The Secret Language Of Bob-isms

Series 1: Episode 2 | 18 April 2022

Show notes | Transcript

“Your product is not the sandwich; it’s probably the mustard.”

In today’s episode of the Circuit Breaker podcast, we break down this aphorism and others Bob Moesta frequently refers to on this show and some of the classes he teaches.

Product marketers are not going to like this, but in this episode, you’ll discover why products play a much smaller role in people’s lives than what we think they do.

You learn why you need to be aware of the different contexts and their impact on how much value your product adds. You’ll discover the difference between context vs. contrast and how this influences the consumer’s decision-making process.

This last one might surprise you.

And you get the learn the secret language of “bob-isms”

Join us for this fascinating and thought-provoking discussion!

What you’ll learn in this show:

  • The different aphorisms Bob uses and their real-life applications.
  • Why your product is never the entire solution.
  • The importance of questioning why a product fits well in one situation vs. another.
  • The definition of “value” to the consumer vs producer.
  • The differences between context and contrast.
  • And so much more…

Resources:

The Re-Wired Group

Hosts

The Secret Language Of Bob-isms

 

Welcome to The Circuit Breaker podcast where we challenge the status quo of innovation and new product development. We’ll talk about tools and skills and methodologies used to build better products and make you a better consumer. I’m Bob Moesta, and I’m the co-founder of The Re-Wired Group, and I’m one of your co hosts. And we’re joined by Greg Engle, who is my co-founder and chief Bob interpreter. 

Join us now as we trip the circuit, and give you time to reset, reorganize and recharge your brain to build better products.

 

Greg Engle:
Hi, Bob, today, we’re gonna talk a lot about your “isms”. That is, the things you say a lot that people may or may not understand. But I want to unpack them a bit so people can understand more of what we’re talking about and what you’re talking about when you use these types of shorthand, if you will. 

Okay, so the one I want to start with is one that’s come to the forefront. And I know you said it on several podcasts lately. And also in a couple classes that you’ve taught, which is the notion of “you’re not the sandwich, your product is probably the mustard”. What do you mean?

Bob Moesta:
So what happens is that most people spend so much time thinking about their product and how their product helps people make progress, right. But in the end, customers make progress. And there’s a bigger process wrapped around it, that your product is merely part of the solution. It’s not the solution. And so what happens is, you end up thinking that you’re really important, but the reality is like for me to actually fix this problem, I got to do five different things. And you’re just one of the five things, right. And so part of this gets back to, you know, when people are trying to buy like a new CRM, right? 

The fact is, the CRM is part of the solution. But I still have to train, I still have to get the data over, I have to do all these other things around it. And so ultimately, the system itself is part of the solution, but it’s not the solution. 

I was at a conference a little bit ago, and I was talking to the guys from TransUnion. And the thing is, they kept defining themselves as a product. TransUnion can tell you a credit score, we can tell you your credit score. And the reality is, is what they realized, at some point in time, that they were actually an ingredient to helping people buy a house or to buy a car or to buy something else. And the moment that they realized that they were the mustard, and not the solution, that all of a sudden that they had to be in all these right places and partner with the right people to be there at the right time. They actually grew dramatically. So part of his to realize, like at some point, you want to be the sandwich, but most of the time

Greg Engle:
…you’re not? Well, okay, so that was still pretty veiled. So let’s, let’s unpack that even a little bit more. People often think of their product as the whole, and I totally get that part of the story. But what is the sandwich then? Is it just what’s going to be the decision? Or is the sandwich actually the customer’s whole life?

Bob Moesta:
I think that the sandwich is the bigger thing that they’re focused on. I was just talking about it earlier today. I’m focused on, for example, getting in shape, right, and getting in shape requires a combination of things. The glucose meter I have is not the solution. It’s part of the things I have to do in order to get into shape, so I can get ready to ski. Everybody keeps talking about like, this is the answer. 

It’s part of the answer. And when you flip over the world, you start to realize that products play a much smaller role in people’s lives than what we think they do. And at some point, it’s a set of things. So for example, when we build houses, right?  The fact is moving and storage are condiment(s); they’re a side dish that we actually added to what was there, but it made the process that much better.  So it’s the things that we have to actually bundle together or that consumers have to figure out. And so when you look at it through the customer’s eyes, all of a sudden you look at your product and realize it’s not the sandwich anymore. It’s mustard.

