Customer choice is hard

Do Your Shoppers Face a Purchasing Dilemma? How to Give the Right Customer Choice Every Time

I’ve just come back from a week’s course in Spain organised by the European Monroe Institute. The course was on consciousness, a thing all good marketers need to develop, especially when it comes to their customers’ choices.

The reason I am referring to this course, besides the fact that it was led by the brilliant consciousness expert Arkaitz, is because we spoke about a subject that is very relevant for shopper marketing. I did in fact already touch on something similar in last week’s post. I’m speaking about decision making and the difference between Polarity, Duality, Dilemmas and Trilemmas. For clarification, these terms refer to:

Polaritythe state of having or expressing two directly opposite tendencies, opinions, etc

Dualitythe state or quality of being two or in two parts; dichotomy, the division into two parts, kinds, etc

Dilemmaa situation requiring a choice between (equally undesirable) alternatives.

Trilemmaa situation, analogous to a dilemma, in which there are three (almost equally undesirable) alternatives.

Last week I spoke about the Trilemma as it relates to project work; in this post I want to review the different situations in which we oblige our shoppers to make customer choices and how we can make it a lot easier for them.

 

Customer Decision-making

Mark ZHow many decisions do you make in an average day? Tens, hundreds, thousands, even more? It has been estimated that an adult makes in excess of 30,000 decisions each and every day. (>>Tweet this<<) From what to have for breakfast, to what to wear and the route we take to work, we are constantly making decisions. However, have you noticed that when you need to make a decision, having more choices is not always better? More choice can in fact make decision-making all the more difficult.

In a recent article about Mark Zuckerberg, it was mentioned that he, as did Steve Jobs, wears the same clothes every day. A sort of uniform that enables him to make one less decision that he considers to be less relevant and unimportant to the success of his business. In the post he reveals that he wears the same clothes over and over again, because he wants to limit the time he spends making “frivolous” decisions, so he can concentrate on real work. As he says:

“I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life, so that way I can dedicate all of my energy towards just building the best products and services.”

Retail Decision-making

It has been proven that shoppers can end up leaving a retail outlet or online e-shop without making a purchase, when faced with too much choice. (>>Tweet this<<) This so-called “choice overload” was first mentioned in the book The Paradox of Choice, by Swarthmore College professor Barry Schwartz.

Schwartz co-authored a study that supported his theory in the context of Web search and other research has documented choice overload in contexts as wide ranging as gourmet chocolates and retirement plans.

Choice overload is also one of the major reasons, besides price, for the success of hard discounters. They take away those “frivolous” but hard decisions we usually have to make whilst out shopping, by offering just one or at most two brands or sizes of each article. We then have to make the choice between buying one of the two on offer, or purchasing neither (a trilemma). If you have the time, you might then go elsewhere to buy what you were looking for, but if the choice is of lesser importance or we are lacking the time, we will accept the limited choice and buy one of the two on offer (a dilemma).

Therefore choice is not always a good thing. So what can you as a marketer do to help the customer make the “right” decision in favour of your brand?

 

Know your Customers

The 4 Ws of customer understanding

If you’re a regular here, you will know that everything you do should start with the customer and from the customer’s perspective. Understanding their needs and desires, both stated and unstated, will enable you to better meet them. A satisfied customer is unlikely to spend time in choice and will automatically go for your product or service. You can read more about getting a deeper understanding of your customer in another post entitled “How Well do you Know your Customers? Can you Answer these 12 Questions?” here. 

Portfolio Management

Many retailers and some consumer packaged goods companies have noticed that consumers today are suffering from “choice overload”.

Unilever LogoBoth P&G and Unilever have done some radical pruning of their brands over the years. They have understood that most of their business comes from just a small number of all its products. P&G has around 300 brands today, a third less than just a decade ago. Unilever has been even more ruthless. Since introducing its “Path to Growth” initiative almost fifteen years ago, the number of its brands has been culled from 1,600 down to just 400.

Retail organisations too are no longer willing to offer increased space for ever-expanding brand portfolios. They often use the “one in, one out” rule and need strong evidence to add a new line from manufacturers. This has been especially true in recent years with the increase in the number of supermarket chains offering smaller, urban outlets, such as Tesco’s Metro and Walmart’s Express. You can read more about current retail trends here.

Walmart LogoWhat both retailers and manufacturers have realised is that Pareto’s Principle is highly relevant to the success of their businesses. The “Pareto Principle” or 80-20 rule, helps a lot in reducing the number of trilemma (or worse) type decisions that shoppers are faced with.

