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How to Stop Brand Decline: Following Brand Image is More than Meets the Eye

If the headline caught your eye, then you are probably challenged by a declining brand. Am I right?

Unfortunately for you, I’m not going to give you an easy five-step solution to turn around that faltering, or dying brand. And I will chastise you for letting it get that far! But I’ll also give you five ideas to help you understand why your brand is declining.

I was speaking with an ex-colleague of mine who is frustrated by her boss – aren’t we all at times? She is working on a brand that is globally doing OK, but the brand image results are beginning to show some worrying signs. The most important attributes identified for the product are all trending in the wrong direction.

Her boss continues to argue that since sales are good, why should they worry? He even went further and claimed that as the brand’s sales were doing well, there was no reason to continue to measure its image! This is just madness; wouldn’t you agree?

Brand image metrics are one of the best ways to follow the health of the brandif you are following the right attributes. 

Brand image metrics are one of the best ways to follow the health of the brand. #brand #marketing #brandimage Click To Tweet

By right I mean metrics that are relevant for the brand and the category. I have heard marketers request to measure their advertising slogans in a brand image study. This is obviously wrong, but it still comes up regularly when I’m working with a relatively inexperienced marketer. The reason you don’t is because slogans change, but the essence of a brand shouldn’t.

So if you don’t measure its advertising (directly), what should you measure? I think that the three most important areas to cover are:

  • the rational, functional benefits
  • the emotional, subjective benefits
  • the relational, cultural benefits

Let me give some examples, so you better understand:

  • Rational, Functional: removes stains, has a crunchy coating, offers 24-hour service.
  • Emotional, subjective: trustworthy brand, high quality, makes me more attractive.
  • Relational, cultural: a Swiss brand, trendy, traditional

In addition to these three image areas, I would suggest you also follow the brand’s personality and value perception. Both of these will impact its image and can provide clues to help understand changes in the image.

One further best practice is to also follow your main competitors so you have a good perspective of the category and its main selling points. Sometimes declines in image come from a competitor emphasizing an attribute for which you were previously known. As a result, although your brand hasn’t changed anything, its association with the attribute can decline due to the competitive actions.

Coming back to my friend and her manager, she asked me what she could do to persuade her boss to continue measuring brand image. This is what I told her to discuss with him.

  1. Review the attributes that have been measured, especially those showing the largest changes. Can you agree on why these have happened? Are you measuring the right metrics that cover the category or are you in need of updating them? Markets change and perhaps your attributes no longer reflect the latest sensitivities. This might be the reason for the image declines while sales continue to rise because the brand corresponds to these new customer needs and desires.
  2. Review customer care line discussions to see what customers are calling in about. See if there are any comments that tie in with the image attribute changes. These discussions will also highlight any areas that you are not currently following in your image tracker – see #1.
  3. Review your customer persona. Have you followed their changes or are you appealing to a new segment of users? If the latter, this might explain the sales increases. However, if you are measuring your brand image on a sub-group of category users that no longer reflect your current customers, this could explain the decreasing metrics. For more information on how to complete a detailed persona description, check out “How well do you know your customers?”
  4. Review market dynamics. If you are following sales and not share, you may be losing customers to other brands which are driving market growth. This might explain why sales are growing, but the image is declining.
  5. Review social media discussion. Today we have the luxury of finding out what people really think about a brand from discussions on social media. If your brand has a solid following or a respected customer base that shares their experience online, then this is a great way to know what is working and what is not. People tend to share negative experiences more than positive ones, so rather than taking offence we can obtain valuable information about a brand’s vulnerabilities.

These five areas will make for a lively discussion for my friend and her boss. They should also provide the necessary information for you to slow and hopefully reverse the negative sales trend of your brand. Of course, once you have the knowledge on what to do, you will need to take appropriate actions, but I’ll cover that in another post.

Have you tried other ways to manage a declining brand? Have I missed other actions to take to better understand what is happening? If so I’d love you to share your own experiences.

Winning customer centricityThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

Market Research, Business Intelligence & Big Data: Have we Forgotten about Human Data?

The annual pilgrimage to the ESOMAR Conference took place last week in Dublin. I heard that there was much discussion, both on and off the stage, about Big Data and the future of market research. Hopefully, the whole profession will get behind one initiative, instead of each individually trying to “solve world peace” on their own!

This week sees the second Swiss BI-Day taking place in Geneva and there will no doubt be similar discussions about Big Data and the future of Business Intelligence.

It appears that Big Data is not just a buzzword or a commodity that has been likened to oil; it has become the centre of a power struggle between different industries. Many professionals seem to be vying for the right to call themselves “THE Big Data experts”.

This got me thinking about the future of data analysis in general and the business usage of Big Data more specifically. There seems to be no stopping the inflow of information into organisations these days, whether gathered through market research, which is proportionally becoming smaller by the day, or from the smartphones, wearables and RFID chips, that get added to every conceivable article, more generally referred to as the IoT (Internet of Things). Who will, and how are we to better manage it all? That is the question that needs answering – soon! (>>Tweet this<<)

Data Science Central published an interesting article earlier this year called “The Awesome Ways Big Data Is Used Today To Change Our World”. Already being a few months old probably makes it a little out-of-date, in this fast changing world we live in, but I think it still makes fascinating reading. It summarises ten ways that data is being used:

  1. Underst anding and Targeting Customers
  2. Underst anding and Optimizing Business Processes
  3. Personal Quantification and Performance Optimization
  4. Improving Healthcare and Public Health
  5. Improving Sports Performance
  6. Improving Science and Research
  7. Optimizing Machine and Device Performance
  8. Improving Security and Law Enforcement
  9. Improving and Optimizing Cities and Countries
  10. Financial Trading

Many of these are not new in terms of data usage nor business analysis. What is new, is that the data analysis is mostly becoming automated and in real-time. In addition, the first and second items, which were largely the domains of market research and business intelligence, are now moving more into the h ands of IT and the data scientists. Is this a good or bad thing?

Another article posted on Data Informed a few months after the above one, talks about The 5 Scariest Ways Big Data is Used Today   and succinctly summarises some of the dynamic uses of data today. The author of both pieces, Bernard Marr, wrote that “This isn’t all the stuff of science fiction or futurism. Because the technology for big data is advancing so rapidly, rules, regulations, and best practices can’t keep up.” He gives five examples of where data analysis raises certain ethical questions:

  1. Predictive policing. In February 2014, the Chicago Police Department sent uniformed officers to make “ custom notification visits to individuals whom they had identified, using a computer generated list, as likely to commit a crime in the future. Just one step towards the “Minority Report”?
  2. Hiring algorithms. Companies are using computerized learning systems to filter and hire job applicants. For example, some of these algorithms have found that, statistically, people with shorter commutes are more likely to stay in a job longer, so the application asks, “How long is your commute?” Statistically, these considerations may be accurate, but are they fair?
  3. Marketers target vulnerable individuals. Data brokers have begun selling reports that specifically highlight and target financially vulnerable individuals. For example, a data broker might provide a report on retirees with little or no savings to a company providing reverse mortgages, high-cost loans, or other financially risky products. Would we want our own families targeted in this way?
  4. Driving analysis devices may put you in the wrong insurance category. Since 2011, car insurance companies like Progressive and Axa, have offered a small device you can install in your car to analyze your driving habits and hopefully get you a better rate. But some of the criteria for these lower rates are inherently discriminatory. For example, insurance companies like drivers who stay off the roads late at night and don’t spend much time in their cars, but poorer people are more likely to work the late shift and to have longer commutes to work — both of which would be strikes against them when it comes to calculating their auto insurance rates.
  5. Walmart and Target determine your life insurance rates. OK, not directly, but Deloitte has developed an algorithm, based on “non-traditional third-party sources” that can predict your life expectancy from your buying habits. They claim that they can accurately predict if people have any one of 17 diseases, including diabetes, tobacco-related cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression, by analyzing their buying habits.

