Editor - David Taylor

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All persons are consumers, evaluating the own tendencies you can can incredible stuff to apply on your business.

David Taylor (brandgym)


You're right to point out the more "immersive" forms of insight, such as observation, ethnography and the like. Indeed, Nike do a lot of this sort of research to understand their cinsumers.

You're right to say that with curioisity and immersive insight you can develop a brand strategy and campaign without being a consumer of the brand. Like you, I worked on a baby brand without having kids, as a young P&G brand manager working on Milton sterilising fluid!). But the type of insight I have now being a dad is ten times more vivid...its visceral, emotional insight. And so I still stick by the principle that its even better to have people who are the consumer on your brand; as a minimum they should be passionate about the category and the consumer. You should be able to "aspire to and want to be the consumer"... not as in some cases, live in a totally different world.

Jason Lonsdale

I agree with some of what you're saying -far too much research acts as a rearview mirror rather than a headlight.

Not to say all research is bad, but marketers do seem to lose sight of the fact that the goal of consumer research should be to better understand the people that you are hoping to communicate with. Focus groups are such an artificial environment that they are often a really crap way of doing this. What about going and watching them shop? Or going somewhere where you can eavesdrop on their conversations. Visit their homes. Give them cameras and have them document their lives for you. Read their blogs. Talk to them with groups of their friends.

In essence, engage with them and understand them as people rather than "target markets".

Russell Davies mentions mentions the British philosopher Alan Watts, author of the The Wisdom of Insecurity; “if you want to study a river you don't take out a bucketful of water and stare at it on the shore. A river is not its water, and by taking the water out of the river, you lose the essential quality of river, which is its motion, its activity, its flow.”

To your main point -I'm not sure that having category users in your brand team is that important (I once developed a very successful consumer-insight-driven nappy strategy despite not having any kids of my own).

What I'd rather see is a brand team full of curious people who want to really understand their customers and thus have the well-honed intuition to do their jobs well and without leaning on lamp-posts.

David Taylor (brandgym)

Thanks for this, espcially the "hocus-pocus group" idea!

I also think you're right about the odd nugget of insight coming from a focus group, especially when the team watching are using it to provide colour and depth to their existing insight. i.e. using it for illumination, not support.

Alan 'Brand' Williamson

The Focus Group is fast being re-branded as The Hocus-Pocus-Focus Group.

Sometimes, however, the Focus Group does throw up a gem of an insight as when I was involved with a major UK city, one of the participants said "I want to go somewhere 'specific' and not to a 'general' area". Translation: Brands need to focus on a single big brand idea and become known for something rather than trying to be all-things-to-all-people.

Alan 'Brand' Williamson
Destination Brand Developer

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