It therefore makes a lot of sense to regularly review your own portfolio and cut the “long tail” of slowest movers. Unless you have recently launched it or have a solid recovery plan in the pipeline, it is better to delete them.

 

Product Display

Another very good reason for reducing the numbers of brands and variants in portfolios has to do with innovation. Today’s consumers thrive on novelty and constantly demand new products and services. They quickly become bored or are satisfied for far less time than in the past.

In response to this, many companies have increased their level of innovation and new launches. However, neither retailers nor consumers want an ever increasing choice of products to sell or purchase. Therefore it makes good sense to have a “one in, one out” policy as mentioned above.

Identifying the best products and variants to put on shelf at each retail outlet or at a minimum by region, will enable customers to make those all important choices more quickly and easily. You will make the sale and the retailer will not be faced with stock that sits on their shelves, not moving; a definite win-win-win. (>>Tweet this<<)

Coming back to the issue of polarity, duality, dilemmas and trilemmas, I hope you can see that the situation in which a customer finds him/herself at the point of sale, whether they are facing a dilemma, trilemma or worse, will have a huge impact on whether or not they purchase.

Do you have something to add to this article and the customer choices we offer when they are faced with making a purchase decision? Please add a comment below. And if you enjoyed the post, then please share it with your friends and colleagues, so they too can be inspired.

If you would like support in reviewing your brand portfolio to identify the 20% of brands and variants that may need to be deleted, contact me here and let’s discuss your situation. I know I can help.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Unilever and Walmart in this post.

Customer satisfaction is not enough

The New Challenge of Marketing: Customer Satisfaction is Not Enough!

We all know how extremely demanding consumers have become in recent years. Constant innovation and novelty has made us all more impatient and critical. We want things better, faster and sometimes cheaper as well, especially when innovation isn’t happening quick enough. And customer satisfaction is becoming insufficient.

I was recently in the US and as seems to be the norm these days, the hotel in which I stayed asked me to rate their performance afterwards. I completed their form, giving only four and five-star ratings, as I had been very satisfied by the hotel, its rooms, the staff and their services. Imagine my surprise therefore when I got the following mail a day or so later:

“Thank you for taking the time to complete our online survey regarding your recent stay at our hotel.

On behalf of our entire team, I would like to apologize for failing to exceed your expectations. Your satisfaction is important to us and we will be using the feedback you provided to make improvements to ensure we offer an exceptional experience for our guests in the future.

I hope that you will consider staying with us again so that we can have another chance to provide you with a superior experience.”

Shocking mail isn’t it? To think that a Hotel apologises for not exceeding my expectations! (>>Tweet this<<) But I believe that is the reason why they get a 4 1/2 star rating on TripAdvisor. For them customer satisfaction is not enough; they want their guests to be enchanted, enthralled, excited, so that a return visit is a “no brainer”; no other hotel choice would make sense!

How do you treat your own customers, consumers and clients? Do you do just enough to satisfy them, or do you consistently look to exceed their expectations?

If you are a regular reader here – and I’d love to know why if you’re not, so I can do better in the future – you will know that I often talk about “surprising” and “delighting” our customers. These are not hollow words; there’s a very real reason I use them. The reason is that our customers can be satisfied, but will never stay satisfied for long. (>>Tweet this<<)

The above example I gave is one way that the hotel staff ensure they have enough time to correct whatever is not a “superior experience” as they term their own desired service level, and to continue to offer total customer satisfaction.

Here are a few examples of other companies who go above and beyond in terms of their own customer service; I hope they inspire you to do the same and to aspire to exceed customer satisfaction whenever and wherever you can.

Amazon

Amazon's amazing customer satisfaction logoI have to start with Amazon because they clearly mention in their mission statement that they want “to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Although they don’t specifically mention exceeding their customers’ expectations, they are known for regularly giving extra in their customer service. This might be by surprising their customers by sending the ordered goods by priority mail when only standard was paid for, or refunding the total cost of an article that failed to totally meet if not exceed expectations.

They are also known for being extremely helpful in proposing other articles you might be interested in buying, based upon your current or past orders. Yes it might also make good business sense to do this, but as a result of this practice, who doesn’t trust Amazon and start their search online on their website? Customer service to Amazon means going beyond customer satisfaction alone.

Zappos

Zappos is built on customer satisfactionTheir mission statement, also referred to by Zappos employees as their “WOW Philosophy,” is “To provide the best customer service possible.”

CEO Tony Hsieh is often quoted as saying that “We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.” That makes it crystal clear how customer centric they are.

Another of his quotes is “To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.” 

