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McDonald’s wanted to sell more milkshakes.
But focus groups and customer feedback weren’t moving the needle. McDonald’s improved the flavor and texture, but sales stayed about the same.
So, the fast food giant took a different approach. It hired Harvard researcher and business expert Clay Christensen. Christensen’s team sat in the parking lot and watched for clues about who was buying milkshakes – and why.
Here’s Christensen on his findings:
After interviewing some of the shake shoppers, Christensen hit on the common theme.
Many people bought McDonald’s milkshakes for their long commutes to work.
For these customers, the milkshake’s defining feature wasn’t taste or texture, it was that it was easy to drink in the car, it kept them full on their ride, and it lasted a long time.
Rather than tinkering with the recipe, McDonald’s made it easier to grab a milkshake on the go – and made it a little thicker so it’d last longer.
The result? A sevenfold increase in milkshakes sales.
What job is your product hired to do?
The McDonald’s milkshake mystery has become the defining example of Christensen’s “Jobs to be Done” theory.
Customers hire products to do a specific job, the theory goes.
At McDonald’s, customers were “hiring” milkshakes to entertain them on a boring drive and keep them full.
That means shifting your mindset to focus not on customers, but on jobs. Marketing to someone buying a milkshake for a boring commute will be very different from a parent buying their kid a milkshake after school.
And the competition for those commuters isn’t just other milkshakes, it’s anything that would do the same job of making the commute a little more enjoyable (and filling).