Episode #192: How do Your Customers Really Use Your Product?

Grad Conn

May 17, 202216 min read

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The challenge with marketing is that we all think we know our products and services better than anyone. But do we? In today’s episode we learn why we need to get out of our own heads and think like our customers. The results might surprise you.

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All right. So, welcome to diaper talk. It’s actually… we’re gonna be talking about diapers today on the Copernican Shift, but this is the Copernican Shift with Grad Conn. But wouldn’t that be… maybe Randy, maybe what if we rename the show? Diaper talk for a while just for fun? What do you think?

Randy Choco 
New podcast; Diaper Talk.

That could go a lot of different ways. That could work, that could work. I’ve seen crazy things work.

So I’m going to talk today about one of my most favorite topics, which is the unexpected ways in which people buy and use our products, and how important it is to deeply understand the customer insights around why people are really buying the product, or maybe it’s a use case, or something like that. So I’ve got three examples. I’m going to talk a little bit about detergents and scoops, I have referenced this in the past, but this is kind of a nice collection. I’m going to talk about Pampers diapers, I’m going to talk about Tesla cars. So those are my three things. Two are from Procter and Gamble. And one is not, that’s probably pretty easy to guess.

So I’m going to start with a scoop story first, because it was actually one of my earliest pieces of education into this the sort of psychological assessment of the way people buy and use things, and how important it is not to make assumptions. It’s a hard thing to coach people on, because it always sounds a little critical… I think is probably the word… I don’t want people to feel like they’re being criticized. But human beings have a tendency to frame things from their own context. Which in and of itself is not insane. I’ve experienced something, I will continue to frame things in the experience that I had. Sort of make sense, right? What else are you going to do? You’ve got to base it on something, but super dangerous as a marketer. And the interesting thing about marketing is that marketing is a discipline that everybody thinks they can do. I don’t know why that is. But everybody thinks they can be a great marketer. You know, engineers, you know, CTOs CEOs… everyone’s a marketing genius. It’s kind of mind blowing, actually. And they often will base this on their own preconceived notions of what does and doesn’t work in marketing. Superduper, dangerous because they’re coming at it from a very narrow angle.

And I say even to a marketer, a professional marketer, a good one always has a healthy disrespect for their own point of view. I’ll repeat that. A healthy disrespect for your own point of view. If you ever hear yourself saying; Well, I never, or I wouldn’t, or I probably would… stop talking like right then. Go zipit. That’s your cue not to keep talking. Because you use the word I. Stop. What you would do, what you would watch, what you would or wouldn’t enjoy, doesn’t matter. Just doesn’t matter. What matters is what your buyers, your customers are doing. And you’ve got to work really hard to understand that. You’ve got to stay outside your own head. Because, you know, let’s face it, you’re living in an economic class that’s very rare. And you’re in a profession that is over… as much as people feel like they’re oversaturated with marketing and advertising, marketing and advertising people are massively oversaturated. And they’re the worst examples. It’s a little bit like theater, if you know anyone who’s in theater, with some rare exceptions, but a lot of people in theater are not that much fun to go to theater with. It’s funny. And I’ve tried to maintain this sort of child’s mind, but even then, it’s hard. Sometimes another way for me to manage it is just to keep my mouth shut. But a lot of theater people are all theater critics. And they’re all writers. And they’re all lyricist, and they’re all composers, and they all think they know how to do all this stuff better. And they’ll sit there and purse their lips and kind of wag their finger and shake their head and talk about all the things that are wrong with the show. Like sure, someone spent 10 years writing that, okay, you could do better. Which show did you write? Oh, you didn’t write a show? Oh, you just think you can write a show. Okay, but you can criticize the show the someone else wrote. Okay, that’s kind of interesting. Okay, keep that stuff in mind.

So, going back to marketers. You gotta be careful that you don’t let the oversaturation of your profession synthesize your mind. This is actually really hard to do. This is a huge mindset issue. This is a lifetime of insulation that you’ve got to put in place. I think, potentially, I do it by playing with a lot of toys and a lot of Lego. And I try to maintain a general mindset of a 12 year old, and I find that works pretty well. And I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that I do operate like a 12 year old. So I’m feeling like I’m nailing that one right now. Sometimes not always positive, but every time someone says your acting like a 12 year old, I’m like, Yeah, nailed it. So stay 12.

