Saturday, October 07, 2006

Milkshakes and IR's

Monica McCormack's freshly-written Master's thesis is really worth a read. Using business theory, she creatively weaves the proposal that libraries need to market and establish a brand name for insitutional repositories in order for them to succeed. Here is an excerpt:

Seeking to increase milkshake sales, a fast-food company interviewed customers they had identified as key to the "milkshake demographic." Based on that research, they changed their recipes, but sales remained about the same. Further research showed that 40% milkshakes were purchased early in the morning.

They learned that customers facing a long commute wanted a breakfast that would be both filling and easy to eat in the car. Bananas would not hold them until lunch; bagels and breakfast sandwiches were too messy. Milkshakes, despite their relative lack of nutritional value, served these consumers’ needs.

In Christensen’s language, the customers "hired" milkshakes to do a particular job. The company responded by providing milkshake dispensers in front of their counters, where customers could buy them with a simple swipe of a credit card, and created new flavors with chunks of fruit, making the product more fun to eat. Milkshake sales improved. The point of this story is that creators of a new product must ensure that is does what their customers need—and the needs assessment may reveal some surprises.

McCormick makes a strong case. Sometimes, we assume that open access is such an inherently good thing that it's a given that people will eventually come around and realize the future of publishing. Perhaps McCormick reminds us that before we reach that stage, we should explore possible avenues in welcoming others to join us first.

1 comment:

Dean Giustini said...


On the UBC HLwiki, the IR entry is getting better all the time. This thesis would be a good addition to the references. :)