Marr starts this article by very briefly discussing privacy and inherent biases in data. I think these issues are far more urgent than deciding whether it is market research, business intelligence or data scientists that are in charge of the actual data analysis. Perhaps we all need to work together so that the “Human” side of data is not forgotten? After all, most data comes from people, is understood – if no longer strictly analysed – by people, for the benefit of people, to help change people’s behaviour. What do you think? Join the conversation and let your voice be heard. (I’ll be presenting this very topic at the Swiss BI-Day this coming Tuesday, so I do hope that you will pop by and listen)

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post includes concepts and images from Denyse’s book  Winning Customer Centricity. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will also find downloadable templates and usually a discount code too.

The book is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBook and in all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle using Amazon’s new Whispersync service, it’s coming soon!

Halloween Scares & Solutions for Marketing

Halloween is coming, even earlier than usual this year, judging from all the retail displays already in the shops! Although it is now more associated with children dressing up in scary costumes and dem anding “Trick or Treat”,  it is actually a Christian remembrance of the dead on the eve of All Saints’ Day.

So what does that have to do with marketing? Apart from the obvious effort of many companies to include the pumpkin shape, flavour or aroma in almost every product they make, at least in the US, marketing too has its scary moments doesn’t it?

What scares you marketers the most, or to put it another way, what keeps you up at night? One of the most recent studies on the topic, issued a few months ago, comes from The Marketing Institute (MSI) and was summarised by David Aaker of Prophet as seven issues, which he divided into three tiers:

TIER ONE: The hot topics

  1. Underst anding customers and the customer experience with particular emphasis on the impact of social and digital.
  2. Big data and analytics, with how they will impact predictive modelling and the marketing mix.

TIER TWO: The other concerns

  1. Following on from the opportunities of Big Data, the next concern is Marketing Accountability and its ROI.
  2. Developing marketing excellence and the new skills required such as visualisation and storytelling.
  3. Leveraging digital/social/mobile technology and linking it to CRM
  4. Creating and communicating enduring customer value and how to measure it in the social environment.
  5. Developing and delivering integrated marketing

TIER THREE: Previous concerns getting under control

  1. Innovating products and services
  2. Global marketing
  3. Segmentation
  4. Optimizing social contracts

What I find interesting from this and similar studies that I wrote about last year, is the overlap between many of these challenges. Marketers are really concerned about the wealth of information that they have on their customers and how they can manage to turn it all into insights, for more profitable actions and engagement. I therefore thought it would be useful to summarise the “so whats” of all these current challenges and propose actions that will help marketers get these issues under control, so they can change their scares into solutions:

Underst anding the customer experience

SCARE: With the exciting new worlds of social and digital taking up much of the thoughts of marketers, they are struggling to find ways to think integration, but that is the only way to underst and today’s customers. 

SOLUTION: Starting from the customers’ perspective makes looking at the bigger picture much easier. Instead of thinking single channels of communication, think connection and engagement. (>>Tweet this<<). Instead of thinking purchase and loyalty, think advocacy. Creating value for the customer goes way beyond providing a product or service these days. (>>Tweet this<<)

Knowing what to do with data

SCARE: We have gone from an information rich environment to complete data overload. This challenge definitely keeps a lot of marketers up at night. They feel as if they have to use everything available but at the same time are also aware that they are incapable of doing so.

SOLUTION: The answer lies in the old “eating an elephant” solution. Rather than worrying about what is not being managed, marketers should review what they already have, and only then decide what else they could use to help answer all their questions. There is so much information available today that we can’t work with it all, but we can ask better questions that can be answered by analysing this data. Start with the right question and then use the data you have to answer it. (>>Tweet this<<)

Engaging customers

SCARE: Every br and has some sort of web presence today. Whether that is a website, Facebook page or Twitter account, most companies have rushed into social media without a detailed underst anding of why they are there. If this is your case, it’s time to take a step back.

SOLUTION: How are you connecting with your customers today, both offline and online? The two should be complementary. However if there is too much overlap and you are doing the same on both, then you are wasting your money. You are also wasting your money if you don’t know why you are online in the first place! (>>Tweet this<<)

I had a client once who wanted help in updating one of their websites. In running a first analysis of all their websites, I found that more than 80% of them were being visited by less than 30 visitors a month! We cancelled all those websites and invested the money in the remaining active ones, improving both their ROI and the engagement with their customers. Maybe it’s time to take a look at your own web statistics?

Marketing ROI

SCARE: Marketers are scared for their budgets and even more so for their jobs. With the rise in the importance of technology and IT, marketers need to move from br anding  and creativity alone, to embracing data and analytics much more than they have done in the past.

SOLUTIONBecome friends with your CIO and see IT as a support of rather than as a threat to your budgets. Yes managing new technologies and data analysis will need more investment, but that won’t (shouldn’t) come at the expense of br and building. In fact with the increased power of the customer and the number of channels on which to reach them, marketing needs increased budgets to be where and when the customer dem ands connection and information. (>>Tweet this<<)

Acquiring new skills

SCARE: As already mentioned, marketers must get comfortable with large amounts of different data. They also need better ways to analyse and make sense of it all, often in near real-time. This is a challenge in itself, but the new skills they have to acquire don’t stop there. They also need to turn their information into actionable insights and then share them with the rest of the business to gain acceptance and impact.

SOLUTION: Your market research and insight colleagues are the best people to help in making sense of the data and developing actionable insights. It will be the marketer’s job to share these with the rest of the business in a more creative way. Visualisation & storytelling are the new must-have skills for today. No longer can you expect PowerPoint presentations to excite and engage your C-suite executives – if they ever did!

These are five of the most pressing current scares of marketing and some simple solutions to address them. Are you challenged by something else? If so, add a comment below and I’ll help you find a solution. Or if you prefer, you can contact me here.

C3Centricity used an image from Microsoft in this post.

 

 

Should you Test your Advertising? If so, What, When and How?

 

One of my clients recently asked me a very interesting question, which I share here, as I am sure that you too have asked it from time to time. It was this: “Should I test my advertising and if so, when and how?”

Depending upon whether you work on the client side, in a media agency or are a creative in an ad agency, you will have certainly answered this in a different way. So let’s review all the pros and cons and decide what is right – for you – in different circumstances.

 

Should you test advertising?

If you work on the client side and ask your colleagues in an advertising agency, most of them would probably scream NO and that’s not surprising! Countless teams have suffered at the h ands of market research and the over-testing of their creative.

