The Golden Road to True Consumer Insight

the golden tree

Photo: The Golden Tree by Francesco Martini

True consumer understanding goes beyond simply identifying who your consumer is, where they live and how much of your product they are purchasing.  It pushes information further than brand loyalty scores and likelihood purchase statistics.  It takes this comprehension to a deeper level into the lifestyle and emotional psyche of the consumer.  It allows for brands and products to live and breathe the same air as their consumers.  It provides both the immediate and the long term satisfaction that consumers are looking for in everything that they purchase and consume.

The golden road to consumer insights does not simply go through mainstream market research anymore.  It used to be as easy as a survey to get into the head of the consumer and provide them with a choice that would satisfy these desires.  When consumers were presented with very little choices, companies had the luxury of putting out a mediocre product and people were forced to buy it.  However, since the battleground for brands and products has become overwhelming competitive with multiple media outlets and social media feeds it is critical for companies to put out something that goes beyond simply providing a service, but touches a consumer deeper.

The new golden road of consumer insights takes many twists and turns as it plows along into the consumer mindset.  It stops off at big data and takes a dive into this vast pool of information.  It spends hours and hours analyzing consumer purchase patterns, market basket, scan data, price elasticity, category growth/loss, purchase history and SKU rationalization.  It digs deep into the new census data to see what groups are rising and how the demographic landscape of the future is developing.   Thus path tries to answer who will be the next big segment to target and what are they worth?

The road then often leads us to focus groups and discussing what consumers feel in different situations.  We are looking for their innermost feelings and thoughts on our products or brands.  We carefully moderate these discussions in hope that they are willing to share these truths and personal feelings in a room of complete strangers.  When orchestrated correctly, this qualitative section of the road can be extremely insightful and interesting and provide these nuggets of information that can steer you in the right direction forward.  However, this road must also be treaded on lightly.  Just because a group of ten people tells you something, it doesn’t mean that the Holy Grail has been discovered.  This section of the road can lead you down the path to true enlightenment or true disaster so make sure you have your GPS collaborated correctly and choose wisely. 

The road then veers off into the world of psychographic data that is available and determines where these consumers are going, what they are doing, who they are listening to and how do they live.  This path captures what is important to them, what activities they do; how often they do these activities and how do we reach them in the media world.  It once again can spend hours developing algorithms to determine how likely a consumer will be to do a certain activity and what this activity could be worth.   This path is also extremely critical for the journey, but still only provides a piece of this complex consumer puzzle.

This places us at a critical point in the road.  We have been able to use information to get us here, but is has only provided part of the picture.  This is where many stop and think that they have figured it all out.  This is where the road gets tricky, unclear and vague, but this is also where the road becomes paved with gold.  It is at this point in the road where we start to truly understand the why behind a consumer’s choice.  It is at this point in the road where we become enlightened.  This fork is where new methods of data collection become critical to getting the rich understanding that you need in today’s fast paced and oversaturated world. 

This fork in the golden road takes us on a journey down the information superhighway.  It takes us to the world of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  It provides us with so much information that is even hard to know where to begin.  This also is a tricky path to navigate since you may never meet these consumers personally, but it can be a gold mine of critical information if navigated correctly.  This is where consumers not only share their feelings and thoughts about your product or brand, but everything else in their lives.  What is affecting them right now and how is this impacting their purchase behavior?  How they are feeling about your product or brand and what are they saying to their friends?  How are they influencing their group and how is that influence trickling out across social media?

The road down the technology trail doesn’t stop there, even tough we have these public forums to peek into it still only gives us part of the picture.  So the road make take us into on-line forums, MROC’s and gamification that is capturing these internal feelings and attitudes from a loyal and dedicated group of consumers who live and die for your product or brand.  Now the road starts to be a bit narrower and easier to navigate.  Now the road doesn’t seem so long and winding.

This is where you get into the relationship with the consumer where this true insight can become harvested and cultivated.  This deep relationship is critical in understanding them and getting down to who they really are.  When you have found this part of the road and established this relationship with your consumer, insights are gained and action can be taken.

This portion of the road is often difficult to find, hard to quantify and not smooth.  It is rough; it takes careful navigation and experience to travel down successfully.  It takes the courage to think differently and the anticipation of which direction to turn that comes from experience, knowledge and a core understanding of the culture from which this road has been paved. 

This road to true consumer insight is paved with gold.  However, as marketer’s and researchers we need to understand that it will take you down multiple paths, into different landscapes and have many forks before getting to the promised land.  This road should not be traveled lightly as the path will take time, sacrifice and resources.  Not many have been able to make this journey successfully, but for brands like Apple, Chipotle, Clif, NASCAR, Coke and Mt. Dew to name only a few; this road has been successfully navigated and they have armies of loyal followers awaiting their next move.