This mentions another of the reasons it is important to go beyond what customer’s expect today – the emotional connection. That is what touches our customers and makes them feel differently about our brand, company or service. Customer satisfaction is not enough, we need to stimulate their emotions too. (>>Tweet this<<)

Apple

Apple-logoSteve Jobs is famously quoted as saying that “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

It was therefore his philosophy to do limited market research and never to ask the advice of consumers on his innovations. What he did ask questions about however, was their pain points.

In a video last year Tim Cook, who replaced Jobs as CEO, talked about being “better.” While Cook mentions the environment, the bigger picture in what he was saying was that he wanted Apple to produce world-changing products that leave the planet better off. This can be in a literal sense like pollution, but also in a more figurative sense, like the iPhone, which has made millions of lives better.

In conclusion, these examples provide a clear roadmap for anyone wanting to move their customer service and engagement to the next level;:

  • Surprise your customers with something unexpected. Whilst I know it is more difficult than ever to do these days with such demanding customers, it is definitely worth the effort to build their loyalty.
  • Touch the customer emotionally so your product or service resonates with them. (>>Tweet this<<) As Maya Angelou is famed for saying “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.” 
  • Strive for better in everything you do; never be satisfied yourself with just repeating previous successes. This is perhaps the greatest lesson from all these great companies. As the Hotel mentioned, they want to exceed the expectations of their guests.
  • Make it a part of every employee’s objectives to ensure products and services that not only obtain customer satisfaction, but go even beyond that in any way they can. As Tony Hseih says, customer service is not the responsibility of any one department.

I am sure you too have examples of companies that were not satisfied until they had gone above and beyond what you expected of them. In a previous post I mentioned Dyson; what others can you add to this list? Please share your suggestions below.

This post used an image from “Winning Customer Centricity” Denyse’s new book out next month.

Customer satisfaction is not enough

The Top Ten Brand Building Posts from C3Centricity in 2014

Please take our short 3-qn survey on the blog topics you want to read. It will take less than a minute to complete & FIVE lucky people will each WIN a FREE CONSULT with Denyse


 As we start each new year, it is a C³Centricity tradition to review our top ten posts of the previous twelve months.

This year three of the top four were all about quotes to add inspiration to your reports and presentations. In fact last week’s post which was another article on marketing quotes, achieved record levels of sharing, so do check it out if you missed it. The remaining winners of 2014 include topics such as brand building, insight development and customer service.

Some of these winning posts were actually published more than a year ago, but still remain popular, constantly attracting new readers each year, so make sure you haven’t missed any of them. Just click the titles to read the full versions.

1. What Martin Luther King and Apple have in common: Inspiration and Excitement

Martin Luther King is inspiring

Today’s consumers are more demanding than ever. What surprised and delighted them yesterday is taken for granted today (>>Tweet this<<) and becomes boring tomorrow. This is why innovation remains a major part of business planning and the success or failure of an organisation. This post provides some useful reminders on how to improve your innovation process.

 

2. 13 Marketing Quotes to Inspire Customer Centricity

Inspiring quotes on customer centricityA popular C³Centricity tradition since we started our Blog, is to share some of  the latest and greatest inspirational quotes on many customer centric topic areas. This selection, together with their suggested actions inspired from each of them, makes a useful resource for quotes to add interest to your reports and presentations. Many more can be found in the C³Centricity Library so don’t forget to check there regularly for the latest ones added.

3. 10 Inspiring Quotes on Understanding and Insight

Manager getting excited about understanding and insightUnderstanding customers and developing insight are the basic keys to business success and growth. However, insights alone will not grow your business; you need to take action too (>>Tweet this<<). These quotes all include ideas on actions based upon their inspirational topic areas. You can find suggestions on how to learn more about your customers and how to work with the gathered data and information to grow your brands and business.

 

4. Inspiring Quotes to Ignite your Customer Centricity

Man stepping up his customer centricity

This is the third of the most popular posts of this past year on quotes. It shares a great collection of the most inspirational quotes on customer Centricity that you will love to add to your reports and presentations. From selecting your target customers, to understanding and then engaging with them, the ideas included will take your marketing to the next level.

 

5. Are you on the Stairway to Brand Heaven or Hell?

Stairway to brand heaven or hell!

Although first posted in 2011, this article remains a firm favourite with C³Centricity fans. (Click image to see it larger) This is because it has some solid advice on why you should never use discounts alone to attract buyers. (>>Tweet this <<) It also shares some secrets on how to build your brand so your customers will value the rebates when you do offer them, but not become addicted to only buying the product when sold at a cheaper price. If you regularly offer price cuts (too often?) then you must read this post.