In the past sixty years or so, there have been many different metrics invented, with the intention of evaluating which of a client’s communication concepts would best meet their objectives. And that for me is one of the biggest challenges to ad. testing. Should you test a campaign or each individual ad? Should you test an ad built to increase awareness in the same way as one built for encouraging trial, purchase, repurchase, loyalty or advocacy? My answer would be a very Swiss “It depends”.

Firstly you have to be clear about why you are advertising in the first place, and what your campaign is trying to achieve. It still amazes me how many companies develop new campaigns simply because that’s what they do each year. Hopefully each new campaign has a link to the preceding one, but even that is not always obvious. Therefore start by being very clear with whom you want to communicate and why – and share that information with your ad agency.

 

When to test

A lot of companies have a st andard process of testing ads before airing. Whilst this could be admired, it often results in multiple ad developments. The feeling is that more is better. If you test two, three or more ads, you can then choose the winner to air. What’s wrong with that?

Well, in my opinion, quite a lot. You’ve just wasted a lot of time, money and energy in developing multiple ads, when you know you’ll most probably only use one in most cases. It’s time to think differently and spend your valuable resources more wisely. Once the ad agency has developed a number of campaign concepts or ideas that meet your carefully defined objectives, then that is a better time to test.

Don’t wait until you have gone further and produced animations, final prints or complete films before testing. If you wait until that late a stage in the development process, you are also more likely to designate a “winner” when in fact they could all be good – or bad! Working with concepts will help identify the real winning ideas you have, which can then be developed into a final version or two for copytesting – if you must, but more of that later. The earlier you test, the more resources your ad agency can concentrate on the most relevant concept(s), rather than diluting their efforts to give you the wide choice you usually dem and. No wonder ad agencies don’t like copytesting!

 

What to test

Another reason for testing concepts rather than finished ads, is to ensure that they can be turned into a campaign. I have witnessed many terrific, so called “big ideas” that were superb as they stood, but which it was impossible to visualise other than in the single form proposed. If you show your early work to consumers, they might even be inspired by the story of an idea and suggest other ways to show the concept you have developed and thus you get an indication of the campaignability of the idea.

For regional and global campaigns, there is often the added complication of the translation of the idea into other languages. There are many concepts in English that don’t or only poorly translate into other languages. English is a wonderful language that is particularly appropriate for advertising, because of the ability to make wordplays, or use idioms, acronyms, slang, compound words and other wonders of its grammar. In addition the English language is known for its extensive vocabulary, which is especially useful in advertising copy-writing. Whereas in another language you might only have one or two words to express a particular meaning, English may have five or six, each with subtle differences.  If you’d like to see some great examples of advertising messages “lost in translation” (>>Tweet this<<) check out this fun article from Business News Daily.

 

How to test

Depending upon their “st andard” processes, most companies will tend to use the same methodology, with no regard for the reasons for doing so. Are you used to copytesting all your developments in order to pick the “winner”, or to get airing approved by management? Some clients I know must score in the “top quadrant” on the usual copytesting impact and persuasion metrics in order to use an ad, even though there are valid reasons to accept lower scores on one or other of the metrics, depending upon the campaign’s objectives.

Some of the best – and most useful – campaign testing I have ever seen, was done qualitatively. But that alone won’t work unless you then allow the creatives, market research and insight groups to discuss the results together – ALONE! It was exciting to share consumer opinions with the creatives and they found it equally stimulating to share their ideas and get feedback based on real consumer input. Whoever said that creatives don’t like testing are wrong; they just dislike judgemental, sometimes disrespectful and bl and numerical results with little if any depth of analysis.

A powerful testing methodology I have had the privilege to work with is the unique one proposed by PhaseOne. Their scientifically based, proprietary technique, is based on over thirty years experience of academic work  and real-world validation. Their knowledgebase includes an extensive foundation including analytics in human behaviour, anthropology, culture traits, entertainment, education, communications and marketing. This enables them to accurately explain how your target will react to your messages and even more importantly the reasons why, without actually speaking with consumers. In comparative testing versus st andard copytesting, their technique has been shown to give similar outcomes, but with greater depth and underst anding of the reasons why consumers react to an ad as they do and not just the what. If you’d like to hear more about this unique methodology, especially if you’re having trouble speaking with your own target customers due to legal or confidentiality issues, I’d be happy to share some case studies.

 

In summary when it comes to testing your advertising:

  1. Know with whom you want to communicate
  2. Know what your target audience wants to hear
  3. Know why you are communicating, what the message is that you want to send
  4. Know which concept(s) have the most resonance with both your target audience and objectives, and why
  5. Know how the concept(s) will develop into a campaign across media
  6. Know how you are going to communicate, the most relevant medium and channels for your target audience

Can you answer all six questions before pre-testing you own ads? If so, well done; if not, perhaps it’s time to review your testing process.

 

Where testing came from & where it’s going

In conclusion, a few words about the future of pre-testing. Although advertising testing supposedly started in the mid 1800’s, it was in the 1950’s that performance metrics became the holy grail of clients, ad agencies and media sellers alike. From Day-After-Recall, to persuasion, and br and linkage to moment-by-moment systems, it wasn’t until this decennie that the importance of emotional rather than rational responses to advertising gained support. Today, emotional analysis has become widely available and customers’ reaction to the ads are measured, usually on the six universal emotions (happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, anger) plus neutral. Whilst it’s still early days in underst anding the connection between emotional reactions and br and impact, things are moving fast. C³Centricity is now offering facial coding as part of its services, whether for adding to market research projects or for the development of original promotions and point-of-sale activities. One such case study is available for download on the C³Centricity Members area here. (Free to join)

Interestingly, when I was doing research for this post, almost all the more recent articles I found were about the testing of online advertising, comparing PPC and positioning, of the usual paid, earned and owned media. However, with around two-thirds of budgets still being on traditional media – at least for now –  and Statista showing that consumers still trust it more than new media,  it seemed appropriate for me to concentrate on that here and leave online for a future post.

Also, I have covered only pre-testing here, yet I know many companies who are satisfied with running only post-tests. They admit that it is because they never have enough time to pre-test their ads which, at least to me, highlights a clear lack of concept testing in the first place. Hopefully I have explained why I think it is important, no vital, for clients, media and ad agencies alike, to do more of it. At least it will provide more material for those development discussions – before it’s too late!

Do you agree? Have I forgotten something? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you think.

C³Centricity used an image from Dreamstime in this post

 

The Ultimate Guide to Developing Actionable Insights

One of the biggest challenges of many marketers is developing actionable insights about the market and it’s customers.

Are you satisfied with the way you turn your data and information into underst anding and then develop insights on which you can take clear actions? If not, then you will find this post tremendously useful in helping you to update your practices.

Even if you are happy with your insight development process, converting them into actions can still be a stumbling block. In January 2013 Forrester wrote an article suggesting that last year would be the year for market insights. Eighteen months on, things don’t seem to have progressed much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.

#1. Be precise in your objectives

Your objectives for developing an insight should be presented as a desired change in your target (>>Tweet this<<). For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to find a way to convince competitive br and purchasers to buy your br and instead.

Identifying the change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true actionable insight. Are you identifying the change you desire in your customers? If not then this is something you should start doing; it will make developing actionable insights more focused and thus also easier.

#2. Involve a wide range of experts

Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department (>>Tweet this<<). Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and underst anding to address the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development more effective.