Greg Engle:
Yeah, and the way I actually think about it is slightly different than that, because I actually think of the customer’s life as being the sandwich, the whole sandwich, and not just the one situation they’re trying to solve. Because even if I just focus on the one situation people are trying to solve, I often create problems that actually create problems for other parts of their lives. And they’ll fire both systems. So I actually have to think about the person’s life as a whole, and all the different initiatives they have in their life, not just the one thing I’m going after.

We actually have to understand them on a systematic level of what has to be fired, in what has to be hired to get the one thing we’re getting done, but also, how does it impact their whole life, the rest of the rest of the part of their life? I think people often think of their product as a solution, like you said, what is the solution? It’s a set of solutions. And it sets solutions around many different things.

Because a CRM could have an impact on just my customer, initiative type stuff, but it also could impact other things. I have like maybe monday.com, or different solutions. If they don’t understand all those different things going into my decision, they will end up losing, that’s correct, because they will create conflicts that are not out there. I often think of when Bob says that, I often think of the person’s contacts and outcomes as “the bread”.

And then everything else in it as the meat, the condiments, etc. And, as context and outcomes change those meats and condiments get changed out. But the main reason why I use it is that it’s almost like, you know, stop thinking you’re the answer, as opposed to your part of the answer. Take a step back and see where you really fit into people’s lives. I think that’s how you catch yourself, right? It’s when you start thinking that you are the whole that you are the sandwich, or you’re the one solution that everybody needs. 

Bob Moesta:
That’s right. And I go back to the notion of like, I was at a FinTech conference, and people were talking about, you know, the loan is the most important thing. I’m like, nobody wants a loan, they want to buy a new car, they want to actually grow their business, they want to acquire something like it’s about the bigger picture, it’s not about the loan. 

And so this is where you need to make sure that you can see the bigger to see how you fit into it. So that’s Bob-ism. Number one.

Greg Engle:
That’s Bob-ism number one. Now I want to go to another one that’s near and dear to my heart. And it’s been said for I don’t know, the 20 years I’ve known Bob or so. And that is, context creates value. What do you mean, when you say that? I think it’s kind of self evident in one point, but it kind of just rolls over our heads sometimes. So what do you really mean?

Bob Moesta:
The way I was raised in product was basically that the product has an innate value to it. Irrelevant of context, like this is the value of this, or this the value of a car. Do you like steak? Or do you like hot dogs? And the reality is, most people would say they’re like both. And if I put steak in the wrong situation, or hot dogs in the wrong situation, they don’t actually add as much value. And so part of it is to realize that knowing the context, and knowing where your product adds enough context, or adds enough value in that context, helps you then understand where to price it. 

My belief is most pricing is set on the lowest common denominator, and not understanding that, that one product in this one situation can add five times more value, but we end up pricing it at the lower level because we can actually have more volume.

Greg Engle:
But how do we know that we’re thinking about context, and we’re doing the right things and how do we unpack that from a consumer level?

Bob Moesta:
Part of it is getting back to knowing the way we would talk about as hiring and firing criteria. Why does this product fit in this situation? And not in that situation? Why do hot dogs work? Well, I’ve got four kids, we’re all running around crazy, we’re trying to get homework done, we got hockey to go to, and you know what I can actually cook, I know how to cook that at least.

And the fact is, at some point, I can get it on the table, and I know they’re going to eat it. Whereas a steak is going to take too long. And it’s really going to be one of those things where they all like it in different ways. And the reality is it’s just too hard to manage, in the context of trying to give my kids steak that night.  So part of this is to realize and be just be sensitive to the fact that there are contexts that your product will add more value or less value and to be aware of them, because they become hiring and firing criteria by which people say, “Yeah, I’m going to do this” or “No, no, I’m never going to do that”.

