Understanding the Job

Edward Capaldi
31 Mar 201604:55


TLDRThe video script narrates a story of innovation in marketing, highlighting the importance of understanding the underlying 'job' customers hire products to do. It uses the example of a fast-food restaurant trying to increase milkshake sales. Despite traditional product improvement efforts, sales remained stagnant. A shift in perspective led to observing when and how customers used milkshakes, revealing that they were used to make a boring morning commute more interesting and to stave off morning hunger. This insight, compared to other breakfast options like bananas or donuts, led to understanding how to improve the milkshake, making it a better fit for the customer's needs, thus driving sales and profits.


  • 💡 Innovation is key in marketing and understanding the underlying 'job' customers hire products for is crucial.
  • 📚 The traditional approach of improving products based on customer feedback may not always lead to increased sales or profits.
  • 🕵️‍♂️ Observing customer behavior and understanding their needs in real-life situations can reveal insights that direct questioning might miss.
  • 🚗 The case study of the milkshake sales revealed that the product was used to fill a specific 'job' during a morning commute, not just as a food item.
  • 🥪 People used the milkshake as a means to make their long, boring drive to work more interesting and to stave off hunger until later in the morning.
  • 🍌 Other potential solutions like bananas, donuts, bagels, and Snickers bars were considered but found to be less effective for the 'job' at hand.
  • 🥤 The milkshake's viscosity and the fact that it could be consumed over a longer period of time made it the ideal product for the 'job'.
  • 🏆 The success of a product isn't just about its features but about how well it performs the 'job' customers need it to do.
  • 💭 When understanding the 'job', improving the product becomes more obvious as you can focus on what truly matters to the customer.
  • 🎯 Marketers should aim to understand not just what customers say they want, but what they actually do and why they do it.

Q & A

  • Who is the speaker in the transcript and what is his profession?

    -The speaker in the transcript is Clay Christensen, who is a professor at a Business School.

  • What is the main topic of discussion in the transcript?

    -The main topic of discussion is innovation and understanding customer needs, specifically focusing on how people 'hire' products to do certain jobs in their lives.

  • What was the initial approach of the fast-food restaurant to increase milkshake sales?

    -The initial approach was to ask customers for feedback on how to improve the milkshake based on various attributes like taste, texture, and price.

  • What was the outcome of the initial approach to improve milkshake sales?

    -The initial approach did not have any impact on sales or profits, despite making improvements based on customer feedback.

  • What was the different question the colleague asked that led to a breakthrough?

    -The colleague asked what job arises in people's lives that causes them to buy a milkshake from the restaurant.

  • What did the observation of customers buying milkshakes reveal?

    -The observation revealed that nearly half of the milkshakes were sold before 8 o'clock in the morning to customers who were alone, bought only a milkshake, and drove off with it.

  • How did the researchers understand the 'job' that customers were trying to do by buying a milkshake?

    -They confronted the customers outside the restaurant and asked about the last time they had been in a similar situation and what they 'hired' to do the job instead of a milkshake.

  • What was the 'job' that the customers were trying to do in the morning?

    -The 'job' was to have something to do during their long and boring drive to work that would keep the commute interesting and also satisfy their hunger by 10 o'clock in the morning.

  • Why did the customers prefer milkshakes over other options like bananas, donuts, or bagels?

    -Milkshakes were preferred because they were viscous and took longer to consume, kept the driver's hands relatively clean, and stayed fresh until they were needed to satisfy their hunger.

  • What is the key takeaway from the milkshake case study?

    -The key takeaway is that understanding the actual 'job' customers are trying to accomplish with a product can lead to insights on how to improve the product and create a better customer experience.



📚 Introduction to Innovation and Marketing

The speaker, Clay Christensen, introduces himself as a professor at a Business School and discusses his approach to teaching innovation. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the core motivations behind why people engage with products, suggesting that products are 'hired' to do specific jobs in consumers' lives. This understanding is crucial for motivating customers to purchase offerings. He shares an anecdote about a project with a fast-food restaurant aiming to increase milkshake sales, highlighting the limitations of traditional feedback methods and proposing a more insightful approach to understanding consumer behavior.




