Consumers aren't that savvy...

I was sitting in a research debrief a couple of weeks ago, when one of the senior marketing team made a remark that shocked me. “Consumers wouldn’t say that – they’re not that savvy!”

I was stunned. How could a senior marketer think that, let alone say it out loud? How are they so disconnected to their consumers that they see them as totally different people, almost a separate species? Here we Corporates sit in our ivory tower, with all our knowledge and savviness, a league apart, watching over you, the unsavvy consumer, making it through life knowing nothing, and making decisions blindly with the limited knowledge that you have. It reminds me of Atlas Shrugged when all the people in the know disappear, while the world is left in chaos, some wondering what happened to all the smart people, many carrying on their existence as if nothing changed.

But I digress: it’s not the first time I’ve heard it and it most certainly won’t be the last, although I’d very much like it to be. We always invite clients to attend groups or depths and to view and interact with our communities. For those who do and hear or see responses straight from the horse’s mouth, this is rarely a problem (although I have occasionally heard mention that this group/respondent must be an anomaly because they’re the vocal kind who want to do research…) But many don’t come and somehow they’re incredulous that consumers speak the way they do, observe what they do and feel how they feel.

We are, however, in a fortunate position that we can change this perception. As researchers we are the consumer voice and it is our duty (some may even say our moral duty) to ensure that that voice is heard and acted upon, that products are designed and marketed with the consumer really and truly at the center. Making senior decision makers see their consumers for who they are – people like themselves – ensures a product offering and portfolio that meets the consumers’ needs and most importantly, for those decision makers, the knock-on effect of profit and growth.

We may well be in a position to do this, but I think we as an industry need to do this more and think of other ways to more effectively bring our clients into our consumers’ worlds. How do we convince our clients that consumers know more than they, the client, think they do?

Video clips, one pagers alive with quotes, and pen portraits are all ways to bring the consumer into the boardroom and methods we employ fairly often, especially when doing workshops.

But I think we need to go a step further: it’s about changing their mindset and that requires a different toolkit. Essentially we need to look at it like we would do when making a good argument.

Establish the situation

We need to understand what they already know (or think they know) about their consumers and what they really want to find out, so that we know what to address and how to build that argument.

Build your reasoning

Define and articulate what you know or have learnt about the consumer. I think we do these parts really well. We know how to spot the insights and pull out something new we didn’t know before, however it’s the supporting evidence we need to develop.

Provide proof

We need to provide evidence that is vivid and realistic. This can be through quotes, video clips, and consumer story boards to name a few and I’m sure there are more creative examples to be found. It brings your argument to life and, like any anecdote or story, is more memorable for clients so that next time they think to question the consumer, they remember that one consumer who changed their perspective.

Make it personal

We need to show it’s not just them and their consumers but happening all around them. We need to show that it’s in their best interests to accept that consumers are savvier than we think. We need to appeal to the consumer in them.

My challenge, then, to the industry is to truly become the voice of the consumer. It’s in all of our best interests after all.


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