Gather a team of experts to provide a 360° perspective of the category or br and, including for example:

  • R&D, who can bring underst anding of available internal & external technical skills
  • operations who can share current defects and development aspects
  • sales who can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
  • marketing who will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
  • customer services who can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
  • finance who can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met

The group you bring together will be a function of the change you are looking to make. I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team, since it is their profession to underst and people and behaviour. They also generally have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company

#3. Review all available information & knowledge

All organisations have far more information than most employees realise (>>Tweet this<<), including your market research, insight, strategy and planning teams. This highlights the need for having a group of people from different departments since they will bring alternative perspectives and information sources to light.

Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge.  You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.

As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.

#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes

I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective (>>Tweet this<<).

Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the underst anding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have gathered. You could for instance:

  • go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you underst and the decision making process of your target customers.
  • compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
  • call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their br and’s uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
  • role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with one h and? If your product is used in certain dem anding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?

Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your br and. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.

#5. Fill the gaps

Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into underst anding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review (>>Tweet this<<). These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.

Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this should be relatively easy to do, as you had already clearly identified the need.

#6. Develop the insight

At this stage, you will certainly have a better underst anding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team (>>Tweet this<<), which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.

You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.

 

These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that need to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which may otherwise happen.

From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in underst anding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.

What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below. I would be happy to answer them for you.

For more information on insight development, please check out our website at: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/ as well as available trainings at: https://www.c3centricity.com/training- and-evaluation/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Kozzi in this post.

New Thinking for Old Ways of Business

I’ve just come back from IIeX-EU (Insight Innovation Exchange – Europe) in Amsterdam, and my head is full of exciting new things to experiment. It’s strange what happens to our brains when we have the chance to get away from the office and THINK! We become more creative, less bound by old habits, and ready to try new experiences.

After these few days away, I am fired with enthusiasm to bring real changes to my own business, those of my clients, as well as to yours through this post. I’d like to share a few of the ideas which were stimulated by some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen grouped into one single conference. Read on for four inspirational ideas for you to implement immediately, to bring new thinking into your own business.

Partner for Growth

Lowes logo eOne of the first speakers at the event was Kyle Nel from Lowe’s, an American home improvement chain. He explained that business is about changing customers’ behaviour and to do this we need to constantly update our methods for underst anding them. Lowe’s finds inspiration in partnering with organisations including Coke, UNICEF and NASA; how’s that for thinking outside the box? By connecting with companies in other industries, their thinking is constantly challenged, which enables them to grow exponentially, rather than in the linear fashion that most of us seem to be satisfied with. Kyle shared how Lowe’s accepts that whilst there may often be disappointments, the one in ten new ideas that truly deliver are worth all their efforts.

NEW THINKING: Find a catalyst for your own growth to bring you new ideas from external sources. Also look outside your industry for inspiration, and partner with a select few industry leaders that are trying new, exceptionally creative things (Like Loew’s!)

Know what you Know

Information & knowledge sharing is essentialGregory Short, author of “The Billion Dollar Paperclip”, suggested that it’s time we took a new look at our business and the eco-system in which it is operating. Amongst the list of things mentioned, he included identifying what you already know. This resonated with me because so often when new clients ask for help, they often already have a lot of the information they are seeking, they just didn’t know they had it!

Haiko van Lengen and Sjoerd Koornstra shared a Heineken case study which covered a similar point on knowledge sharing. They mentioned the 2009 Boston Consulting Group Insight Benchmarking study which showed that most companies are not using the majority of the information they gather.

Haiko and Sjoerd suggested that before doing any sort of information gathering, we should first assess what is already available internally on the topic. This review should include talking to all departments and definitely not just market research. You would be surprised how many companies operate in silos, each buying their own reports and information, and too often without the knowledge of their market research and insight department.

NEW THINKING: Find a way of sharing more information across your organisation, by setting up an easily accessible storage system. This could be as simple as a shared folder or as proprietary as a knowledge management system and library.

Don’t be Scared of Emotions

Plutchik's wheel of emotionsDiana Lucaci at True Impact Marketing, spoke about the surprising habit many marketers have of being satisfied with knowing just the “Who” and the “What” of their customers’ behaviours. She pointed out that it is even more important to underst and the “Why” of customer actions in order to impact them.

With the rapid expansion in the use of neuroscience and biometric measurement in market research, we now have the possibility to underst and a lot about our customers without even directly asking. Perhaps it’s time for you to experiment (again?). Let me know if you’re interested in trying out the leading emotional measurement tool around.

Diana also made a throw-away comment at the end of her presentation that was also later picked up by Daryl Travis during his talk on “Why emotions win the battle of the br ands”. It reminds us that there are simple things we can do that can have an incredibly positive impact on our customers’ loyalty:

“Make sure that checkout, or the last action your customer makes, is a memorable and positive experience” (>>Tweet this quote<<)

Daryl also ended his presentation with another well chosen, inspiring quote from Maya Angelou, the American author and poet:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” (>>Tweet this quote<<)

NEW THINKING: Review your own customer journey maps, but this time as an emotional journey and ensure that the last step is a positive experience – or urgently correct it if it isn’t!

Customers only Care about the Benefit

Benefits are what interest customersThis links to the previous comment on emotions. Michael Bartl from Hyve, mentioned that your customers don’t really care about who or how you solve their problems, only that you have a solution. Whilst this is probably correct in general, I believe there are some customers who do care and you need to know who they are. Concerns about sustainability, sourcing and ecological impact can all be relevant for some industries and br ands, so you need to check whether they are to your customers or a segment of them.

NEW THINKING: Review your advertising and see if you too spend most time speaking about rational product or service elements and less about the customer benefits. If it’s the case, make the swap to a more benefits-driven communications and measure the impact.

These are just four of the tens of pages of ideas I wrote, that were stimulated by presentations I followed during the IIEX-EU conference in Amsterdam last week. I hope they inspired your own thinking and interest in trying out some new things in your own marketing and market research. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or if you’d be interested in getting some help in catalysing change in your own organisation.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime and  Kozzi

Time to Change your Outdated Work Habits

This week I’ve been helping a client create a new website. He had already mapped out what he wanted to include in it and he provided me with pages of ideas and possible content. Have you ever noticed how it is much harder to rewrite or adapt something, than it is to create from scratch? (>>Click to Tweet<<)How difficult it is to “unlearn” behaviours? Whether it is changing the content of a website, editing the script for a play or book, or adopting new habits, it always dem ands far more effort than the original creation itself. Why is this?

One reason is that we humans like comfortable solutions. We always look for the easiest and simplest way of doing things. That’s why you can find yourself in your car in front of your garage with no memory of the drive back home. You know the way so well, you’ve been on autopilot and your brain has been thinking about other things. 

A recent excellent short read in The Guardian entitled “Habits: why we have them and how to break them” by Dr Benjamin Gardner, Lecturer in Health Psychology at University College, London, provides some of the answers:

  1. Habits are automatic responses to situations
  2. Smoking, snacking and TV viewing are common habits
  3. We learn habits by repeating actions in a situation
  4. Around half of all everyday actions are habitual (>>Click to Tweet<<)
  5. Habits free up mental resources for use elsewhere
  6. They usually take more than two months to form
  7. Setting a realistic goal will help you persevere
  8. Habits may form more quickly for enjoyable tasks
  9. To break a habit, find and avoid the habit trigger
  10. Moving house disrupts many existing habits

So how does this apply to our work? Well firstly, if you are looking to measure behaviour, customers are likely to struggle when referring to the reasons for certain habits, since they have been adopted and now take little mental power (points 4 & 5 above). This is why retailers sometimes change the layout of their stores – although that can also have a negative impact too – to make their shoppers think about what they buy and perhaps also tempt them to try new products or categories.

