Hiring Wine: Design for Innovation with Jobs To Be Done

Over six months, a team of graduate students worked with a Fortune 500 consulting firm to explore innovation in the wine industry. To do this, we applied a user-centered design process to (1) research wine consumers’ needs, (2) ideate ways to address those needs, and (3) design a product concept in the spirit of our research.

To guide our study, we adopted the Jobs To Be Done framework, which gave us a lens to look for deep social and emotional motivations surrounding consumer choice. We learned that people drink and learn about wine to feel confident about themselves in a variety of ways: people “hire” wine to express social status, to act adult or mature, to connect with other people, and to learn and grow. 

With our research in hand, we prototyped Wine Scout, an app-based suite of wine explorer tools that connect wine drinkers of all experience levels to the next step in their wine journey. Each of its core features relates to the customer jobs we discovered in research. The experience taught us that Jobs To Be Done can be a helpful tool for research analysis in the user-centered design process.

Pre-onboarding screens for Wine Scout. Every feature and content choice mapped to our research and the social/emotional reasons that people drink wine.

A JTBD Approach to Research
Our discovery phase was exciting because we weren’t given a specific problem to solve for wine drinkers; we had to find one. We conducted 15 user interviews with Millennial wine drinkers, asking open-ended questions to help us understand why young people drink wine, listening closely for social and emotional underlying motivations. We coded our interview data by theme, then used affinity diagramming to organize the themes into six Jobs To Be Done, the customer jobs that people hire wine to accomplish in their lives. I wrote up our findings in a white paper delivered to our client. (Ask me for a copy if you’re interested.) In brief, the jobs we discovered were these:

Wine is Classy
Consumers hire wine to express superiority and status.

Wine is Relaxing
Consumers hire wine to relax and feel special.

Wine is Mature and Adult
Younger consumers hire wine to act like adults.

Wine is Social Glue
Consumers at all experience levels hire wine to bring people together.

Wine is a Conversation Topic
Consumers at all experience levels hire wine to have something to talk about.

Wine Appreciation is a Journey
Enthusiasts hire wine knowledge to help them learn and grow.

We found that the JTBD approach provided useful structure: it helped us take intentionally broad, open-ended interview data and organize it into chunks that we could attack through design. After this phase was complete, our team used these six customer jobs to guide all future decisions in our product design, interaction design, content voice, and even our product name.

Wine Scout logo - wine bottle and compassWine Scout
I participated, but did not lead, our product design and interaction design phases, which kicked off with a design jam to ideate off our six customer jobs. (Read more about it on Medium if you’re curious.) As our product vision came to life, I served as content lead, writing our content style guide and all copy in the prototype. We learned in research that many young wine drinkers want to talk about wine but feel intimidated by wine words, so the content style guide included a list of specialized terms (tannins, oaky) and guide for their usage. We wanted Wine Scout to rely on plain language, introducing vocabulary only when users can infer its meaning in context.

Jobs To Be Done drove every decision down to the name, Wine Scout, an upbeat title that feels approachable to a novice and inspiring to an aficionado.


Learn more about Wine Scout.

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