Innovation refers to the process of introducing new ideas, methods, or products to improve upon existing ones. In the context of the video, innovation is central to understanding how to motivate customers to purchase products. The speaker emphasizes the importance of aligning product development with the jobs that customers need to get done, which is a key aspect of innovative marketing strategies.


Marketing is the process of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. In the video, marketing is identified as a core challenge in achieving customer motivation. The speaker suggests that traditional marketing approaches may not be effective if they do not consider the jobs that customers hire products to perform, which is a critical insight for more effective marketing strategies.

💡Customer Motivation

Customer motivation refers to the driving forces or reasons behind why customers choose to purchase or use a product or service. In the video, understanding customer motivation is key to solving the problem of how to encourage customers to buy what a company is offering. By identifying the job that customers need to get done, a company can better align its products with customer needs and desires.


Jobs-to-be-Done is a concept that focuses on understanding the tasks or problems that customers are trying to solve when they engage with a product or service. In the video, this concept is crucial for innovation and marketing because it shifts the focus from product features to customer needs. By identifying the specific jobs that customers are trying to get done, companies can design products that better serve those needs.

💡Product Hiring

The term 'product hiring' refers to the idea that customers don't just buy products; they 'hire' them to perform a specific job or task in their lives. This perspective is central to the video's message about understanding customer motivation and aligning product development with the actual needs of customers.

💡Customer Feedback

Customer feedback is the information received from customers about their experiences, preferences, or suggestions regarding a product or service. In the video, customer feedback is initially sought through traditional methods like asking for improvements on the milkshake's taste or texture. However, the speaker emphasizes the need to go beyond surface-level feedback to uncover the deeper jobs that customers are trying to accomplish.


Sales refer to the act of selling products or services to customers, and it is a critical measure of business success. In the video, the focus is on how understanding the jobs-to-be-done can lead to increased sales by creating products that better meet customer needs. The speaker's research shows that traditional methods of improving products do not necessarily translate to sales growth, and a deeper understanding of customer motivations is required.

💡Customer Needs

Customer needs are the specific requirements or desires that customers have when they seek out a product or service. Understanding these needs is essential for creating products that customers will want to 'hire' to fulfill those needs. In the video, the speaker emphasizes the importance of uncovering the true needs behind customer actions, which often go beyond surface-level observations.

💡Product Development

Product development is the process of creating new products or improving existing ones to meet customer needs and gain a competitive advantage. In the video, product development is discussed in the context of jobs-to-be-done, highlighting that a deep understanding of the jobs customers are trying to get done is crucial for developing products that truly resonate with them.

💡Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis involves evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors to understand the market landscape and identify opportunities for improvement. In the video, the speaker notes that customers' competitive analysis includes not just other milkshakes but also other options like bananas, donuts, and Snickers bars that could fulfill the same job of making the morning commute more interesting.

💡Customer Experience

Customer experience refers to the overall impression and satisfaction a customer has with a product or service, from initial contact to post-purchase support. In the video, the speaker discusses how understanding the job customers are trying to get done can significantly enhance the customer experience by ensuring that the product meets their specific needs and expectations.


Innovation in marketing is at the core of what makes motivation difficult to achieve.

The key to motivating customers is understanding the 'job' they hire a product to do.

The traditional approach of asking customers for feedback on products often fails to improve sales or profits.

A study on a fast-food restaurant's milkshakes revealed that understanding the 'job' customers hire milkshakes for was crucial.

Milkshake sales were found to peak before 8 am, with customers often alone and buying only milkshakes.

Customers used milkshakes to make their long and boring commutes interesting.

The 'job' customers hired milkshakes for was not hunger, but the need for something to do during their drive.

Customers wanted a product that would keep them full until 10 am and fit in their cup holder.

The milkshake was competing with other breakfast items like bananas, donuts, and bagels, not just other milkshakes.

The milkshake's viscosity made it last for the entire commute, unlike other quick-to-eat options.