Greg Engle:
But how do we find them? How do we understand that? I mean, that’s a hard thing for people to talk about. Because a lot of times you ask somebody if they like pizza, or steak or whatever example you want to give, they’ll say, yeah, like both/


Bob Moesta:
To me, that’s where we dig in to say, tell me about the last time you had pizza. Tell me why it was a good fit. And then tell me about the last time you had steak. And then you basically say, if I put pizza in that steak moment, does it fit or not? And you start to realize there’s different things you would do to either make the product fit better, or the fact is, that wouldn’t fit at all. Part of this is to realize that you need this. I always say that context creates value, but then I always follow up that contrast creates meaning.

Greg Engle:
So the problem is that people will always say, “yeah, but I like both”. But what I’m hearing is, the answer of why it fits is more important of what the context really is.

Bob Moesta:
Here’s the thing, you say you like it, right? But what people assume is you like it all the time. And that’s the wrong answer. Because it’s not that you like it all the time you like it in this context. And so ultimately, context is about seeing that the world is a dynamic place and finding the variables that change that make this product a better fit, or a less better fit, because of the context I’m in – not because of the features of the product.

Greg Engle:
Context creates value, what does value mean?

Bob Moesta:
Value is progress, it’s value in that moment. Context connects the context which can help me to understand the progress I’m trying to make. Ultimately, it’s never about price. It’s about value. It’s about moving forward to whatever the end is that of the progress you’re trying to make. 

Greg Engle:
Well, that’s value to the consumer; what’s value in this context to the producer?

Bob Moesta:
The producer has to be able to make the product in a way that actually allows them to have margin and actually have profit. And so part of this is really, value to a consumer is different from value to the company. The two do different things.

Greg Engle:
What does what let’s just unpack the word contrast, what do you even mean by that?

Bob Moesta:
For me contrast is when I have two or multiple things that are different. And then I can actually understand how they’re different and how they fit or don’t fit. Part of this is that if I have things that are the same, I have no way to actually differentiate what it is or what it means. And so when you have two things that are different, I have steak and I have pizza, I can actually then find context that helps me actually understand which one is better for what situations and vice versa. I’m always using contrast to learn. 

Greg Engle:
Give me an example of contrast.

Bob Moesta:
When I go to the fridge to pick out a water. And then what happens is, as I open that door, and I look, and we have the 52 different beverages we have in there. All of a sudden, the contrast helps me create meaning of what I really want. It’s too early for a beer, I just have to have a productive day. It’s the contrast of the choices that give me meaning to what I actually am going to choose. Think of it as a mirror that helps me understand what I really want and why one thing fits better than another.

Greg Engle:
So context is why I’m going to the refrigerator or what’s going on around me that let’s say I need a contrast are the different solutions available to me…

Bob Moesta:
…that then enables me to actually decide what fits. So I might think I’m going to have water, but the fact is if I look at all those things that I still come up with water, it’s like “Yeah, I’m better. Like, that’s really what I wanted.” But if I just go get water, and I look at water and we only have water, I don’t actually know that it’s the best thing. It’s the contrast that creates the meaning to know that that’s the better thing.

Greg Engle:  
What is the word meaning?

Bob Moesta:
Meaning to me is this aspect of “what is the difference?” What is important? What derives value? Why is this thing better than that thing? And so part of it is to realize that context is part of this. But the fact is, the contrast helps me understand why one thing is better than another. And so what I would say is, every time I’m trying to actually help people understand things, I bring them a wider spectrum of things to look at, because most of the time, they can tell me what they don’t want, which then helps me build those boundaries about what they do want.

Greg Engle:
So is meaning here, really, the unpacked definition of what’s what they’re trying to accomplish? 

Bob Moesta:
Correct.

Greg Engle:
And that’s why you say they’re connected. That’s why you have a hard time actually unpacking that or disconnecting them. But in reality, when I’m doing interviews, or I’m or I’m thinking about interviews that happened, I actually need to think about them differently or use them somewhat differently to get to the answer. But what I’m really trying to figure out is, what have people tried, what progress people are trying to make, right? And then how do I understand the trade offs and different things through the contrast? 

Bob Moesta:
And so part of it gets back to the technique you and I always talked about as bracketing. But the fact is, is I might bracket things to say is this is this, is this better to have, you know, with you and your partner? Or is this better to have with the family? But if there is cause if there is contrast, and it does have a difference than that actually is meaningful.

