When I became account executive on the Ariel account, I was asked to write a note on the brand's latest “Usage and Attitude” survey. Back then, Procter & Gamble ran two such studies a year with a market research company, that sent inspectors into hundreds of homes to monitor how consumers lived with their products. We would sit feverishly waiting for the results, in the knowledge that we would be expected to interpret them and come up with recommendations.
Several decades later, old-style “Usage and Attitude” reports have given way to studies that try to get much closer to consumers. Closer to what Procter & Gamble calls “The second moment of truth,” i.e., when consumers use the product, the first moment of truth being the act of purchasing. Procter & Gamble products are consumed three billion times every day so, not surprisingly, observing customers closely is P&G's main source of inspiration.
Haier: From Anomaly to Innovation
Zhang Ruimin is the highly charismatic chairman of Haier, the world's largest supplier of white goods (meaning washing machines and fridges). Fortune magazine has claimed that Zhang is “innovating radically, maybe more radically than any other manager operating on such a large scale.”1 How? By making Haier totally alert to any observation that might be of use to them, especially when it is unexpected or even disturbing.
Here is a much-reported story that features in many books on innovation. A rural customer complains ...