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EXTREME CONSUMERS EXERCISE – FELIX NGUYEN (PRODUCT: KEYBOARD)

1. What did you discover from studying extreme consumers?

This extreme customer exercise allows me to discover plenty of interesting things about both the product,
which is keyboard, and its consumers, the keyboard fanatics.

The first thing I learnt when doing the netnography is that there are so many little sophisticate details of
a keyboard that I could never know about without this research. I consider myself a tech-savvy person,
and I have been building my own personal desktop setups for more than a decade. Despite that, I could
not imagine what is the different between a “tactile switch” and a “linear switch” for example, or how
different keyboard layouts can be applied to different real life usages more effective. I also discovered a
lot of new keyboard-related terms and lingo.

I also found out that the people who are obsessed with keyboard are actually numerous, very active, and
most of them have good financial capabilities. I have been in many Discord servers and interest groups
myself before, some of which can be called “extreme customer”, but the keyboard fan community is one
of the most active community I have ever seen. With around 22,000 messages per chat server a day, every
members can learn so much information from those groups. They also tend to overemphasize the
negativity of changes in a product, and comment a lot about it, which can be an early warning for firms.

It is fascinating to see that extreme customers who love a product tend to develop a set of behavioral
pattern which is similar to each other. As I observed the conversation across different mechanical
keyboard groups, from the US group to Asian, or Canadian, they all divided themselves to similar
subgroups, and use the same type of language and reasoning to defend their favorite and ridicule others.
When I ran my text analysis, the most popular words in all groups are similar to each other, as well as the
messages and posts with the highest sentiment scores are similar in content.

It is also very interesting to me that in extreme consumer community like this, it seems like a few most
dedicated members can hold tremendous power in leading and changing members’ behaviors and
product’s perceptions. During my week of observing and participating in Discord group chats, I can identify
a few persons who could single handedly settle a discussion, and can create widespread excitement with
a few “leaked” information, or announcements. This can be a good point that firms can take advantage
of when they want to introduce a new product to the market.
2. What kinds of insights did you glean from this research that you don’t believe you could have
uncovered using traditional market research techniques?

As I mentioned above, without deep dive into the extreme consumers group yourself, and only use
traditional market research techniques, you may miss certain aspects of product usage that regular
customers do not pay attention to, but may affect their experience later. As an example, the keyboard
fans talk so much about switch tactility, i.e. the “real”, physical feeling when you press a key. They really
emphasize the importance of being able to feel the key on your finger, or when you push it down. This
type of thing would be rarely talk about by normal users. If we only follow traditional market research,
we might not be able to discover this. As a matter of fact, some firms actually did not pay attention to this
in their product development, and the keyboard of the first Surface, or some recent Lenovo’s laptop
keyboard, have received so many negative reviews because of this.

Another type of insights that we cannot gain from traditional market research technique is new niche
market, or niche product opportunities. Only by observing keyboard fanatics, can we discover that there
is an existing demand for decorated keycaps or other accessories. Extreme customers are the first ones
who realize that need, and they have started making the product themselves. If we only interviewed or
surveyed regular users, I believe no one would have thought of that. Regular users tend to stick to the
tradition usage of the product, and could not offer innovative and disruptive ideas like extreme customers.

The difference in extreme customers attention to product usage can also give much better insights to
product differentiation and segmentation. Their tendency to overemphasize details would be useful to
identify different factors that affect customer experience at a whole, as well as different intents and
purposes of product consumers. In my case, I discover that there are a subgroup of customers who use
keyboard for mostly worked-related activities, who prefer a “tenkey-less” design, which cut out the
numpad section for smaller footprint and ergonomics. Then, there is a different group of gamer-
consumers, who love to decorate their AWSD keys with colorful keycap and highest quality switches, since
those are the key they prefer the most. With regular customers, using traditional marketing research,
those consumers subgroups would be less noticeable.
APPENDIX

Word cloud of MechKey #Keyboard-general chatroom

REDDIT DESKTHORITY GEEKHACK


Unboxing/Review 53% 61% 42%
DIY-Mod 22% 15% 36%
Product Discussion 11% 17% 10%
Events/Meetup 6% 4% 4%
Others 8% 3% 8%

Top 100 posts by Categories of each popular community


Topre Cherry

Neutral Positive Negative Neutral Positive Negative

Razer Logitech

Neutral Positive Negative Neutral Positive Negative

Sentiment Analysis Score offeach brand on R/MechanicalKeyboards

Top 10 Highest Sentiment Score messages

Score Sentence

0.945 Not everybody likes a full size, and TK is somewhat niche, so TKL seems like a great
middle ground. 3) While cool to have, definitely not a must, though it might attract
more customers that way.

0.942 Source code would be awesome, imagine the possibilites :) Very nice, great work,
man!
Score Sentence

0.937 TL;DR this thing was super fun to build but not super fun to flash.

0.932 1) YES YES YES! 2) TK or TKL would be ideal.

0.922 A few days ago I came home to this after being out of town for a funeral- an inspiring
masterpiece celebrating another masterpiece.

0.914 ..please rate, like, subscribe join my facebook, twitter, myspace, political party,
church and watch all my other videos and please turn addblock off :D

0.908 :-) Hope you get well soon and are able to enjoy the holidays to their fullest!

0.890 Maybe I one day will make it, but hopefully someone else will do it first and post
pictures :D I have many ideas, but I have no experience or tools for making stuff like
this.

0.884 It looks like Beauty and the Beast :D

0.881 It's just something that a lot of people would love to see some improvement on :)

Top 10 Worst Sentiment Score Messages

Score Sentence

- I was thinking more "What the hell am I doing with my life?" crazy than "Look at this
0.886 badass pbt keycap" crazy.

- My plan is to waste time on entering giveaways that I will never win :D [ ]


0.845
Score Sentence

- This looks so freaking insane!


0.784

- Maybe it didn't get a port, but there's no reason Doom couldn't run on a Gameboy.
0.747

- The sad thing is, reasonably, about 1/4, maybe even half of all IBM Model Ms produced
0.743 have suffered this fate.

- Damn, that's too bad.


0.735

- Ugh, I still have a Corsair K95 RGB with that ugly tramp stamp on it.
0.727

- The Novatouch is pretty infamous for being the worst of the worst Topre experiences out
0.718 right now.

- Trying to think of how they even managed to mess it up that bad.


0.718

- That's an insane amount of lead time for a stolen idea.


0.710