 

6. 10 Great Infographics on Customer Centricity

What does your brand stand for?

Click Image to Enlarge

Visualisation has become one of the buzz words of the past few years, with loads of infographics being produced. However, their real value is in their storytelling and it is this idea that seems to have overtaken now in terms of popularity. Another “Golden Oldie” post on C³Centricity from 2012, this article shares some of the best marketing infographics ever. Each contains useful statistics and facts that you will love to include in your reports and presentations for added authority.

 

7. 6 Ways to Respect your Customers

Business must respect its customers to win We all know that power is in the hands of the customer these days. However whilst they are happy to share information with brands they do expect their privacy to be respected in return. This post explains the best process for gathering, keeping and using customer data,so it is a win-win for both sides.

 

8. 5 Ideas to Improve your Insight Development

The spark of insightMost of us struggle to develop insights from information occasionally. This post covers the five major keys to insight development that you may have forgotten and which might be holding you back. Remember these and you will have more success at both insight development and the adoption of their actions by the whole company.

9. What the Hospitality Industry can Teach us all about Customer Service

Hospitality gets brand customer satisfaction rightOne of the industries most sensitive to customer service errors is hospitality. If they get something wrong their clients will tell them about it immediately – hopefully. (although more and more, comments only get posted on travel websites with equivalently bad ratings!) This is a big advantage over most other businesses, since it gives them the chance to respond appropriately and save the situation as well as their reputation. (Quick response is even more critical when such negative comments are publicly posted on the internet) However, it also means that the industry has had to adapt to being not just reactive but even more proactive. This post shares five lessons that all companies should learn about customer satisfaction and delight.

10. How to Build Brand Reputation and Trust: And then Track it

Brand reputation and image

As consumers’ demand to know more about the company behind the brands they buy increases, corporations have been obliged to become much more transparent. We are also now witnessing man companies linking their corporate name more strongly with their brands, in an effort to build this consumer trust. In a Forbes report on reputation it is said that 50% or more of consumers would buy and recommend products from companies with strong reputations, whereas less than a third would do so if their reputation is weak. It is therefore  vital that companies measure their image using not only rational and emotional metrics, but relational or cultural ones too.

 

These were the top ten posts on C³Centricity during 2014. Did you see them all? If not, why not sign up below to receive them directly to your inbox in future?

Interestingly, many of the above posts are from the previous year or two and have become perennials in our annual popularity list. As we begin this new year, I would love to hear what you are struggling most with in your marketing and brand building efforts.

Please take our short 3-Qn survey here; it will take less than one minute to complete! I will answer as many of the most popular topics as I can in future posts and FIVE lucky people will get

a free half-hour consult with me

to ask questions and discuss anything they like. That is my gift to you, to make 2015 your best year ever. Thanks and Good Luck!

C³Centricity used images from Martin Brim, Dreamstime, Kozzi and Nielsen in this post.

 

Customer satisfaction just works better

For Greater Customer Satisfaction, Should Marketers Answer Their Needs or Desires?

In 1943 Maslow proposed his theory about people’s needs in a paper entitled “A theory of human motivation”.

He used the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence to describe the pattern of needs that motivate people. At the time he didn’t present it as a hierarchy, nor as a pyramid, but that has become the accepted representation these days.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

While the hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology, management training and psychology instruction, it has largely been supplanted by attachment theory in clinical psychology and psychiatry. However since attachment theory is concerned with how people respond to hurt, separation and threat within relationships, it has less relevance for marketers.

All brands, products and services should be designed to satisfy their target’s needs, so Maslow’s hierarchy seems a good framework to use, when defining on what your offer will be based.

If this interests you, and it should especially if your business is global or geographically spread as I will explain below, then here are the three steps for doing so.

1. Satisfying: Firstly identify which of the five needs your brand or service is looking to fulfill. Remember different brands within the same category can play to differing needs, especially in terms of their communications. Whilst it is generally accepted that the lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be addressed, there are exceptions.

Think of consumers in poorer countries who will buy a TV over proper shoes and clothing for their children. In such cases status and in particular consumer emotions are playing an important role, but more of that later.

2. Resonating: Next develop communications for your target audience by incorporating solutions to their relevant needs. These will obviously resonate more quickly and easily with them than pure product or service information alone. They may also be more emotional and will therefore have greater impact on them.

Here are some good examples that I have seen in recent years of easily identifiable needs being addressed through advertising.

Knorr’s packet soup in the UK, based on needs of food, safety and love. See video

Cartier’s corporate campaign from last year, which marked its 165yrs, was appropriately named “L’Odyssée de Cartier” and is clearly based on esteem and self-actualisation.