Why Monday’s Shouldn’t Suck

 monday_CH

(Artwork by Bill Watterson)

 Monday is the first day of the week to most of us. It should be looked upon as a fresh start, a new beginning.  However, in our often over stressed and over worked American culture, Monday’s pretty much suck to most Americans.  They are not only the end of the weekend, but the day we all have to go back to our jobs and back to the grind.  It is an interesting phenomenon that we look upon Monday as the end, instead of the beginning, but why?  Why do we as Americans dread the beginning of a new work week?

First off, Americans hate their jobs.  Right Management, a subsidiary of the staffing firm Manpower Group, did a survey in 2012 and found that only 19% of workers were “satisfied” with their jobs.  That is an embarrassing rate of happiness and makes you wonder what we are doing wrong.  In fact, most were just happy to have “something” in the down economy.

The simple fact is that weekends rule with Americans.  Who doesn’t love the weekend?  The University of Rochester conducted the first study of daily mood variation in employed adults.  They followed 72 adults, 18-62 with full time jobs for three weeks and discovered their favorite days of the week, are you ready -Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The study cited that weekends were associated with higher levels of freedom and generally people were involved in activities of their own choosing and spent time with more intimate friends and family members. Surprisingly, the analysis also found that people felt more competent during the weekend.  Evidently as humans, we just feel more secure when we are able to make our own decisions then when forced into a job or typical work week.

To piggyback on the Rochester study, most Americans do not feel in control of their lives and don’t feel that our Government is going to help make it better anytime soon.  According to a recent Gallup poll in February 2013, 81% of Americans disapprove of Congress and only 41% approve of what President Obama is doing.  These historically low approvals continue to drive consumer feelings of hopelessness and “working to get nowhere”, through the roof.  This just adds to the dread most people must be feeling as they head to work each Monday morning.

Monday is even engrained in our popular culture as a negative day of the week.  TGIF, why doesn’t it state TGIM?  Music continues to tell us how miserable or depressing Monday’s are – Manic Monday by the Bangles, I Don’t Like Monday’s by the Boomtown Rats, Rainy Days & Monday’s by the Carpenters, Stormy Monday by Eric Clapton and Blue Monday by New Order to name a few.  At least Jimmy Buffett had the courage to tell us that, “Come Monday, it’ll be alright and I’ll be holding you tight”.  Monday overall is not embraced in our culture as a bright new beginning, but a dreary and dark day of the week.

Finally, Monday’s are the start of the long portion of the week.  Due to the current structure we are forced into a five day work week, leaving only two days off. If you break it down we are working 71.4% and getting less than 1/3 of “our time” to do what we choose.  Psychologically, we are beat down before we even begin the week.  This simple way of looking at our time allotment on a weekly basis is pretty depressing for most of us and just feeds the fire to why Monday is generally looked at as negative.

So, what do we do about it?  We can try and completely rewire the entire population and make them feel that work is actually play and they are in control of their future like The Matrix.  We can have the Government dictate that we work less and play more or we can simply accept it and move on with a better attitude.

I think the most realistic way to look at Monday is, it’s just another day.  It’s another day that we all have to face and without it we wouldn’t have a full week.  Like most things on this planet every element plays a critical part in the survival of the entire system and when one element is out of balance the whole system seems to suffer.  So let’s embrace Monday for its place in the week.  Monday makes us appreciate the rest of the days so much more and without Monday, Friday would be as wonderful.

I do vote for a better balance between work and play in America.  We have been told that if we work hard we will be rewarded. Isn’t that the American dream?  Well, as we continue to see our taxes increased, food and gas prices rise and health care spin out of control it is hard for us to see a positive ending to the American dream story.  With all of this negativity spewing from the media each morning it is hard to see the silver lining.  As Jerry Garcia so elegantly put it, “every silver lining’s got a touch of grey” and I find it best to just realize that a day of the week should not dictate how we feel, so don’t let it. Work hard and be thankful that Monday has arrived at all, that means you hopefully had a happy weekend.

So as you start to enjoy your second cup of coffee this Monday morning, just remember that material goods and stuff is only one part of the American dream.  We are Capitalist, we love stuff and we strive for more, but ask yourself, when is enough, enough?  I am a true Capitalist and believe it is the best system on the planet, but there is one fundamental principle that we need to remember which is at the root of Capitalism.  This one element is what allows Capitalism to thrive and for the human race to survive each Monday morning.  Our founding fathers recognized this and many soldiers have died for us to enjoy it – FREEDOM.

So my solution for the Monday blues is simple and comes down to this one word.  We have the freedom to choose in this country what we wish to do with our time?  We have the freedom in America to decide for ourselves how we want to take on the week and what we feel about Monday.  We have the freedom to embrace Monday for all the mental misery it causes.  We have the freedom to cast aside the negativity and realize it is the start of another great week.  We lived through another weekend and we have another one coming.  It is this ritualistic sacrifice that we make each and every Monday that allows us to persevere and enjoy another weekend with our families and truly appreciate the smaller things that we sometimes forget during the work week.  We are fortunate to have the freedom to enjoy each day of the week for its beauty.

Happy Monday everyone!

P.S. – For five tips to help you battle the Monday blues check out the following article by Michael Poh – http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/monday-blues/

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