It’s common for health club operators and vendors to build products and services to fit into a specific preset category. These products and services are often justified by joining a product category that aims to answer a problem within a given segment. In many ways, this is considered solid thinking.
Harvard Business School professor and author of "Innovator's Dilemma," Clay Christenson, has a different way of thinking. Christenson produced a theory that suggests marketing opportunities should be looked at through a lens of hiring a product to do a "job to be done" (JTBD). He uses a milkshake study to reinforce this theory.
He explains that a milkshake is not merely in a milkshake category with other milkshake competitors; it also competes with foods-on-the-go that have certain characteristics. Christenson found many morning commuters turn to a milkshake as their breakfast of choice. Intrigued by this notion, Christenson interviewed commuters and found that many of them purchased milkshakes because they were something to conveniently hold while driving to work. Milkshakes helped these morning commuters break the commuting boredom and keep occupied while driving with one hand on the wheel. Other benefits of milkshakes were that they were thick and took time to consume, elongating the experience, which was important on a slow commute. Further, they provided something consumers could use to suppress hunger until lunchtime. These items mentioned are the JTBD, not the simple consumption of a chocolate milkshake.
With the above information in mind, it can be determined that this product is not only competing with other milkshakes but also with other foods that are easy to consume on the go and take time to consume. This theory allows brands to see a much larger competitive set and market size than many would have originally thought.
Christenson’s theory would suggest that milkshake manufacturers should not focus on trying to make their chocolate milkshakes more chocolatey as an innovative step, but rather, they should consider adding something unexpected (such as fruit pieces) to the milkshake as a random surprise to the consumer. This would add another element into the milkshake to address boredom during a morning commute. Christenson argues that when building or innovating a product through this lens, the integrated experienced becomes your competitive advantage.
As a health club operator, what do you see as the JTBD of members? For example, do you believe members purchase personal training or is the job to be done that members need someone to keep them accountable? If it is the latter, what, as an operator, can be done to enhance that JTBD? For example, do wearables help keep the client accountable to cardio sessions that do that job? That’s how to innovate, according to the professor.