Understanding the 'job' to be done opens up new insights on how to improve a product.

Innovation is not just about product features but about fulfilling the customer's underlying needs.

Traditional market research methods may miss the underlying 'jobs' customers are trying to accomplish.

The 'job' theory of innovation provides a framework for understanding customer behavior.

By observing customer behavior in context, businesses can uncover the true 'jobs' their products are hired for.

The success of a product is not determined by its features but by how well it solves the customer's 'job'.

Innovative methods of understanding customer needs can lead to breakthroughs in product development.

The 'job' theory can be applied to a wide range of products and services to enhance their market performance.



hi my name's clay Christensen I'm a




Business School I brought with me a set


of puzzles all related to innovation


we decided that the way we teach


marketing is at the core of what makes


motivation difficult to achieve the most


helpful way we've thought of it so far


is that we actually hire products to do


things for us and understanding what job


we have to do in our lives for which we


would hire a product is really the key


to cracking this problem of motivating


customers to buy what we're offering so


I wanted just to tell you a story about


a project we did for one of the big fast


food restaurants they were trying to


Goose up the sales of their milkshakes


they had just studied this problem up


the Gazoo they brought in customers who


fit the profile of the quintessential


milkshake consumer and they give them


samples and asked could you tell us how


we can improve our milkshake so you'd


buy more of them do you want a


chocolatier cheap or chunky or chewy or


they get very clear feedback they would


then improve the milkshake on those


dimensions and it had no impact on sales


or profits whatsoever so one of our


colleagues went in with a different


question on his mind and that was I


wonder what job arises in people's lives


that caused them to come to this


restaurant to hire a milkshake so we


stood in a restaurant for 18 hours one


day and just took very careful data what


time did they buy these milkshakes what


were they wearing were they alone did


they buy other food with it did they eat


it in the restaurant or drive off with


it it turned out that nearly half of the


milkshakes were sold before 8 o'clock in


the morning the people who bought them


were always alone it was the only thing


they bought and they all got in the car


and drove off with it so to figure out


what job they were trying to hire it to


do we came back the next day and stood


outside the restaurant so we could


confront these folks as they left the


milkshake in hand and in language that


they could understand we essentially


asked excuse me please but I got to sort


this puzzle out what job were you trying


to do for yourself that caused you to


come here and hire that milkshake and


they'd struggle to answer so we didn't


help them


asking other questions like well think


about the last time you were in the same


situation meeting to get the same job


done but you didn't come here to hire a


milkshake what did you hire and then as


we put all of their answers together it


became clear that they all had the same


job to do in the morning and that is


they had a long and boring drive to work


and they just needed something to do how


they drove to keep the commute


interesting one hand had to be on the




but somebody given him another hand and


there wasn't anything in it and they


just needed something to do while they


drove they weren't hungry yet but they


knew they'd be hungry by 10 o'clock so


they also wanted something that would


just pull down there and stay for their


morning good question what am I hire


when I do this job you know I've never


framed the question that way before but


last Friday I heard a banana to do the


job take my word for it never hire


bananas they're gone in three minutes


you're hungry by 7:30 if you promise not


to tell my wife I probably hire donuts


twice a week but they don't do it well


either they're gone fast they crumb all


over my clothes they get my fingers




sometimes I hire bagels but as you know


they're so dry and tasteless then I have


to steer the car with my knees while I'm


putting jam on them and then if the


phone rings we got that crisis I


remember I hired a Snickers bar once but


ah I felt so guilty I've never hired


Snickers again let me tell you when I


come here and hire this milkshake


it is so viscous that it easily takes me


20 minutes to suck it up that thin


little straw who cares what the


ingredients are I don't all I know is


I'm full all morning and it fits right


here in my cup holder well it turns out


that the milkshake does the job better


than any of the competitors which in the


customers minds are not burger king


milkshakes but it's bananas Donuts


bagels Snickers bars coffee and so on


but I hope you can see how if you


understand the job how to improve the


product becomes just obvious

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