So, Tide scoops. There’s a big issue on Tide, back in the 1980s. It was powder form. And the biggest issue on Tide was it was being under consumed quite significantly by about 34%. So 34% less Tide was being used per load, then recommended. And this was important for two reasons. One is that if you use the correct amount, you’re going to get the best cleaning outcome. Particularly if you underused detergent, the builders can’t go to work on tying up the hard water molecules. So what will happen is in under use situations… most people’s water is pretty hard. And so the builders are insufficient. So the surfactants end up being mostly bound to hard water molecules, not to dirt. That doesn’t really clean your clothes. It’s a huge, huge issue. And the second thing is you’re selling as a company 34% less detergent. So that’s a lot of lost sales. So everyone had a theory on why people were doing this. So they’re saving money, they’re being economical, times are tough. People are too stupid to know how much to use. Or what you hear a lot of is my mom blah blah blah blah blah. Or when I’m doing detergent blah blah blah. It was a cacophony of opinions.

So Craig Backman and our product development group came up with this process called in home visits where we went and watched people do laundry. If you listen to the show you’ve heard the in home laundry story before. We saw people actually dosing and what we learned was, it wasn’t any of the things that people thought. It was that if I’m going to use something to scoop detergent, I’m going to use something that is essentially garbage. Because the detergent scours it and ruins it. So typically I’m using old tea cups, old coffee cups, that kind of stuff. Broken crockery. Almost never was at the actual recommended size. So what we wanted to do is we realized we needed to give someone something to scoop with, that they didn’t care about. But ideally give them something that would be the correct dose. So we invented Tide scoops, which are essentially beer cups with printing on them. We put them in every box, we raised consumption 20% In one year. It was a massive, massive positive revenue hit. And that always taught me the lesson that you think you know why something’s happening, but you don’t. You don’t know. So you’ve got to go find out.

Another great story is a Pamper story. I heard this story reasonably early in my career as well. This is going back to the turn of the 60s and 70s when Pampers were introduced, 1970 I imagine. And they came out with the first disposable diaper. So up until Pampers, you probably know this, but diapers were square pieces of cloth. And most people pinned them together in the corners. This is how I learned to diaper my sister Meredyth… call out to Meredyth… and the many diaper occasions I interacted with her. Nothing brings siblings together like changing diapers. And I’m sure she’s absolutely loving this right now. And then you put a little plastic panty on top of it so that it wouldn’t get wet. And then you would have to change them pretty frequently because they got really wet and that wasn’t good for baby skin because like a baby rash and it was a pretty disgusting process all in all. And then diaper services emerged to take away all the dirty diapers, bring back new clean ones, but it was still a pretty disgusting process.

They came out with disposable diapers, suddenly I can wipe it all up, put it all in this thing, wrap it up, tape it back up. Drop it into a bag, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. It was a pretty significant revolution. And what they did is they said, here we go, disposable diapers, the most convenient way to diaper your baby. And very quickly pampers rose to be about 10% of all diapering occasions and then stopped. It stalled out at 10%. Couldn’t rise beyond. Just very interesting. And you’ll actually see this as a little bit of a principle. When I talk about this, this 10% mark is an interesting high watermark for convenience-based attributes, or convenience-based strategies.

So what was going on? Why weren’t people using it? And they found that people did use them, they used them on travel trips, sometimes when they’re going somewhere. But on a day to day basis in the home, they weren’t using disposable diapers. Why not? And this is like… you’re trying to think right now, why not? You know, I don’t know. Why not, why not? Well, I’ll tell you, why not. And this is why you can’t just guess on stuff. You’ve got to talk to people.

So what’s more important than the child to a new parent? Think about that for a second. What’s more important than the child to a new parent? Okay, ready? Nothing is more important than the child to a new parent. Period. They will die for that being, okay. So I say, hey, there’s this new thing out, it’s more convenient, easier. I love my child, I want to do the very best thing for my child. Convenience is something for me, not something for my child. Every once in a while, I’ll pull it off. But as a loving parent, I want to do the thing that’s best for the child. Right? Cloth diapers, they’re soft, and they’re warm, comforting. That’s how my mom did it. That’s how my grandma did it. Like, you know, all that kind of stuff.

So then the Pampers came out with a new strategy. And you’ve probably seen these ads where they would put a cloth diaper down… they don’t do this anymore, because no one really uses cloth diapers anymore… but they put a cloth diaper down on one side and put a bucket of water in it and put a blotter on top of it. They put a Pampers on the right hand side, put a bucket of water on it and put a blotter on it. And they would take a baby’s bums and even put the baby’s bums down on the blotter and pick them up again. And the blotter on the cloth side, not surprisingly, was much wetter than the blotter on the Pampers side. Selling line, selling idea? Pampers keeps your baby drier. And it’s not a huge leap to know that drier babies are happier babies, and drier babies are gonna get less diaper rash. And diaper rash is actually pretty dangerous. Really that’s not a good thing for baby to have. Otherwise you have to cover them in Penaten, and the Penaten man shall pass, and all this kind of…  it gets kind of crazy. So you really want to avoid that.

