Rugby Player in a Tuxedo


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Mazda is amazing. When they wanted to create a brand new high performance car targeted for young upwardly mobile Japanese car buyers, they put together a special group of employees who would design, manufacture, deliver and sell it. According to Kim Clark and Takahiro Fujimoto, authors of Product Development Performance, the special team opted not to sit in their cubicles and read mounds of market research reports or slave over computer-generated engineering designs. The team found novel ways to really get to know their target audience.

Mazda sent the special team out for six months to actually live with the young people the company hoped would be buying the new car. They went skiing with the target owners. They went out to eat and to nightclubs with them. They studied their habits, likes, dislikes and desires. Clark and Fujimoto reported that in some cases, they literally moved in and lived with them.

The special team came back from the field study with a deep, intimate understanding of what their customers wanted this new car to be and do. They were able to create a revealing metaphor instead of just another boring set of expectations: The perfect car, to its target customers at least, would come across as “a rugby player in a tuxedo” — rugged but feline, socially recognized, polite, sportsmanlike, strong and secure, orderly, likable, bright, and elegant. The marketplace result was a mega-success.

Customer insights come from customer intimacy—knowledge gained by getting underneath the “tired and true” customer research. What can you do to deeply understand your customers’ expectations? How can you tap into your customers’ aspirations?

Dr. Johnny D. Magwood
Northeast Utilities Service Company
V.P. Customer Experience & Chief Customer Officer; Northeast Utilities Service Company. J. D. Power Smart Grid Advisory Council; Chairman- Housing Authority Baltimore City; Next Generation Utilities Advisory Board; Utility Knowledge Customer Service Council; CS Advisory Council; Magistrate Judge Seletion Committee. Marketing Executive Council; Mechanical Engineer - The Johns Hopkins University; MBA - Loyola University of Maryland; DBA - University of Phoenix; Doctoral dissertation; Mergers and Acquisition: The Role of Corporate Executives' Relationships with Stakeholders


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