As Brand Leaders, our days get busy, running from meeting to meeting, trying to deliver our numbers, gain share, and hit our forecasts. We have a few new products that are long overdue and now we’re trying to make the most of them. Finance has found potential cost savings from the plant but it’s unsure if it will be off-set by a one time surcharge. We have a presentation at Wal-Mart next week and think we’ll walk away with a new listing. We have a new claim from the R&D team that we think delivers superiority versus our closest competitor. And finally, we have the go-ahead to do a new ad, but we think our senior managers will insist that we make the ad to their exact requirements and that it delivers their new vision statement. This is an average day in marketing. Except, we have not thought once about the consumer. Maybe that’s the norm when we get so busy or face pressures to make the numbers.
I always like to ask Brand Leaders: “Do you represent your brand to your consumer or do you represent your consumer to the brand?” Yes, I get stunned looks of confusion when I ask that. But it’s an important question as to your mindset of how you do your job. My challenge to you is to start thinking like your consumer and be their representative to your brand. You’ll notice the work gets better, you’ll see clearer paths to growth and you’ll start to create a brand that the consumer loves rather than just likes. When this happens, sales go up and the P&L spits out higher profitability. Because the more loved the brand, the more powerful position it occupies, and the more profit it can generate from that source of power.
Take a walk in the shoes of your consumer: With most of us, when we first fell in love with marketing, there were two key elements that got our juices going: strategic thinking and consumer behavior. Marketing brings these two elements together in a very challenging way. You should be thinking about your consumer every day, all day. Yes, you need to hit your sales and share goals. But your consumers are your only source of revenue and you have to know them intimately. Solving a consumer challenge feels like the biggest Rubik’s Cube we can find. The reason I mention this is if you want to connect with your team and motivate them, then start talking about the consumer and you’ll see their engagement go up. This is what they love. Be curious about your consumer, constantly watching changes in the marketplace.
Live and breathe insights about your consumers. Insight is not something you just do when you’re spending the hour that you write your creative brief. You should be gathering insight at every chance you can, and unleashing that knowledge throughout every day. Insight is not something that your consumers never knew before. That would be knowledge, not insight. It’s not data or fact about your brand that you want to tell. That helps, but you have to go a layer deeper to find your insights. Oddly enough, Insight is something that everyone already knows. Insight comes to life when it’s told in such a captivating way that makes consumers stop and say “hmm, I thought I was the only who felt like that”. That’s why we laugh when seeing the way that insight is projected with humor, why we get goosebumps when insight is projected with inspiration and why we cry when the insight comes alive through real-life drama.
Get in the shoes of those consumers and you’ll quickly realize that consumers do not care about what you do until you care about what they want. Instead of mentioning a feature, force yourself to ask “If I’m the consumer so what do I get” five times to see if you can get to the richness of the functional benefits. Then look at that functional benefit and ask “so how does that make me feel”. Stop talking features and start talking benefits–both the rational and emotional. No one has ever wanted a 1/4 inch drill, they just want a 1/4 inch hole.
Consumers are busier than ever. Whether it’s working late, trying to balance everything, or doing too much, they have so little time. People are multi-tasking, texting while driving or on the TV while watching TV—which is up 35% this year. Traditional ways with a 30-second ad and a billboard aren’t having the same effect in today’s world. The average consumer is exposed to over 6,000 advertising messages per day. The consumers’ brain sorts through the clutter until finding something that might fill their needs. Imagine your boring logical message, well thought and all, breaking through to that consumer. Even with the fast-paced life, most consumers are bored with life and just want something to entice them. The simplest way to challenge boredom is to like everything you do unconditionally, but if this bored consumer meets up with a boring brand, it will be rejected very quickly. You have to matter to those consumers that really care. And you have to know what connects with them to get the way to stand out.
Living in the consumer’s shoes is contagious. When you start asking about how the consumer buys, what they are thinking about now or what do we want them to think, you’ll notice others on your team following your cues and start thinking like a consumer. It will be energizing. When you ask “will our consumer love this” it sets the bar very high. Here’s my simple challenge for you: If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand. The best filter for your work is the consumer. It’s more important than what Wal-Mart thinks or what your boss likes/doesn’t like. When looking at new products, the R&D team should be more obsessed with what the consumer wants than what they might be capable of coming up in their lab. As Steve Jobs famously said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”
Brand leaders play it far too safe to find true love. Brand Leaders choose the safety of logic and facts instead of getting too deep or going all emotional with their consumers. And, most brands end up liked but never end loved. My mom wanted me to be an actuary. Apparently, an actuary has one of the longest life expectancies, can make quite a bit of money and they live the ideal work-life balance. Sounds like the perfect job, but I just couldn’t do it. What’s lacking in the life of an actuary is the ability to have fun at work or drive all your passion into your work to create something big. You can make a real difference. So if you’re not going to be an actuary…then stop acting like one when you’re the Brand Leader. We can’t afford to keep doing just the usual, we can’t get stuck in logic and we can’t just satisfy needs. We need to push to go beyond greatness at every touchpoint with our selfish and bored consumers. We need to cultivate a deep emotional relationship with our consumers and we need to entice craving and desire.
Everything starts and ends with the consumer in mind.