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Your customer is changing, are you?

by James Needham

3 min read

Brand strategy has become the most vital marketing capability in 2020 according to Gartner’s latest survey.

But why brand and why now in the middle of a once in a generation pandemic?

As Walter Landor memorably stated, “products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”

It’s a quote from last century but never more relevant than today.

The minds of your customers have undergone rapid reshaping in 2020, rendering many “pre-COVID” brand strategies in need of a reboot.

From positioning to personas, value propositions to audience behaviours and attitudes, the need to re-set the course in fast and cost-efficient ways has never been more critical to creating sustainable success.

All well and good, but understanding your ‘new’ consumer is challenging when you’re being kept socially distanced from them.

So here’s two fast, invaluable ways to gain COVID-Safe depth and breadth into how to shape your brand through the eyes of your customers.

  1. Depth: Online forums are a unique space for your consumers to interact and share thoughts, feelings on their lives and the role your brand can play. It’s 20 people and 3 days of authentic discussion using chat, videos, images and private responses for more sensitive topics.
  2. Breadth: Quick turn-around quant studies that scale qual insights across your customer base to find the moments of disproportionate value for your brand. These need not be expensive, exhaustive exercises but nimble, quick and ideally regular dips into the forces shaping the customers you have today and those you should have tomorrow.

In a couple of weeks, you can bring fresh and critical insights to your team that help put brand strategy at the heart of your business.

It’s the companies that are maintaining brand awareness and relevance by authentically connecting

their brand strategy and value proposition to their consumer will thrive in this new normal.

Mark Ritson recently urged marketers get out of the tactics side of the discipline and “swim upstream” to strategy.

Research is the cornerstone of effective strategy because it grants you privileged, real world access into how people see and interact with your brand.

With that in mind, here’s three golden rules to help you navigate the COVID-Safe world of research:

  1. Use this time to pause and uncover the real truths about your customer.
    What’s changed in their lives? What hasn’t and how you can play a more useful role? Sometimes that might mean getting out of their way entirely and other times it might mean finding a more nuanced way to engage with them. Mapping these shifts is an important foundational piece of work.
  2. Don’t test, co-create.
    Most people don’t actually know what they are feeling, can’t tell you why – or can’t put it into words. Clever research must accommodate for this and find ways to elicit deeper emotional responses that move beyond rational tick boxes. There are many projective techniques and exercises to help facilitate this.
  3. Live in their world.
    One positive of 2020 is that it’s forced us to get away from the artificial world of the focus group laboratory and into people’s homes. Whether you’re running a zoom group or an online forum, these are natural environments for people to share their thoughts and emotions without the artifice of a one-way mirror. Lean into this and think of ways to help make people’s homes the centre piece of the conversation– from letting them give you a tour of their digs to bringing friends and family into the conversation – the more authentic the conversation can be the richer the insights you will yield.

The brands that move beyond tactical tinkering to gain a deeper understanding of the forces that are shaping their customer’s world, are those that will reap the benefits in the years to come.

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James Needham

→ Over 20 years experience across APAC and the UK helping redefine some of the world’s most iconic and effective brands, and leading complex research and segmentation projects from Budget Direct, Big4, Crime Stoppers, RACV and CommBank.

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