Reading the above list, it may sound like it will be difficult to break a habit, but as the last point mentions, disruption makes it much easier to change. Think about the arrival of a new boss, the introduction of a new structure or some other event in business, it can result in many habitual tasks being re-evaluated and even replaced. Read on to find a few ideas on how you can make some perhaps necessary changes of your own.

Tracking Br and Equity

Br and equity measurement is a great habit

Last week I wrote about the importance of tracking the three areas of customer br and value: those of functional / rational, emotional / subjective and relational / cultural. Now before you congratulate yourself on measuring the complete spectrum of image attributes, ask yourself how long you have been working with exactly the same list. We all love consistency and comparability but that is often just an excuse to avoid the hard work of evaluating the current metrics and deciding what needs to be added, replaced and removed.

The marketplace for so many – dare I say all? – products and services is moving so fast today that your attributes need to be regularly reviewed and adapted to the new market environment.

Tracking Usage & Awareness

Are you still measuring usage through an omnibus paper or telephone interviews? Look into the possibility of online or mobile as both a quicker and cheaper method of data gathering. Or what about using automatic data gathering from mobile phones, online websites, or smart chips on your products? Of course you will need to conduct comparative runs before switching methodologies, but you may find you get more acceptance from the consumers contacted and easier and swifter returns of information into the organisation.

Trend Following

Future l andscape

Do you continue to buy a st andard service and reporting for following societal trends, just like your competitors do? How about extending trend following into scenario planning? It will make more use of your current service and will provide a significant competitive advantage. (>>Click to Tweet<<)

Replacing Reports by Stories

Replacing reports bz stories is a great habitThere is so much talk about the value of storytelling that I hope I don’t need to explain this point, but have you done anything to integrate it into your own work? One of C³Centricity’s partners (SciFutures) just produced a short and inspiring summary of the key themes and ideas generated at FT2013 (2013 Foresight & Trends Conference). However, they did it through telling a science fiction narrative, rather than by writing the usual report. I would highly recommend checking it out here  and then I dare you to tell me that you would have preferred to read a conference report instead!

So these are just a few habits that it might be worth considering to change in your work environment. Do you have others that your know you should break? If so I would love to know what they are and more importantly, what is stopping you from bringing those needed changes? Let me know because perhaps I just might be able to help.

Did you know C³Centricity runs training workshops and support sessions on revamping your Market Research Toolbox and Processes?  Contact us to learn more.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime, Microsoft  and  Kozzi

Reputation and Trust: Do you Have Both?

At the end of last year I asked readers to send me their biggest challenges for 2014. The winning question was related to innovation, which I wrote about last week: “This is why your new products crash & burn“.

Another of the questions I received was related to measuring equity and the relative importance of following the image of the br and or the corporation. I respond below to this interesting dilemma and propose some ideas about what you should be following.

The three essentials of br and valueLet me start by saying that I covered br and image metrics in some detail last year in a popular post  called “ How to Build Br and Reputation and Consumer Trust: And then Track it”. The article spoke about the three important areas that you need to measure in order to have a complete perspective of your br and image, namely Rational / Functional, Emotional / Subjective and Cultural / Relational.

Whilst this is the simplest method for measuring br and equity, it is said that there are in fact seven essential elements that make a business great in the eyes of the customer. These elements are a combination of product perceptions as above, together with those of the enterprise. Perhaps surprisingly, the latter actually trump the former in driving behaviours today, so corporate reputation is now essential to follow too. It also suggests that whilst product performance, services and innovation are important, it is the companies behind the br ands that influence a consumer’s trust and final choice. If you’d like to read more about this, please click on the above link where you can find more details.

Coca Cola logo

However, measuring br and image and corporate reputation is still not going to give you all the answers you need. One of the areas that few organisations study today, even when they measure both of these, is the relationship between the images of the br ands and the company.

Unilever AXE logoFor some br ands such as Coca Cola, the relationship is both obvious and strong, whereas for Pantene or Axe the link to P&G  and Unilever may be far less evident.

P&G Pantene logo

Despite an increasing effort by both companies to strengthen the association between their br ands and themselves as manufacturer, the connection remains tenuous at best.

So how do you measure this link and underst and what the br and brings to the corporation and vice versa? Read on for a simple process.

Following Br and & Corporate Reputations is a 3-step process

Step 1: Measure your br ands’ images

Hopefully you are already doing this on a regular basis. If not please start immediately since you cannot manage br ands without knowing where you are today, even if you have a clear idea planned for where you want to go. The post linked above gives you a start on getting this done.

The one addition that you may have to incorporate in your current questionnaire is to ensure that you clearly identify whether the respondent knows who makes each of the br ands. This will be essential for the analysis later on.

Step 2: Measure your corporate image

Again you should already be doing this, but I am always amazed how few companies collect such metrics on a regular basis. The prompt for doing so is often a crisis or a change of management and vision, but by then it is actually too late. Whatever you measure in such circumstances will be difficult to analyse since you don’t know what the figures looked like before the event happened. This is why it is essential to measure it at least annually and perhaps even more regularly when a lot is happening in the marketplace.

As was also the case for your br and equity metrics, you will need to include a measurement of br and attribution for each of the companies you measure. This will again be used in the analytical phase.

Step 3: Analyse and cross-reference the information gathered

The third step of the process is to first review the images of each br and by the knowledge and awareness of the consumers about its parent company. Then review the corporate images based upon whether each is attributed or not to each of its br ands, or maybe even to competitive br ands. Then by crossing these two sets of relational information, you will get a clear picture of what the br and brings in terms of reputation to the company and what the corporate reputation adds to or detracts from each br and. Once you underst and the relationship between your br ands and your business, you can start to lay out a plan to boost your consumers’ knowledge and trust with appropriate PR and advertising.

Some organisations, including those mentioned above, find ways to associate their company name within their br and advertising. For instance Nestlé and Purina both end their ads with a company link and logo. Unilever and SCJohnson are a little more creative in showing  a fold up / down corner with their logo and name and in the case of the latter, even their corporate slogan. This is far less intrusive and leaves the br and to shine as hero in the ad.

If you already run your own br and equity or corporate reputation studies, why not combine them as suggested above, for improved actionability? If you do a different type of analysis I would love to hear about it; just add a comment below or write to me in person at denysedd@c3centricity.com. It would be great to hear your thoughts on this essential element of tracking.

This is Why your New Products “Crash & Burn”

Last month I invited readers to share some of the problems and challenges they need to address in 2014. I offered a free consultation to one lucky winner who asked the most interesting question, which could also be of interest for me to answer for other readers.

Well, the winner is Jean-Francois (JF) who has just started working with a start-up in the tech and app areas – I feel that’s more and more of us these days, don’t you? His question was:

“I would like to commercialize a new XXX; what would be the right approach to identify the consumer need and then the market potential, considering that the company has very limited financial resources?”

