Christensen, C. M., Cook, S., & Hall, T. (2005). Marketing Malpractice. Harvard Business Review, 83(12), 74-83.

The article proposes a change to companies’ marketing strategies. The authors claim that “the job, not the customer, is the fundamental unit for analysis for a marketer who hopes to develop products that customers will buy”. The claim has an interesting relation to Holtzblatt’s recent proposition that user-centered design should change its focus from tasks to whole lives of the users. While Holtzblatt wants designers to widen their perspective, Christensen et al. want to narrow down the focus of marketing people.

The result of the proposed change in marketing should be purpose brands, i.e. brands (or products and services) that fill the needs of the customers and fit into their lives. In addition to focusing on jobs instead of customers or customer segments, the authors’ also suggest focusing on products and services instead of marketing. They summarize this by stating: “To Build Brands that mean something to customers, you need to attach them to products that mean something to customers“. ¬†Examples of this kind of focusing and resulting purpose brands are: Sony walkman (job: help-me-escape-the-chaos-in-my-world), Kodak single-use camera, and Milwaukee Sawzall (job: cutting through a wall quickly and not knowing what’s under the surface). Interestingly the authors explain the later failures of Sony and Kodak with abandoning the purpose brand strategy.

The paper describes two strategies of extending a purpose brand: applying the brand and creating supporting brands. Applying the brand means developing many products for the selected job and creating supporting brands means creating new products or services under one brand to answer to new needs/jobs. However, the aim seems to be to separate these new products from the original one and thus create new purpose brands.