In the 1950s, instant mixing technologies were reaching new heights thus dry food mixes were filling-up store shelves. These mixes such as instant coffee, biscuits and cookies powders require the consumer to prepare by reconstitution. Usually this involves water or other basic liquids commonly sold, i.e., juices, milk, broth, etc.
Cake mixes were seemed as a great product targeting busy homemakers. So food production companies rushed into making huge amounts of cake mixes with a vast variety of tastes and textures which could be prepared in less than an hour by only adding water, stirring and sticking the pan in the oven. These mixes included all the dry ingredients in the package, plus milk and eggs in powdered form.
However, the sales of instant cake powders despite big TV ads and commercials were not to as good as expected.
Manufacturers initially thought that the reason for resistance is taste of the cakes which — making it more complicated — later they found out that people actually liked the taste.
There was no choice but to be very careful about this issue and to come up with the best possible solution. As a result, a group of psychologists were asked to help.
The question was that, despite all the benefits of baking a tasty cake very fast, why customers are resting it?
After analyzing the behavior of customers and their situations and conditions, psychologists concluded that housewives felt guilty about using this product despite its ease and simplicity.
The mixes made cooking too easy, making their labor and skill seem undervalued In fact, the use of cake mix was so much easier and simpler than the traditional way of baking that in the face of their husbands, kids and guests, they felt bad about themselves to get credit for it. By the way, anyone could stir the powder and water and putting it in the oven.
The method used to solve this problem which later resulted in The Egg Theory was as follows:
Psychologists speculated that leaving out some of the ingredients and allowing women to add them to the mix might resolve the issue. This idea became known as the “egg theory.”
What the egg theory did was to remove the milk and egg powder from the main mix and leave it to the customer, instead of just adding water, to add milk and egg.
This made the new powders become very popular and the sales went up.
Why was such a small change so effective?
Doing a series of small tasks like adding eggs and milk helped women feel less guilty of saving time. This extra work meant that homemakers put time and energy to prepare a tasty meal for their husband and children, and thus the entire process belonged to them, and now they get credit for it.
This research helped production companies to shift focus their focus from the need for a “instant cake” to go deeper into inner psychological layers such as “showing off the caring housewife”.
Why JTBD is not just about functionality?
Through the Jobs to Be Done glasses, the job that homemakers wanted to get done was: to create a fun occasion with their family and to show their affection (to their spouse, children or guests) by preparing a delicious meal (cake) in the shortest possible time.
I believe, The Egg theory has a powerful and effective lesson on customer psychology, and the importance to go deeper to understand the different functional, social and personal aspects of the job that customers wants to get done.