 – Omo washing powder, one from a long series entitled “Dirt is good”, based on safety and love. See video

Peugeot car, based on self-esteem and status: See video

UK back seat safety belt buckle-up campaign, based on safety. Warning, the ending is violent! See video

Interestingly, all these are examples from a few years ago. Although newer examples are available, they are not as obviously based primarily on need states as are these ones. I believe one reason for this is the increase in the level of pure emotional content of current advertising. In fact all the above examples use emotions as well in addressing the needs they are looking to answer, which is perhaps why they performed better than many.

We find much more content today that addresses primarily desires rather than needs. One reason for this is that marketers have finally realized that people often buy out of desire and not because of a need alone. However, what makes it difficult for marketing to respond, is that people find it easier to speak about their needs or what they don’t want, than their desires.

Henry Ford apparently already knew this when he said:

“If I had asked people what they wanted,

they would have said a faster horses”

He resonated with them by providing a solution to their need of travelling more quickly, but in an exciting new way. A more recent quote with a similar sentiment comes from the late Steve Jobs of Apple. People often claim that he was against Market Research, but that was not true. He was in fact only against market research in which questions were simply being asked of consumers, an nd marketers were then responding directly to the answers given without further thought. As he was quoted as saying:

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups.

A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” (>>Tweet this<<)

I believe he understood that it was better to respond to a consumers desires than to their needs. Look at Apple’s advertising; it has almost always been resonating emotionally rather than merely rationally with its target customers. As a typical example, check out their ad from last Christmas, a real tear-jerker called “Misunderstood“.

However, I know that many good examples of needs-based advertising do still exist. If you yourself have any representing identified human needs, then it would be great if you would share them in the comments below.

3. Going Global: Another advantage of using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to position your brand / service, is that the same needs are felt by all human beings. That is why these communication ideas are often referred to as “Human truths”. This means that you are more likely to be able to successfully roll out such a campaign regionally or even globally, than if you were basing communications on local specificities alone. The examples above, although mentioned as being from certain markets, were actually all regional or global campaigns.

So coming back to the question asked in the title of this post, the answer is BOTH. To guarantee satisfaction, your customers must feel that you really care about them, truly understand their needs and that your offer also resonates with them emotionally. If you are successful in doing that, then your communications will be understood without any effort on their part. It will be so obvious to them and they will simply identify themselves with what is being shown. Furthermore, an emotionally charged ad is more likely to be shared with their friends on social media. An important additional benefit that is particularly appreciated today.

If you believe that your communications are not appropriately addressing your target customers’ needs AND desires, then please contact us. We have some great case studies from some well-known brands that we can share to inspire and support your own improvements. You will also be excited by the unique methodology we use to understand the meaning your customers take away from your ads.

This post is based on a much shorter one that was first published on C³Centricity in September 2011.

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

Halloween scares & solutions for marketing

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 demanding “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. Understanding 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:

Understanding 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 understand 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 brand 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 understanding 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 branding 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 brand 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 demands 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.

 

 

Developing actionable insight is the true source of business growth

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 understanding 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 brand purchasers to buy your brand 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 understanding 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 brand, including for example:

  • R&D, who can bring understanding 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 understand 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 understanding 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 understand 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 brand’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 hand? If your product is used in certain demanding 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 brand. 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 understanding. 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 understanding 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.

Man taking the six steps to actionable insight

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 understanding 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: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/understand/ as well as available trainings at: http://www.c3centricity.com/training-and-evaluation/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Kozzi.

Cannes Lions Award

Award Winning Communications are Powered by Insight & Customer Understanding

This time last month, many marketing and communications professionals had just returned from Cannes, France, where they had attended the annual Lions Awards Festival. They are now back in their offices and have probably been comparing their own communications to this year’s winners and wondering what they can do to get one of these coveted prizes in the near future.

For the rest of us, we are also looking at the winners, but more for gathering learnings on how to make our own communications more creative and impactful, without any ambition of winning a Lions one day.

That is why I decided to review a selection of the Press Lions Category and analyse how they might appeal to their target customers. I found three dominant themes running through all the prize-winners, some of which even incorporated several of them in one single campaign. If you’d like to see all the winning ads from these campaigns they can be found in the AdWeek article linked above.

