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Book review: Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It

Book review: Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It

Want to create a success like the iPad or Nespresso? Demand has a bunch of good pointers.

Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It

By Adrian J. Slywotzky with Karl Weber Hachette
Pages: 377
Price: Rs 299

Imagine a market researcher asking you in the mid-1990s or the early part of last decade if you would want to browse the Internet, consume videos, or play games on a screen thinner than a schoolboy's slate. If you keep away the influence of hindsight, the chances are that you would have found it difficult to imagine what such a product could do that a computer or a cellphone could not. Yet, 2011 saw customers like you buying some 73 million tablet computers such as the iPad, Galaxy, or PlayBook.

Several such products and services dot the landscape. Offerings that you never knew would knock the socks off you before you started using them. How do such products and services get created? In Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It, lead author Adrian J. Slywotzky, a partner with Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm, examines over a dozen examples closely, distils what they did best, and puts the lessons together in an idiot-proof narrative of takeaways. Slywotzky is helped by a professional writer Karl Weber in the effort. The result is a smorgasbord of what are called 'analogs', or examples that businessmen can learn from and put into practice in their own contexts.

And, it is not as if these uber successful products were dreamt out of thin air. Slywotzky abstracts a process through his examples: one, make the product magnetic through an emotional connect; do not settle for what a customer would call 'very good'. Two, acquire a careful understanding of the customer pain that can be addressed. Three, mix and match existing technologies with an intuitive backend to create a stunning experience.

Four, dangle carrots to convert fence-sitters into committed customers. Five, continuously improve through a series of events (it is never just one launch) and crunch time even as you go along. And, six, rubbish the concept of one size fits all and tier customers into groups according to their needs.

There are instances of how customers swear by Wegmans, a familyowned retail chain that has honed into a fine art, the way it sources merchandise, as also the way it serves customers. Or, how Nestle overcame the bureaucracy of a large corporation to come up with its fastestgrowing brand in Nespresso pods. Or, Netflix's obsession with making its customer recommendation engine more accurate by offering a $1 million prize for the best idea to fix it. Or, how Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com's founder, swore that if anyone would kill its online book retailing business, it would be Amazon itself and led the charge into making Kindle, its successful electronic reader.

Demand is certainly not in the category of Good to Great or Crossing the Chasm, but wisdom gleaned from one-on-one interviews with CEOs and entrepreneurs, backed by research of published media, makes for the core value of the book. That, and the seamless way Slywotzky switches between big companies and successful start-ups makes for the kind of reading the manager looking for some do-it-yourself tips will like. Almost all the examples in the book are UScentric but this reviewer could spot at least one idea that can be replicated in India: a hospital network for the ageing in Indian cities. If not a standalone idea, it could work brilliantly as an adjunct to an existing health care brand. The book could have used better quality paper, but at `299, it is certainly a value read.

Published on: Feb 02, 2012, 12:00 AM IST
Posted by: Navneeta N, Feb 02, 2012, 12:00 AM IST