This post is my initial reaction to a Ted's video featuring Malcolm Gladwell that I have posted on website.
In this talk, Malcolm Gladwell, author of the Tipping Point and Blink, acknowledges Howard Maskowitz for his contributions to business and to consumers. Howard Maskowitz was hired in the 80’s by Campbell to help with Prego, which was struggling against Ragu, the top brand in spaghetti sauce at the time. His market research revealed that there is no one best kind of product and instead the company needs to cluster their customers to understand what product will satisfy each group. Based on his advice Prego came up with the first extra chunky spaghetti sauce, which was an instant success and over the next 10 years they made over 600 million dollars selling super chunky spaghetti sauce.
“And that’s when you started getting seven different kinds of vinegar, and 14 different kinds of mustard, and 71 different kinds of olive oil…That’s Howard’s doing. That is Howard’s gift to the American people.” And from diversity in product offerings, Gladwell jumps to embracing diversity in people as a sure way to happiness. His whole talk at Ted’s is about variety in spaghetti sauce and all the products we find in the super market today to meet consumers’ diverse needs and that he believes is what will make people happy? It is not about the artificial ingredients and genetically modified ingredients put in the sauce to make it appealing to a particular cluster but it is about providing choice and doing what ever it takes to make your customer happy, in the short run at least. Because we all know in the long run, it takes more than spaghetti sauce made with artificial ingredients to keep you healthy and therfore happy.
Indeed, Howard had some remarkable insights about how consumers’ responses in surveys can be misleading. And yes, consumers can be clustered according to their preferences. But is the best we can do and talk about is how to sell more spaghetti sauce? Why do the innovators and great minds not use their insights to improve consumer health and well being? For example, how can we cluster people to make mindfulness practices more appealing? How can we ensure that the products we offer cater to the health of the customers and the environment? What kind of innovations in the distribution system can ensure that there is more equitable distribution so that both waste and scarcity are eliminated?