This is a great question and a reminder that not every organisation has access to large market research or marketing departments and extensive budgets. In fact, in many companies these roles are being h andled by one and the same person with very few resources; is that your case? If so then you will definitely find this post of interest, but even if it isn’t, I’m sure you will still find value from the ideas shared.

As I had promised, I gave Jean-Francois a one-on-one consultancy which ended up lasting several hours, as he had planned well for our session together. He also happens to be really passionate about his innovative idea, as well as in finding solutions to all his challenges.

The product JF and his team want to launch doesn’t exist on the market today, although there are some products which are unsuccessfully trying to address the perceived customer need. The proportion of product launches which fail every year is generally “accepted” to be about 95% – although why companies continue to accept such levels is beyond me! With such odds, I think it is incredibly courageous to start a whole company based around just one new product idea, but that seems to be the norm in many areas today.

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the reasons new products fail and identify ways to reduce if not completely eliminate them for your next launch.

  1. New product Process wheelThe process itself: Innovation is by definition a creative process, but many organisations use a well-worn, restrictive and uncreative process to develop their new products. They are at best most likely to come up with renovations than true innovations. The solution is to introduce some creativity into the process, and why not include potential customers in the process too?
  2. Meeting company quotas: It is surprising that with such miserable statistics concerning the likely success rate of new products, that so many companies – and which shockingly include many of the largest CPGs around – fix quotas on the number of annual new product launches. How crazy is that?! It just encourages too many new products to be launched too early, and almost guarantees failure! I believe it would be much better to seriously limit the levels of acceptance amongst all new product ideas proposed in any year, then only the best would get through.
  3. Lack of customer underst anding: This is most likely one of, if not the most important reason for new product launch failures. And I don’t mean that you should ask the customer what he wants, he doesn’t know until you make it available to him in many industries. No, I mean starting by looking at a customer’s lifestyle and seeing how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them. If you already have a new product idea, which was the case for JF, then consider how it would make the customer’s life easier or better. If it doesn’t, then you perhaps need to reassess its market appeal.
  4. Lack of category underst anding: This follows on from customer underst anding, in that you need to identify how the customer is currently working around or compensating for their need today. Don’t assume you are competing in a certain category until you have identified what the customer is currently doing or using. That is the way to identify your true competition.
  5. Not living up to your promises: If you promise a better, cheaper or more enjoyable experience, then customers deserve to be able to confirm this if they buy. Especially in today’s connected world, if you disappoint by not meeting customers’ expectations, your product will fail even more quickly than in the past, since early-adopters will Tweet or leave comments on Facebook, Blogs or other social media platforms for all to see.
  6. Not being sufficiently differentiated: Following on from living up to your promises, customers need a reason to change behaviours, and depending upon the category this can be costly, whether in time, money or effort. Many customers prefer to continue buying an inferior product or service than making the effort to change – think Telecom, Banking, Hotels, Air travel or Insurance as some of the most typical examples of such industries. These businesses are in a constant battle to differentiate themselves and provide a real advantage to attract new customers.
  7. Being too different: Whilst not being sufficiently differentiated can be a certain cause of failure, being too new can also meet with no success. The reason for this is that if customers are totally unfamiliar with the new product or service offering, you will need to spend considerable resources to educate them. If you are unable or not willing to invest the time and money in doing this, then you will undoubtedly fail to attract more than just a few customers who take the time to underst and what you are offering.
  8. Correct pricing is key to NPD successPricing yourself out of the market: Here I’m not just speaking of pricing your product too high; being too low can also negatively impact your likely success. Underst anding how much potential customers value your offer to essential to the success of any product. Getting it wrong can result in lost revenue or worse a promotional spiral leading to br and hell (read more about this in “Are you on the way to br and heaven or hell“)
  9. Inappropriate distribution: This can be the consequence of an incomplete underst anding of your customer and is also linked to differentiation. Whilst you can just follow near competitors into their own distribution channels, why ignore the possibility of being available where and when your customer might buy it most? By reducing the effort necessary to change their habits and buy, you can attract more potential customers to at least try your new product.
  10. Being too far ahead of the customer: There are many examples of great products that were ahead of their time. Gillette brought out 2–in–1 shampoos with conditioners included in the early 70’s, but they were a dramatic flop. Ten years later most personal care manufacturers offered these products, and were met with huge success, even if such products have gone out of fashion somewhat since then. It took Nespresso almost twenty years to become profitable and Philip Morris has needed similar levels of patience for their most infamous of br ands Marlboro, in many markets. If you can’t afford to wait for your customers to catch up with your new product idea, then you should certainly reconsider your launch decision.

These are ten of the most common reasons for new product launch failure. Which do you think is most prevalent in your own company? What are you going to change to increase the success of your own new products? Is it some other reason altogether, that I’ve missed? Let me know and share your thoughts below. 

Coming back to JF, most of our time together was spent discussing ways to collect information on many of the above points. As he has little budget for extensive market research, it was important for him to find other ways of gathering the much needed information and not to just bypass that stage; perhaps many people don’t bother to search out the information they need to truly assess the likely success of their new product, which would explain the high failure rate mentioned above.

By the end of my session with JF, he had a clear plan of action and I have since heard that he is progressing incredibly fast, so watch this space for an announcement concerning the launch of his new device.

I will be sharing the tips I gave him in a future blog post, but in the meantime feel free to continue sending me your own questions; I’m always ready to have a short Skype or phone call to assist you with your own marketing and innovation challenges.

C³Centricity uses images from  DreamstimeKozzi  and Microsoft

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Is this Why you Can’t Get Closer to your Customers?

As we get to the end of 2013, it is common for many of us to review what we have and haven’t accomplished during the year. If becoming even more customer centric was one of your objectives, let’s review one aspect of it, that of really underst anding and getting closer to our customers.

It is good to remember that even if we want to become more customer centric and might have planned it as one of our objectives this year: 

“Customer centricity is a journey, not a destination”

It is something we need to keep top-of-mind constantly and continuously look for even more ways to make the customer the heart of the business. Deep customer underst anding comes from a multitude of sources of knowledge and information that has been gathered, built up and integrated over time. Nevertheless, the way we go about doing this, can make a huge difference to our chances of success in underst anding and pleasing our customers.

There are four ways we can collect and then use information and knowledge about our customers, and all are necessary for the deep underst anding that brings customer delight and business success.

#1. Hindsight

Hindsight is backward looking but still gets you closer to customersDespite the ever-increasing flow of real-time information into a company, this is arguably still the most used “sight” in customer underst anding today. We record or measure what our customers do; where they bought; how much they consumed; what advertising they saw and when. Unfortunately, despite the possibility technology provides us to record and send this information immediately to businesses, for most organisations, these metrics are based on past performance by the time we get to analyse them.

Even worse, this is exactly the type of information that we use to estimate how healthy our br and and business is going to be in the future. We assume that the market will stay roughly the same and that our continued efforts will be rewarded with similar, if not greater success. However, in today’s fast-paced world, nothing stays the same for long, especially not the customer.

Examples of hindsight are market shares, media consumption and shopping habits. Whilst br and equity can also be considered hindsight, it has been found that declining image often precedes a sales decline, so could arguable be seen to contain elements of both hindsight and foresight.