So drier baby is a healthier baby. Drier baby is happier baby. I want to do the very best thing for my baby. I’m gonna go buy Pampers. In two years, Pampers went from 10 to 90% of diapering occasions. Two years. Now, that’s a fast turn market, right, because people are always entering it and always exiting. But that’s amazing. That’s the power of getting the correct idea. And also reinforces the idea that the primary benefit has to be emotionally connected to what’s important to the person. And that’s why convenience strategies  always tap out at 10%. They’re not nothing. You can still build a business there. But people have trouble buying products just for convenience, because that just doesn’t really seem like something that I would care about as much. What I care about is loving my family, being safe, you know, performance outcomes, like those are the things that people care about.

Like ask any Mercedes owner why they bought their Mercedes. They never say to show up all the neighbors, to show people how successful I am. That’s definitely operating. What they say is it’s the safest car on the road. And what they’re doing there is they’re expressing a logical reason for purchasing the car. Because they have an emotional need to seem like they made the decision rationally, even though there’s an underlying emotion of why they bought that car. And this kind of stuff is super subtle. You got to be all over it. It’s very interesting watching Tesla. I think Tesla’s got a very much a Pampers type of thing going on here, because until a Tesla came along all electric cars sold the idea that they’re environmentally friendly. People don’t not care about the environment, but there’s always a condition on it. I mean, everyone will be like, oh yeah, I care about saving the planet but not if I have to spend more money. Not if it’s less convenient, not if I can’t do this, not if I can’t do that. It’s always a conditional support. Electric cars have been around for a very long time… some of the very first cars in the 1800s were electric. So electric cars are not a new thing. But they have an inconvenience factor in terms of the charging. Even if you can do it overnight, the charging is cumbersome. Whereas I can throw some gas in the tank and I’m off. I can fuel a car in minutes and be gone. That’s a significant differentiation. And so the electric cars have never been able to get over this hurdle. They essentially had an inconvenience hurdle that they couldn’t get past. And they kept pushing the environmental angle. And built cars that looked environmentally conscious. And never made any kind of serious penetration in the market.

Along comes Tesla. What do they do? Two things, brilliantly. One is sexy looking cars. Not everybody likes them, but they are good looking cars, they’re not square boxes. Number two, they talk a lot about performance. Tesla doesn’t do a ton of actual advertising. But I think if they did an ad, my guess is the ad would be focused on zero to 60 in 3.1 seconds, fastest car on the road. That’s what people just love. There’s also this other safety benefit. Because the batteries are on the underside of the car Tesla’s are very, very bottom weighted, they handle really well. And they’re almost impossible to turn over. So very safe, very safe in collisions and all that kind of stuff. But that’s a characteristic of the way the car is built from a battery standpoint.

And so there are these really interesting new benefits that Tesla has. I remember the very first time I read that Tesla was the fastest car. And I’m thinking, I never thought of buying electric car. Now I’m thinking of buying electric car because I love going fast in a car. That is something I care about. And you know, and if I save the environment too, excellent. But speed and performance are what I buy a car for. Tesla is now owning speed and performance. That is brilliant. And that is about getting at the core underlying motivations that make people tick.

So as you think about your business, let’s say you’re in B2B, why are people buying your product? And if you didn’t answer to help their career, then you’re not thinking about this correctly. And why they don’t buy your product is because they’re worried that it might destroy their career. The number one issue in every B2B selling enterprise is that the loss closed column, if the codes are done correctly, loss closed, the competitor is always no decision. That’s going to be 50% of the loss closed. No decision, self-built, that kind of stuff. People are afraid to make the decision because they’re afraid of what it might do their career because they don’t know enough to make the decision correctly. Buyer enablement, making sure people understand the full landscape, make sure people are armed with the ability to sell to their team, to sell to their bosses, and to defend with their peers is critical. And you’ve got to get at these underlying motivations.

Too many people think marketing is just blocking and tackling. And it’s just a bunch of numbers and a bunch of random ads, and they’re losing the art of understanding the motivator. And they’re rotating a bunch of variety headlines. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’re doing it without the knowledge of what makes people tick, probably wasting a lot of time and money. I’m gonna step off my soapbox now. And it did talk a little bit of a Procter Gamble today but no, no soap, just detergent. And diapers. You’re probably thinking I thought detergent was soap. So wrong. Randy mark that down. We’ve got to do a detergent versus soap show. I’m going to deeply enjoy that. We’re gonna geek out on surfactants. Alright, for the Copernican Shift, I’m Grad Conn. Thanks for listening.

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