some old video games that kids can play, a low-quality pizza and a not great birthday cake. And it is actually pretty expensive! Yet kids have birthday parties there all the time.

Stephen explains: “Chuck E. Cheese is not in the business of selling pizza, games and cake. It’s in the business of parental guilt assuasion. Assuating the guilt of parents about doing more for their kids, is a great business to be in. For the low price of 25$ per kid, the parent can feel that they treated their kid like a Mega Super Star! The company knows that’s valuable to people.

Let’s take a look at that chart and ask ourselves would any parent ever have a child who is not a Mega Super Star? 

As Stephen underlines, “Chuck E. Cheese knows what business are they in, they know what are the JTBD they help people do and have also realised the value that people put on that. So they can charge quite a bit, for what would be, in reality, a fair ordinary offer.


How to start using JTBD in your own work

So that is the power of JTDB. It is an overall canvas for innovation opportunities. It helps understand what you have to do and what you must avoid to get those jobs done effectively.

Here are the 4 steps Stephen Wunker suggests so you can start exercising JTBD thinking in your own company.

  1. Map the entire process of stakeholder behaviour, noting where jobs coincide and clash.
  2. Keep digging and asking “why?” to get at root causes and specific cases.
  3. Create a hierarchy of stakeholder jobs and priorities.
  4. Uncover ways to satisfy both functional and emotional jobs.

I  hope you enjoyed spotting the JTBD mindest in such everyday examples from different industries. Can you think of any other brand cases that created successful products by realising what jobs are people trying to get done? I’ am interested in hearing your thoughts and questions.

Aggelos Mouzakitis

Aggelos is the founder and Growth Product Manager of Growth Sandwich. He is among the first Customer-led experts in the world, leveraging advanced, Jobs-to-be-done customer research to orchestrate and guide Growth for B2B SaaS companies. A- and B- series SaaS are hiring him to organise, design and execute programs that infuse the whole company with qualitative data, empathy and the necessary knowledge to address any growth dilemma. In the last 4 years, he has worked with more than 100 SaaS companies and trained literally, thousands through my physical and online courses.