#2. Eyesight & Hearsight

Eyesight  and Hearsight helps you get closer to customersThis is the qualitative element of the previous “sight”. It helps us to confirm the decisions we take about important metrics to follow, or can deepen our underst anding of the information we have already recorded. Management can sometimes feel less comfortable with this type of knowledge if it is not complemented by “solid” quantified information. However, it is a powerful way to more deeply underst and our customers’ thoughts and behaviour and to share it with others.

Examples of eyesight include observation and ethnography, listening in to call centres and following or joining in to online social media discussions and chat. In addition, new technologies are exp anding this area with additional sources, often using biometric and / or neuroscientific readings. These include retail eye-tracking, webcam emotional facial analysis and online impact algorithms. (If you’re interested in learning more about any of these, which are available through C³Centricity and its partners, I would be happy to discuss further with you over Skype or a quick call)

#3. Insight

The spark of insight brings you closer to customers

This is what hindsight and eyesight should ideally be developed into. This suggests that no single piece of research, nor one project, should be expected to deliver insight, at least on its own. Insights come from combining different sources of information and knowledge, into underst anding and insight. Until we underst and the “why” behind the knowledge we have found, it is unlikely that true insight can be developed.

Depending upon your own definition of an insight, these can include an explanation of the behavioural change sought, or a statement, voiced from the consumer’s perspective, of what their need or issue is and what feelings they are looking to achieve when they solve it.

#4. Foresight

Foresight is planning for the future whilst getting closer to customersAlthough a business may be successful if it develops insights alone, in an ideal world it should also be considering the future and likely changes to the current situation. This will enable an organisation to be better prepared to take advantage of future opportunities, as well as to plan for possible risks.

For some, going beyond insight to foresight might mean making them feel uncomfortable as they are forced to think about possible scenarios that perhaps they would prefer NOT reflecting upon. And yet it is only by thinking about them and planning for our reactions to such situations, that we can really be best prepared to meet the opportunities and challenges the future might hold.

Now that I have summarised the differences between these four sights, I want to go back to the title of this post, “Out of sight, out of mind; how we underst and our customers”. I believe that underst anding comes out of these four sights and the integration and making sense of everything coming out of our minds. As technology starts to replace traditional market research information gathering and in some case the reporting too, we should be looking to move our skills’ emphasis from gatherer to sharer of insight.

Risks of not opening up to other sights

So, which sight are you using more often? As I already mentioned, we need to use all four, but not necessarily in equal proportions. Their use will each time depend upon the situation in which we find ourselves, but working with all four will ensure we try to underst and our customers from all possible perspectives.

If you work mainly with hindsight, you may risk a delay in reacting to market changes and new situations, so you need to strengthen your foresight. This can be done by following societal trends and then developing future scenarios to challenge your thinking.

If you work mostly with eyesight / hearsight, perhaps it’s because you feel threatened by the risk of your hypotheses and assumptions being proven wrong by “hard” facts. If this is the case, why not try quantifying some of your observations to see whether or not what has been observed is normal behaviour or merely your perception of reality?

If you work in an organisation that runs a lot of market research projects and draws conclusions and action plans from each one of them individually, it is time to strengthen your insights. (If you don’t have a process for developing insights from information integration, then contact us and let’s discuss how we might support you to develop a proprietary one). Perhaps surprisingly, insight development can actually save you resources, since running an evaluation of what is already known – the frequent first step of insight development – may produce the required answers and avoid the need for further studies.

Finally if you are living mostly in the future, you may be unaware of current opportunities / threats that quantification can indicate. Even when comfortable working with foresight, a business still needs to be managed on a day to day basis and for that, nothing beats a few numbers. Whilst foresight is essential to long-term business growth, the hypotheses must be based upon facts rather than assumptions.

Which sight do you need to strength in 2014? How are you going to do that? Plan to start this coming New Year by taking a critical look at which sight you are currently most comfortable using and then decide to strengthen your other sights. Please share your thoughts with everyone below.

Would you like some help with your own insight development process or information gathering? Then let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

This post was inspired by one published on 11th January 2013 in C³Centricity

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Are you MAD? You may be if you’re still doing any of these

I may be mad, but whilst North America celebrates Thanksgiving this week, I am NOT going to talk about it. That already makes me different from every other blogger, newspaper and magazine at the moment! Instead let me start with a story.

It was not a comfortable position to be in. I was facing my doctor for the nth time, who was telling me for the nth time that I would have to get my weight under control. Last year he suspected that I was gluten intolerant, but being a bread lover I didn’t listen too hard, although I did try not to eat it every day. However, I did still include gluten in all my meals in one way or the other and over time these have become the main ingredient of many of them – pasta, chips, risotto anyone?

It was Rita Mae Brown, not Einstein who is often attributed with it, who wrote in one of her books:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”

Although Psychology Today would disagree, it does sound pretty mad to do the same thing and expect different results, so I must be mad to expect a different outcome from my gluten “addiction”!

Perhaps you have a similar dilemma in your own personal or professional life, perhaps even both. Well I’ll stick to what I know, with the following examples of madness in work; why not check how “mad” you really are by reviewing them?

#1. Following trends and not applying them to the business

Trends around the worldMAD: It is certainly important to underst and the market and the way things are changing. However trend following is what your competitors are doing too and probably they’re following exactly the same trends as you are. AND almost certainly working on new product ideas that meet these identified trends, just like you.

SANE: Develop the trends into future scenarios. You’ll be looking further out for indications of possible opportunities and risks that you can prepare for before they happen.

SEE “Turning trends into Future Scenarios and the 10-step process you need to do it” for more on this topic.

#2. Hanging on to outdated metrics or measurement tools

MAD: You may be proud that you can track br and image or other metrics back ten, fifteen or even more years. Comparability is great, but only if you are consistently reviewing your metrics and adapting them to the changing environment so they remain relevant.

SANE: Regularly assess the image attributes you are using, adding or eliminating items to ensure a good coverage of both your and your competitors’ br ands. The same goes for any other tracking you might run on a frequent basis. Have consumption or purchasing habits changed? Have new distribution or media channels opened that you’re not following? Make sure you’re not running projects on autopilot.

SEE “Are you happy with your Market Research” for more on this topic.

#3. Ignoring that the world has gone mobile

Multiple connection choices with customersMAD: For anyone over 25 or 30, it is difficult to imagine that someone would prefer to text rather than call, but that is exactly what younger people do today – a lot! So how are you going to reach them? They won’t be at home waiting to see your advertising on the TV or keen to answer the questions of your next market research study.

SANE: Adapt how, where and when you communicate with your customers, as well as the messages you share. Become a trusted adviser, a useful partner rather than just a seller of your wares. Investigate new ways of getting the information you need; try mobile, online, social media analysis, or real-time monitoring as a start.

SEE “What’s keeping marketers up at night & solutions to help them sleep” which covers many of these areas.

#4. Continuing to develop multiple advertising concepts to just before airing

MAD: Too many organisations continue to develop multiple advertising concepts, almost to pre-airing readiness, before getting their customers’ feedback. Whilst this may be the way you’ve always done things, and your ad agency isn’t going to suggest you change, there are better ways to get high-performing communications.

SANE: Get early input from your customers about the possible directions, or use a tool such as PhaseOne’s meaning segments analysis. This will ensure choice happens early in the process and your money can be spent on airing rather than the development of doomed communication concepts.