1. Simple & clear messaging

We are all in a hurry these days; we have far too much to do and so we no longer read with as much attention as we did in the past. Today we just skim headlines and articles, and quickly decide whether they’re worth digging into in more detail or whether to pass over to the next one. It is therefore essential that ads communicate their message in a way that is quick to read, understand and capture. Examples of this from amongst the print winners:

Harvey Nichols – Grand Prix Campaign

Harvey Nicols insight built communicationsThese are clean, simple ads showing nicely packaged but cheap seasonal gifts, because you decided to  #SpendItOnYourself, as the campaign is entitled. The eye is naturally drawn to the simple red words, since the articles themselves are white on a white background. The reader gets the message and immediately thinks whether they too could give such items, but then also reflect on why they don’t spend (more) on treating themselves. This feel-good reaction makes for good recall of the campaign as well as the positive image transfer to Harvey Nichols.

Zwilling J. A. Henckels – Gold Lion Campaign

Zwilling insight built communicationsRather than saying how sharp these high-end knives are, this is illustrated by the incredibly thin slices of different foods shown in the campaign. The thin slices are then overlapped to show the shape of the blade and the text below is kept in the form of the handle. The artful design of the whole ad further complements the idea that these are special – definitely not cheap – knives, for connaisseurs only.

 

2. Emotional resonance

The UK was one of the first countries to use shock tactics in their road safety and other public service campaigns. Stimulating people’s emotions is guaranteed to get ads noticed and remembered, but it doesn’t all have to be negative.  Examples from amongst the winners:

Shanghai General Motors / Buick – Gold Lion Campaign

Buick ads built with insightThese ads show real people who have been injured in road accidents, holding up the signs that the drivers that hit them had ignored. The tagline “Signs are there for a reason” is clear and simple, and the images of the injured people emotionally impactful. The reader immediately thinks about occasions when they too have driven recklessly, but were lucky enough not to have injured anyone. The impact of the visuals remains long after the reader has turned the page.

Volkswagen – Gold Lion Campaign

Volkswagen communications built on insightA completely different and definitely light-hearted approach to travel is taken by Volkswagen in this winning campaign. They show how getting from one place to another can be fun in these playful, product-free ads. The visuals appeal as the viewer takes the extra few seconds to understand it and then takes away the message that driving a Polo GTI is fun too.

 

3. Confirming intellectual superiority

In today’s overcrowded urban areas, people look for ways to differentiate and prove themselves, whether physically or intellectually. This is one of the reasons that gaming has become so popular in all age groups. Finding the hidden signs in an image or understanding a play on words in an ad can increase the engagement, provided of course that they are neither too difficult nor too easy to solve. Examples from amongst the print winners:

Jeep – Gold Lion Campaign

Jeep communications built on insightsThis campaign includes ads that are both a play on words and images, doubly clever. Jeep shows images of animals which, when inverted became different animals or birds. The tag line “See whatever you want to see” refers to both this as well as to the advantage of the Jeep to place the driver higher up, with better visibility.

Penguin Group China – Gold Lion Campaign

Penguin communications built on insightAt first you might find these Penguin ads rather crowded and confusing, and therefore you don’t immediately “get” the joke – I admit it took me a few seconds!. But look carefully and you will see penguins holding microphone booms in otherwise classical illustrations of well-known literature. The ads are for Penguin’s new audiobooks and are a clever and amusing way to communicate the novelty.

To sum up my findings from this quick analysis, the winners have three points in common:

      • Their messages are clear and simple to understand
      • They connect emotionally with their audience
      • They offer the viewer something in return for their looking at it

All these ads clearly demonstrate that working with customer understanding and insight increases the likelihood that your communications will resonate with your target customers. Now we need to wait until next year to see how well these ads perform in impacting the sales and images of the brands. Which of these will be the real winners of Cannes? I would love to hear what you think.

If you would like in improving your own communications, or in understanding and engaging with your customers, whether using traditional or new media, then why not give us a call? Let us catalyze your own communications with some of our unique tools; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from Forbes and AdWeek in this post.

Getting better customer understanding

How Well do you Know your Customers? Can you Answer these 12 Questions?

How well do you know your target customers? I mean really know them? Are they men, women, young, old, Fortune 100 companies, local businesses? If you can at least answer that, then you have the basics, but how much more could you know about them? Can you answer the following twelve questions?

I was recently working with a local service company who was looking for help with their online presence. They were keen to get more active on social media and had asked for advice about the best platforms, optimal frequency of publishing and possible content ideas.

