The Expectation Economy

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As marketers, we need to understand our target customers and where they are headed. Currently, I am reading a very interesting book on this topic. The book, Trend Driven Innovation by Henry Mason, David Mattin, Maxwell Luthy, and Delia Dumitrescu, tackles this topic. In this book, the authors argue something a little counterintuitive. They claim that to find out where consumers are headed, we need to focus on businesses first and then on consumers second, because businesses are the ones redefining consumers’ expectations.

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Businesses are fueling what the authors call “The Expectation Economy.” This is an economy where customers’ expectations are constantly increasing. Customers expect businesses 1) to provide high quality products and services, 2) to have a positive impact on the environment and community, and 3) to aid in consumers’ personal expression. However, despite trying to meet these expectations, many businesses and brands never seem to be able to completely please these ever-accelerating customer expectations. The bar keeps getting set higher and higher, and today’s best isn’t good enough.

This puts brands and businesses at a disadvantage, because the consumers hold the power in this “Expectation Economy.” Many businesses are always trying to play catch up. However, by understanding consumer needs, wants, and trends (a consumer-centered culture) and by giving a business the freedom to take leaps and risks (innovation focused), a business can thrive and lead the way. In other words, don’t be a consumer-led culture, where you are too reactive. Customers are still very important (don’t get me wrong), but business innovation should be looked at closely as well because that’s what is helping to set trends and shape consumers’ wants and needs.

While I have not finished the book yet, so far it presents a very interesting perspective on customers, businesses, and trends. I highly recommend the book.

I’m going to end this blog post with a quote by Steve Jobs. It sums up why this business-first, consumer-second mindset is so important for getting ahead of customer expectations. Steve Jobs said: “Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do…People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

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