Technical Note | HBS Case Collection | January 2014

Learning From Extreme Consumers

by Jill Avery and Michael Norton


Traditional market research methods focus on understanding the average experiences of average consumers. This focus leads to gaps in our knowledge of consumer behavior and often fails to uncover insights that can drive revolutionary, rather than evolutionary innovation. This note outlines a process for studying extreme consumers—consumers who fall in both tails of a normal distribution of customers—with needs, behaviors, attitudes, and emotions atypical of the average customer. Different tactics for leveraging the power of the fringe, product category virgins, customers with constraints, and lovers, haters, and opt-outers are presented.

Keywords: Market research; marketing; consumer behavior; ethnography; design thinking; innovation; New Product Development; Research; Marketing; Consumer Behavior; Innovation and Invention;


Avery, Jill, and Michael Norton. "Learning From Extreme Consumers." Harvard Business School Technical Note 314-086, January 2014.