However they were in for a surprise. Rather than getting straight onto the “sexy” topic of social media, I started by taking them through the basics of target customer identification. Lucky for them that I did! When we had finished the exercise, we had found five different targets for them to target, rather than the mere two they had been addressing until now. This clearly would have a huge impact on the where, what and how they communicated online. The 4 Ws of customer understanding

These are the twelve questions that enabled us to brainstorm, identify and then complete a better and more complete description of their target customers. Their use also resulted in clear differentiated segments for their services – three more than they had originally thought! How would you like to double your own market potential? Read on:

  1. WHO DEMOGRAPHICS: OK this is usually a “no-brainer” and is how most organisations describe their customers. Not really original and definitely not competitive, but still the essential foundation.
  2. WHAT THEY USE: Whether you are offering a product or service, you need to know what your customers are using today. And not only for your category, but in adjacent categories too. What do they use – if anything – if your product / category is not available?
  3. WHAT THEY CONSUME: Here we need to understand what types of information and media they are consuming; what do they read, watch, listen to in their spare time. Which social media do they use, what websites do they consult on a regular basis?
  4. WHAT THEY DO: How do your customers spend their time? What type of lifestyle do they have? What are their hobbies? What do they do all day, and in the evening and at weekends?
  5. WHAT THEY BUY: This is where you describe their current category purchasing habits. How frequently and what quantity do they buy? Do they have regular buying habits? Do they do research before buying or repurchasing? Do they compare and if so how, where, why?
  6. WHERE THEY USE: Is the category consumed in home, in work, on vacation? With friends, with their partner, their children, with colleagues? Are there certain surroundings more conducive to consumption? What makes it so?
  7. WHERE THEY BUY: Do your target customers have certain places and times they buy? Is it an habitual or impulse purchase? Is it seasonal?
  8. WHERE THEY CONSUME: Today “consume” covers not just traditional media but new media as well. From where do they get information about products? From manufacturers, friends, family, colleagues? Do they access it online, in print, on radio or TV, at home or on the road? What websites and people do they follow, listen to and value the opinion of? What interests do they have in general and concerning the category?
  9. WHERE THEY SEE: One reason to target a specific group of customers is so that you can better communicate with them. Where are they most likely to be open to your messages; what media, what times, which days?
  10. WHY VALUES: What values do your customers have that you are meeting with your product or service, and explain why they are using it? Do they have other values that are not currently addressed, either by you or your competitors? Do these values offer the possibility of a differentiated communications platform or product / service concept?
  11. WHY EMOTIONS: What is the emotional state of your customers when they are considering a purchase or use, both of the category and the brand? Clearly identified emotions enable you to more easily resonate with your customers through empathising with their current situation. You are more likely to propose a solution that will satisfy their need or desire when their emotional state is precisely identified.
  12. WHY MOTIVATIONS: What motivates the customer to consider, buy and use their category and brand choice? Emotions and motivations are closely linked both to each other and to the customer’s need state. By identifying the need-state you want to address, you will be better able to understand your customers and increase the resonance of your communications.

If you can answer all twelve of these questions in detail, then you certainly know your customers intimately. But before you sit back and relax on your laurels, remember that people are constantly changing and what satisfies them today, is unlikely to satisfy them tomorrow. Therefore you need to keep a track on all four layers of your customer description to stay ahead of competition, as well as to satisfy and hopefully delight your customers.

As mentioned above, by answering and completing a detailed description of the target audience for my client, we were able to identify a couple of new segments that my client’s services could address. Although their demographics were similar, their emotional and need states were quite different. This gave us the opportunity to respond with slightly different service offers for each group.

If you would like to try out this exercise for yourself, we have some useful templates that we make available to C³C Members. Why not sign up and get access? It’s FREE to join.

For more information on better identifying and understanding target customers, please check out our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/home/understand/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Microsoft in this post.

This post has been adapted from one which first appeared on C³Centricity in April 2013.

Checking the 7Ps of outstanding customer service

Which of these 10 Customer Centricity Steps are you Missing?

Last Saturday was the start of Summer in the Northern hemisphere and the weather certainly confirms this, at least for now! Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our journey to Customer Centricity.

Organisations need to take a step back occasionally and review how their plans are going. What changes do they need to make to ensure they meet their objectives over the remaining six months of the year? So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can take to get further along your journey.

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many brands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.

Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

#2. Understand your primary target

Knowing precisely who the customer is for each of your brands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.

Boston Matrix for improved customer centricity and segmentation evaluationAction: Review the target audience for each of your brands and ensure you have information on their “4Ws”. In other words the Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so. If you would like to learn more about targeting, check out this post.

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.

Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer. This can be by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shop and use your product / service.

#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business

Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage. It’s time you started turning them into future scenarios or use future prototyping. (Contact us here to learn more about this)

Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your brand and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges. Alternatively, why not try Sci-Fi Future Prototyping? (Contact us here for more information)

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Most organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow band of categories.

Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, branding, services. Check last week’s post for more details about innovation.

