78% Happy

What does it mean to be happy? According to Malcolm Gladwell, it is the different between 60% and 78%. In this great TED Talk (thanks to Drew McLellan via Todd Andrik), Malcolm delivers a great story built around Howard Moskowitz’s pioneering work in the field of psychology-led market research. Moskowitz successfully used data to not just build out a long tail type analysis of data, but he aggregated this data to form clusters of relevance. How this works for a taste test for coffee is as follows:

  • Participants in a focus group are asked to rank from 1 to 100 how happy the coffee makes them feel
  • On average, the ranking sits at about 60 — which actually translates to a cup of coffee that makes you wince

However, if a high level pre-screening takes place before the focus group, the outcomes are dramatically different. If participants can self-select a style of coffee (eg mild, heavy roast etc) — from as little as three categories — and then that particular style is provided to the focus group, the ranking from 1 to 100 will rise to 78. A 78% ranking is a "coffee that makes you deliriously happy".

Think about this in terms of your brand. Consider it in light of your profiling and strategic approach. Perhaps we don’t need to deliver value to the "nth" level of the long tail … we simply need to deliver value to the clusters. The old adage "you can’t please all the people all the time" is true — but if you can spend your research and insight budget in a way that will identify the clusters that make sense for your brand/product, then making your consumers 78% happy will more than deliver on your brand promise. It will open new markets. Don’t believe me? Listen in to the whole of Malcolm’s speech.

2 thoughts on “78% Happy

  1. Gavin, that is sure a fantastic talk. I, as a psychologist, deeply believe in the power of understanding human variability. I couldnĀ“t agree more with Malcolm and Moskowitz about the error that implies to look for the platonic anything. Nevertheless, I was stroke by Barry Schwartz’s talk, also at TED (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/93) who looks at the danger of having too many options. He is also a psychologist and I believe he makes a pretty good point about the paradox of choice. The problem, he says, is that having too many option increases people’s expectation, making them more vulnerable to frustration. Looking at both talks, it seems clear that there ought to be a balance between over simplification and multiple choices. A balance often missed by brand managers.
    Thanks for the post and have a great day!

  2. Howard Moskowitz knows what makes you happy

    Thanks to Gavin Heaton, via Drew McLellan via Todd Andrik I saw this fantastic presentation from Malcolm Gladwell at the 2004 TED Conference.

Comments are closed.