The Struggle

The core principle of Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) is that people hire products to do jobs for them. But what is meant by the term “job”?

When people buy a product (whether something serious like a pacemaker or pedestrian like a pack of gum) they are buying with the expectation that the product will make their lives better in a meaningful way by helping to resolve a struggle. Resolving that struggle is the job to be done.

Here are three products advertised during the Super Bowl that focus on a human struggle.

Snickers: Wilem Dafoe as Marilyn Monroe

A director is dealing with his surley bombshell actress who is being difficult on camera because she’s hungry. His assitant hires a Snickers bar to get said bombshell back to being her normal, charming self so they can get on with filming an iconic scene. “You’re not you when you’re hungry” even applies to Marilyn.

On a side note… Snickers is one of the early success stories of the JTBD movement. Search for “Snickers JTBD” for fascinating accounts of how Bob Moesta helped transform that company using JTBD. Domestic Violence PSA

To see the JTBD in this ad, you have to identify the customer whose struggle is being featured. For any non-iOS readers, the blue bubbles are your first clue that the ad is about the woman at the party. She is realizing for the first time that her friend is in serious trouble and she has failed to recognize the signs. She has no idea what to do next. While far less serious than the actual abuse the victim is suffering, that is a nauseating feeling and the creators did a brilliant job of placing us inside that emotional struggle with the sound of the party fading and the vanishing “typing” icon. is an organization that wants you to be educated to recognize the signs of domestic violence and support organizations that are committed to ending it.

Adobe: The Gambler

It is an exhilarating moment when you find out if your gamble is going to pay off or leave you broke. Far less exhilarating is the next moment when you find out you went broke and about to wind up like that bar’s clientele. If he ever gets the opportunity to make another big bet with someone else’s money, he would be wise to use software that will help him see the future.

The previous two ads showed the struggle and how their product plays a role in resolving the struggle. Adobe illustrates a very relatable struggle, though they leave it to the viewer’s curiousity to search out infomraiton about how Adobe can help.

Value Depends on the Situation

Value changes depending on the situation. My father-in-law is a Republican who does not feel like Donald Trump is the best option for president. But he feels strongly that Hillary Clinton would be a terrible president. It is very unlikely that he will he vote for Mr. Trump in the primary. But if Mr. Trump squares off against Mrs. Clinton in the general election he will absolutely vote for Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump’s appeal to him varies dramatically based on the sitatuion.

We are the same way when we buy things. What we choose to eat for a dinner depends on our situation: how much money we want to spend, how much of a hurry we’re in, who we’re eating with, what the weather is like, etc. If we’re celebrating an anniversary with a spouse, lobster and steak is a nice option. If we’re in a hurry between meetings and don’t have time for a proper lunch, a Snickers bar might be our best option for the job.

Michelob Ultra: Breathe

Most alcohol drinking humans would never voluntarily consume a Michelob Ultra. But most alcohol drinking human beings are not in top physical condition nor do they meticulously regulate their nutritional intake to maintain a healthy body. This ad is intended to demonstrate that Michelob Ultra is a great option for those wishing to enjoy the pleasing physical and social effects of alcohol without compromising their commitment to physical wellness.

Who is the Competition?

People who speak the JTBD language tend to use the word “consideration set” rather than competition to describe a customer’s options. This is because the customer generally considers different possibilities for how to solve their problem. Rather than thinking of competition as other similar products, JTBD thinks of competition as different solutions the customer has for resolving their underlying struggle. Envy

If I were teaching a class about Jobs to Be Done, I would start by showing this commercial. It’s all there. The struggle (everyone but me is making poo and feeling happy) and situational value (the more things I try that don’t work, the more uncomfortable I am and the happier everyone else seems).

A more traditional ad might compare how their particular solution (medication) measures up to other similar solutions (other medications — of which there are at least 180 different kinds).

But this commercial is unique in how they offer a solution for people who have failed to solve their problem using other types of solutions (doing nothing and hoping the problem goes away, drinking coffee, eating prunes, escargot(?)).

Bonus Material

10 Cloverfield Lane

This ad is compelling because John Goodman’s JTBD is a mystery. Is he struggling to protect the people in his bomb shelter from some terror outside? Is he a kidnapper emotionally manipulating his captives? See you on March 11th so we can find out!

Schick: Robot Razors

Compare this ad to

This Schick ad is an example of a product oriented (rather than a job oriented) approach to messaging. The focus is on the product and why it is better option than a similar type of solution (another multi-blade stick razor).

But what job does this product do for the buyer? Why is it better than the other options for solving that problem (which might range anything from not shaving at all, to maintaining a well kept beard, to an electric, to one of these multiple blade doohickeys).