This anecdote is due to two friends and colleagues: Steve Diller and Christopher Ireland. Steve’s research identified the Core Meaning at work, via his research, and Christopher Ireland lived it.

The following is an excerpt from the book, A Whole New Strategy.

When Toyota launched the Prius in the USA, they made some bad assumptions. Because of the way they segmented customers, they understood the Prius as an “environmental” car, a factor most associated with college students. So, the Prius was pretty barebones compared to Toyota’s more luxurious models.

What they found, however, was that many of their customers were leaving luxury cars to buy a Prius. When my friend Christopher got rid of her Jaguar to get a Prius, she was not satisfied with the options and types of interior trim. Those early Prius felt cheap compared to more substantial cars. They didn’t have the conveniences customers like her expected and needed because Toyota was thinking about college students, not CEOs.

The right research would have identified, before the car launched, why many people were longing for a car that spoke to and shared their values. They felt guilt that their cars were bad for the environment, even if they went for the least bad car at the time.

Then, came this new kind of car that was much better for the environment. It was still a car and, therefore, still had adverse impacts on the environment but it allowed drivers to feel less guilt for their necessary driving. It was a redeeming purchase.

Toyota eventually understood who was really attracted to the Prius and what they needed to satisfy them, but it took a new definition and understanding of the customers’ worldview to do so. My co-author, Steve Diller, instantly identified Redemption as the key differentiator for the Prius from the start. Had Toyota understood this beforehand, they would have seen this decision-driver in drivers and owners that crossed age and income groupings. They would have understood that Christopher would want one, too, and then gone on to understand how her Prius needed to be configured.