#6. Follow your image

It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their brand images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.

Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor brands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).

#7. Turn your information into insight

Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into understanding and insight that they become truly customer centric.

Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.

#8. Share your information and insights

Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.

Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.

#9. Evaluate your progress

As the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says:

“What gets measured gets managed” (>>Tweet this<<)

Besides brand image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?

Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.

#10. Plan for action

Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.

Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait for them to start declining. Once they are, it will be much more difficult to reverse.

These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:

“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers”  (>>Tweet this<<)

Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.

If you would like to know how customer centric your organisation really is, then why not complete the C³C Evaluator? Check it out on our website: http://www.c3centricity.com/C3Cmembers

Need help on your journey to customer centricity? Let us help you catalyze your business; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com and Kozzi.com

This post is based on one that was first published on C³Centricity in July 2013

Manager getting excited about understanding and insight

How to get R&D as Excited about Consumer Innovation as you are

Did you do a double-take when you read this post’s title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for most major manufacturers, so they should be excited by consumer understanding, shouldn’t they? You would think so, but in reality, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. If you want to break away from this very predictable process and get them excited so they add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on.

One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions.

I remember speaking about consumer centricity at an annual R&D conference and in the discussion session that followed, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, our R&D group is very consumer centric; we know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need what we develop!”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven my point. I said that I believed it was time for R&D to become more consumer centric by developing a better understanding of consumers and their needs. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:

Observe & Listen to your Consumers

Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their products and services.

Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concepts. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new or better solutions.

It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops & homes of consumers (>>Tweet this<<)

Involve your Consumers

Ben and Jerry are great at innovationLast year Ben & Jerry asked residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflected their locales. The brand’s Scoop Truck toured 11 cities and also served as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers had eaten their free frozen treats, they were asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (they voted by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Doesn’t that remind you of another brand which used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent?

Great brands and companies have no problem “stealing with pride” and recognise good ideas when they see them (>>Tweet this<<)

Ben & Jerry’s are by no means the only brand to involve their customers in developing or choosing new products and services. Nespresso have been collaborating with their Club members for years on many aspects of their marketing. Whether choosing the end of their commercials or identifying the next new blend to be launched, Nespresso Club members are made to feel important and privileged.

Involving customers in the development of new product and/or service concepts not only makes them feel valued, it also makes them more loyal and valuable advocates of your brands too (>>Tweet this<<)

Expand your Thinking

Innovation leversHow do you come up with ideas and concepts for new products and services today? If you are like most companies, they probably come in a majority from your current portfolio of brands. Whilst this can meet with a certain level of success, as it is what customers expect, or rather demand, there is another process that can drive even greater success. This is the use of what are often called innovation levers, or what others refer to as “the sand box”. I love the latter term as it suggests light-hearted play, which is an effective way to get people thinking “outside the box”.

Innovation levers enable thinking to “push the envelope” and to expand outside the box in which R&D and marketing can sometimes find themselves. Rather than thinking about the next flavour or packaging idea, why not consider a new channel or communications strategy?

Coca Cola takes brand innovation seriouslyLast year, Coke used two of these levers, but combined them, when it launched its “sharing can”. Not only can the can be split in two for sharing, it also enables new potential consumers to consider buying a can, such as those with smaller thirsts or those traveling.

This year they took this winning idea a step further and launched the bottle that could only be opened by another Coke bottle – another way of sharing.

Starting from a different innovation lever than the one you usually use can result in more creative NPD concepts (>>Tweet this<<)

Go Beyond Trend Following

Another challenge when looking to make R&D more customer centric, is in moving them from trend following to scenario planning. R&D people often seem to be more comfortable with trends and “poo poo” future scenarios as improbable forecasts. It is therefore important to explain to them that scenario planning is not forecasting. If they can allow themselves to be open to listening to a story, which exposes imaginary but plausible new worlds to them, they can become inspired by the opportunities.

The innovative ideas that are created from scenario planning, have in my experience been amongst the most ground-breaking ever developed. Isn’t that exactly what we would all like to market, rather than the staple diet of predictable renovations?

These are just four ideas that I shared during that conference a few years ago, to stimulate and excite the R&D department. Hopefully they have inspired you too to have a go at convincing your own operations people to get closer to the customer.

Have you other examples of how you got your own R&D people to think outside their technical box? Then I’d love to hear about them, so please share your thoughts and ideas below.

Need help in taking your innovation outside its box, or in connecting with your customers? Let’s discuss how we can help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us today.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Ben &Jerry’s and Coke in this post.

This post has been adapted from one first published on C³Centricity in June 2013