Companies generally want to develop products or services that have a high demand, as this approach improves the odds of significant sales. Subsequently, marketers for most organizations focus their research on what the majority of a given population appears to want or need. When it comes to supporting innovation and keeping businesses moving forward, however, businesses might do well to pay more attention to their extreme consumers.
What’s an Extreme Consumer?
Extreme consumers are individuals who have expectations or loyalty that goes beyond that of typical buyers. An example might be an individual who enjoys movies and who has hundreds or even thousands of films in their digital or disc collection. Another example might be a cook who insists on using a specific type of cheese produced at a specific farm aged for a specific number of months. If all consumers are represented in a bell curve, with the majority of buyers in the middle, extreme consumers fall “in the tails” of the curve, either loving products or hating them.
Why Look at Extreme Consumers?
Extreme consumers do not represent the mainstream. As a result, companies usually dismiss their opinions or needs as too “out there” to have significance. The opinions extreme consumers have, however, bleed into the average consumer pool to a certain degree. Thus, distinguishing who might or might not be interested in a product or service thus isn’t as simple as it might first appear. Examining what’s happening on the outskirts of the general market helps businesses avoid a one-size-fits-all marketing approach, thereby ensuring the companies reach a larger number of potential buyers.
The unique expectations or loyalties extreme consumers have mean that they have a different perspective on what is or is not available. This trait allows them to see or present opportunities that general consumers might miss. For instance, an extreme consumer might manually adjust the color of the cosmetics they wear based on the time of day. Their habit might inspire a cosmetics developer to create products that are chemically sensitive to light and which therefore can change the consumer’s look automatically. In this way, extreme consumers can get company leaders to think outside the box in ways that, ultimately, make the businesses more competitive. In many cases, extreme consumers are also great improvisers, coming up with “make do” solutions for the problems they perceive to exist. If the solutions are decent enough, businesses can run with them, working with the extreme consumers to improve and produce the initial concepts rather than brainstorming a fix on their own from scratch.
Even though extreme consumers are enormously valuable to businesses for their ability to spark innovation, on the other end of the spectrum, they also can stop companies from pursuing routes that might be too risky. For instance, if a men’s clothing company known for its rugged designs and fabrics suddenly starts to market to women with more delicate products and materials, extreme consumers might protest, pointing out that masculinity is part of the brand and shouldn’t be tampered with.
A final way extreme consumers aid businesses is by being unofficial marketers. Their loyalty often drives them to recommend companies’ products or services to others they know or happen to meet. As a result, individuals who otherwise might not know about or try what the businesses have to offer become familiar or experiment with the companies’ catalogs. These “recruits” then also can recommend the products or services, increasing value even more.
How Can Companies Find Consumers on the Edge?
Sometimes, businesses can find extreme consumers simply by observing the people in their immediate environment. For example, if a marketer is in a restaurant, they might observe an individual who sends their food back to the kitchen half a dozen times. To most members of the public, this individual might look annoying, rude and picky. To the marketer, this same person might appear to be just the type of consumer leaders at a culinary school could get suggestions from or develop new recipes for.
In addition to keeping a watchful eye, business leaders can use both interviews and surveys to identify extreme consumers. Each of these strategies has benefits. Interviews allow the business leaders to interact more directly with the extreme consumers, which lets them to get more details or to clarify particular points. Surveys, however, sometimes can provide more honest results, as the consumers might use the option of anonymity to open up.
Businesses long have ignored extreme consumers, considering them too out of the ordinary to be worthy of attention. Nevertheless, extreme consumers can translate to extreme value for companies. Strategies such as carefully observing others and using interviews/surveys are legitimate ways for today’s business leaders to tap into this resource.
Blanding, M. (2014). Pay Attention to Your ‘Extreme Consumers’.
Clegg, A. (2014). Harnessing the Power of Extreme Consumers.