The MBET Experience

The University of Waterloo – Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Program

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Purpose Brands

October 28th, 2006 · 2 Comments

Every week, there’s at least one or two things that I pick up from this program that really make me think of things in a different way. Here’s an example from our Strategy reading this week.

The article, “Marketing Malpractice” quotes Harvard professor Theodore Levitt: “People don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” The authors then state that customers “hire a product” to do a job for them. Instead of focusing on market segments and demographics, marketers should focus on the jobs customers need to do, and position their products accordingly.

This approach results in creating “purpose brands” – a brand of product that is tightly associated with the job it is meant to be hired for. Examples include:

  • FedEx – the “I-need-to-send-this-from-here to there with-perfect-certainty-as-fast-as-possible” job
  • eBay – “help-me-sell-my-stuff” job
  • Swiffer – the “I-need-to-clean-my-floors” job

I found it to be an interesting read, and this approach of looking at the job a customer needs to do really hit home. It definitely helped me look at creating and positioning new products in a different light!

Full Article (Harvard Business Review – December 2005)

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Polish Hammer // Oct 30, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    But isn’t there a problem when these companies become closely associated with only one product, then they are not able to be competitive against other brands/companies which offer the same service but have better and extra features??


  • 2 Dan // Oct 31, 2006 at 1:38 am

    I skipped part of the summary of the article. A strong brand starts with one product for one job. Near the end, it talks about extending brands without destroying them. This can be done in two ways:

    1) Evolve purpose brand into endorser brand. You develop new purpose brands for other jobs. The result is many jobs, one brand. And example of this is Marriott Hotels, with the Courtyard and Residence Inn purpose brands.

    2) Apply Purpose Brand. This is when you create different products for a common job. The example given is Sony and the Walkman, which has over 70 different styles.