Eddie Yoon of The Cambridge Group discovered that in any product category, roughly 10% of the consumers account for more than 50% of the profits. These super-consumers, as we call them, are the hot dog buyers who eat five pounds of hot dogs a month, wolfing down as many as 4 per sitting. They are the stapler users who own 8 different staplers. They know what they want, they’ll buy a lot of it, and they’ll pay a premium for it. They’re passionate and engaged — sometimes even a little obsessive — and they exist in every category, from soft drinks and air travel to fast-food and oral care products.
Many managers assume that their super-consumers are a unique species whose extreme appetites say little about what more casual consumers might go for. They also figure that their super-consumers are already sated, so there’s no point in probing them further. That’s a mistake.
Companies that listen to their super-consumers and use their insights to refine their message ultimately grow sales and margins across all segments. These companies aren’t trying to convert light users into heavy users. Rather, they’re figuring out what it is the super-consumers like so much and then offering it to them. Invariably, acting on the insights from those consumers who spend disproportionate time and energy in the category uncovers insights and innovations that encourage trade-up behaviours across other segments as well.
Consider this: A stapler company found itself heading for a price war with competitors. What to do? Market research with its community of stapler groupies — users who stapled ten times as much as the average person — found that they valued anti-jamming above all other features, and would happily pay a premium for high-performance, jam-free staplers. Running with this insight, the company redesigned its point of sale to emphasize electric staplers and refocused its marketing message across all products on benefits (like reliability) rather than features (like colour). The strategy boosted sales by 20% and improved margins overall. Not only did electric stapler sales increase (fuelled by super-consumers), but the merchandising strategy emphasising the benefits of trading up increased sales of heavy-duty manual staplers across other segments.