SEE “Four steps to building br and affinity” for more on this topic.

#5. Innovating using your technical knowledge rather than by better underst anding your customers

Innovation leversMAD: Your R&D people know your products really well and have the skills and techniques to make them. However in many organisations they know very little about the people that will use / consume them. Therefore it doesn’t make sense to let R&D alone decide what the company will be selling in the future.

SANE: Your customers may not be able to tell you what they want, but they almost certainly can tell you what they DON’T want, as well as the problems they are having in certain situations. Wouldn’t that be a better place to start investigating possible new product opportunities?

SEE “How to get R&D excited about innovation” for more on this topic.

#6. Not using the information you’ve got

MAD: The knee-jerk response to information needs is usually to request market research, but most organisations don’t make use of the information they already have.

SANE: Whenever you need to underst and a situation, start by gathering and reviewing everything you already have on the topic. In many cases this will be sufficient to finding your answer. If not, it will give you a precise objective for any further information gathering that is necessary.

SEE “Increasing your information ROI: turning knowledge into gold” for more on this topic.

#7. Not watching and listening to your customers regularly

Watching & listening to customersMAD: Leaving customer connection to your market research suppliers, sales & merch andising teams or call center personnel alone.

SANE: Making it company “policy” for (almost) everyone to connect with your customers on a regular basis. This could be through connection events, call center following or even just attending market research fieldwork. Regular contact with your customers provides invaluable – and free – information on their changing needs and desires.

SEE “How to become a fan of your customer” for more on this topic.

#8. Actioning market research results rather than insights

MAD: Market Research is a useful tool for reducing risk in decision making, but it is rare that one project alone will deliver deep insight. It is only when multiple sources of data and information are integrated that true insights can be developed.

SANE: Besides a first review of all available information mentioned above, identifying the behaviour change you are seeking is a great way of ensuring that market research and information integration lead to insight.

SEE “A new guide to insight development” for more on this topic.

#9. Expecting your customers to call you in office hours

Social media as part of plansMAD: It is naive to expect all your customers to not only accept to wait until your care center is open, but also to expect that everyone is happy to connect by phone.

SANE: Make it easy for customers to contact you because if you don’t, many will get frustrated and just voice their issues on social media. Provide all possible channels of communication, so that your customers can choose the one that best suits their needs: phone, email, postal mail, even your physical address. Also make sure that at a minimum, you are available when your product or service is most likely being used. This means meal times for food and cooking products or in the evening and late night for TV, Internet and Telecom services for example.

SEE “How great customer service leads to great customer loyalty” for more on this topic.

These are just a few of the areas where continuing to run your business without due care of the changing world is total madness. What mad things is your company doing that you would love to change? I am sure we’d all love to hear about your own insane examples.

Need help in sorting out a few “mad” practices in your company? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Does your Organisation Really Need a Market Research Department? And in the Future?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about New Marketing; how communication is now all about engagement, how the consumer is boss and such like. But there has been very little said about New Market Research, perhaps because there isn’t any! If you’re concerned by this situation, whether you work in marketing, market research or a completely different area, then read on for some thoughts on how this situation can and must change.

Earlier this year I wrote about the future of market research / insight departments and what researchers need to do within their organisation to improve their image and perceived value. This week I want to take a wider look at the profession in general. 

Current Perception of Market Research

According to  Wikipedia, Marketing is “The process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers” The definition of  Market Research is “Any organized effort to gather information about markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy”.

What is interesting in comparing these two definitions is the difference in appreciation of the value to business of the two. Marketing is said to be a “critical function”, whereas Market Research is said to be “very important”. Perhaps this is why Market Research Departments continue to be hammered, their budgets are constantly under pressure and their value to the business is questioned.

Well, things are about to change, or at least there is an opportunity for this, if researchers take up the incredible chance offered to them in today’s world of information (over?) abundance. You can’t continue to do the same old same old when marketing, and more importantly the consumer, is clearly on the move.

 

What Business gets from Market Research

I think that one of the biggest problems that Market Research has (continues to have) is that Marketing and Management in general, find it too complex. What is often delivered from market research, BY researchers,  tends to be numbers and findings, not underst anding, insight and recommendations.

We no longer need market research to share the numbers and information today. More and more often, these are coming automatically into companies from an ever-growing number of sources, and a lot of it is even in real-time, something market research results never were! Think sensors on products, GPS on smart phones, retail purchases with debit / credit / loyalty cards, social media interactions …. DataShaka recently wrote in their The Lab an interesting perspective on data management and information sources which you might want to check out.

That’s a lot of data; indeed Aaron Zornes, chief research officer of The MDM Institute, was recently quoted in Information Management as saying that “a typical large company with (has) 14,000 or so databases on average”. And most of that data will be just sitting around in IT storage systems, rarely reviewed and even less likely to be integrated for meaningful knowledge development. It needs analysts and who better to interpret the meaning of all this data than market research?

What Market Research could Offer Business

 

What an incredible opportunity! The question is whether the market research profession is ready to take it up; whether researchers are ready to move from data gatherers (alone!) to interpreters and storytellers. Signs of the urgency for this change are everywhere. In a recent report by BusinessIntelligence.com (you can download the full report there), one of the conclusions drawn was that CEO’s are not getting what they need (from Big Data). Instead of Dashboards, they were more likely to be getting emails and spread sheets!

The market research profession took a small step to reinventing itself with the introduction of insight development, but this is still well within their comfort zone, and still not being done as effectively and consistently as it should. Today, market research / insight departments are being asked to make a much bigger leap into the realms of unknown territory, even for those already comfortable working with BigData.

The Questions you Need to Answer

In conclusion, here is what I believe all market research suppliers, agency and client-side researchers should be asking themselves today:

  1. Am I ready to move from data gatherer and sharer, to synthesizer and interpreter?
  2. Could I agree to the information I will be required to analyse NOT coming from statistically validated, representative samples of clearly identified populations?
  3. Will I accept that I have little control over the data sources I do use and even less over the information that is streaming into the organisation for all to see?
  4. Am I willing to shift from sending emails and spreadsheets, or presenting graphs and data, to speaking about how the world and consumers are changing?
  5. Would I happily move from sharing descriptions of data and knowledge to telling stories built from it?
  6. Can I get comfortable speaking about maybe just one or two consumers rather than about large(ish) groups of them?
  7. Am I capable of accepting that true insight development doesn’t come from one study or database, but from information integration of multiple sources?
  8. Am I ready to give up the name of my profession as market researcher?

If you can’t answer YES to all of these questions, then I believe you should consider changing jobs, before you find yourself redundant and replaced by the information analytic, machine-learning “robots” of the future.

What do you think? Is it already too late for market research? Can the profession reinvent itself? ESOMAR, which claims to be “The essential organisation for encouraging, advancing and elevating market research worldwide” has been asking a lot of the right questions about the future of the profession recently, but it is up to researchers everywhere to make the change happen. Are you going to join the lead now, or follow reluctantly when your own management questions whether they really need a department that clings to the old ways of collecting and analysing information?

Let me know how you feel about your own market research position, whether you are a member of a supplier or client-side organisation. Are there other challenges or opportunities I forgot to mention? What name would you give to your future profession?

Need help in updating and reinventing your own market research department and responsibilities? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

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