Greg Engle:
And I think you gave the advanced answer because you kind of tied them both together, which we often do all the time. So let me try to slow it down a bit and see if it resonates with you. What we’re trying to do there is just ask people what’s going on, like what was going on when you decided to do this? Can you tell me the time of day it was, who were you with, what were you trying to do? 

We’re trying to nail down the context. So when you’re doing that, you’re going to hear things, when we do interviews, you’ll hear things like, “Well, is it more? Is it more like this? Is it moist? Or is it more dry? We’re trying to give them different sort of contrast to tell us what the right words are.

Bob Moesta:
I have a very specific example. I did an interview today with somebody who took a vacation, and they kept talking about the car. Like why take a car? Is this where you thought of having to think of a train? Did you think about an aeroplane. They said “we don’t want an airplane because it is going to be too far and would take too long. The train would actually not give us flexibility.”

As they think about the solution, what I’m trying to do is actually throw other things in there to understand why they eliminate them because they didn’t even think about how they eliminate them. They didn’t even talk about them. And so like the question is, then why did you drive and it was more the fact of kind of that context that was wrapped around it. Right? 

And the contrast part – I’d say, well, why not an airplane? They’d tell me it was too expensive, it’s the fact we would have spent half our time traveling from one place to another, we only had four days, I didn’t want to spend more than, you know, an hour or two to get to where I want to get to. So to me, that’s the contrast that helps us understand what they really mean by the stuff. And again, most people can’t tell you what easy means. But they can tell you what hard means. Like, it’s too many steps and too much to remember and all that other stuff.

Greg Engle:
Well, I would caution people on any of it being easy, because you’re going to run out of language, right. And that’s what you have to be comfortable with when you start doing some of these things that we’re talking about, especially with trying to unpack context and use contrast to do that. And you have to be comfortable with the fact that you’re going to make people uncomfortable, but make it okay for people to be uncomfortable. So it’s one of the things you have to practice as you do this stuff.

Bob Moesta:
I think that one of the other things is when we’re doing the interviews, we’re trying to actually push people to the limits of their language. So we then know how to prototype, right, which is that aspect of like, I need people to run out of words and have no definition, that means that I have to talk experientially about things. And that’s where I use prototypes to create contrast. People can’t say “it’s salty or it’s sweet” if you’re talking about pickles, or something. And so you start to realize at some point, I’m better off giving them different experiences around the pickles than know what the best pickle is, right? 

 

Greg Engle: 
So I think we’re about out of time. So I just want to do what we normally do, which is kind of try to wrap this up and try to take some key learnings out and possibly even some things that you can go do to practice.

And I think we’re going to take the isms one at a time here and talk about them very, very quickly. Which is when we when Bob says or you hear us say things like you’re not the sandwich or the mustard, what we’re really trying to tell you there is stop, get out of your own way, stop thinking about your product is the whole product or the only solution that will work or the solution that will open up all the doors for the consumer. There’s many things that have to happen in order for the consumer to make progress in their lives.

Remember that you have to know how to fit into their ecosystem, not make your ecosystem the whole thing for the customers. And then for the contrast and creating value that’s we’re really trying to find the progress people are trying to make in when and where. So we’re really trying to just unpack those things. As you go through when you do interviews are you arguing with coworkers? 

Try to remember what context you are really going after and be very, very blunt about which ones you are not going after. Because when you start exploding those out, that’s where you start getting bloated with your product, you start over-engineering because you’re trying to get every context in. So really concentrate on which ones you’re trying to solve. 

And then the contrast that’s you can use with customers you can use it with, with your coworkers. You’re just trying to unpack the language and you’re trying to get them to give you the language that what they really mean, not just words to get you to shut up. 

 

 

Thanks for listening to the circuit breaker podcast. If you haven’t already, please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. If you know somebody who’s stuck on the innovation treadmill, please share it. If you’d like to learn more information visit us at The Re-Wired Group to find out how we work and how we can help with some resources, some books, and some software.

Join us next time. As we trip the circuit breaker to help you recharge, re energize and refocus your new product development.

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