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Biases Determine The Depth Of Customer Insight


Biases Determine The Depth Of Customer Insight

Understanding the intangibles that govern the strength of your brand’s relationship with consumers enables you to continually refocus and optimize product and service offerings, brand value and experience ultimately improving consumer relationships.

To get there marketers must first bridge the great divide that has developed between research that is more convenient and validating of current sales behavior and research that requires deeper insight to set up, but uncovers different and more valuable human insights.

Brands that focus all of their marketing research efforts on transaction metrics, can create a research illusion of knowing all your customer needs and drivers. This assumption is challenged when sales suddenly and dramatically shift.

With the rise of digital marketing new frontiers in research emerged that fuse online consumer behaviors with the idea of optimizing the online storefront. Given Amazon’s success and competitive advantage there is a perception that the tremendous surge in store closings is largely attributed to Amazon’s online marketing prowess. This has helped crown online operations, product value and transaction-based research as the standard in many industries.

Rightfully so as online research is extremely valuable in developing feedback loops in marketing that didn’t exist in many industries prior to the rise of the Internet. It allows companies to build on the 80 / 20 rule, that 80% of a company’s sales are generally driven by about 20% of its customers. Studying heavy users’ online behaviors allows for insight into cross-selling to increase sales and satisfaction. Further, online sales metrics are the new front line for performance monitoring and control.

However, sales declines point to a need to dive deeper into consumer motives, perceptions and needs. Qualitative research more exploratory in nature can be very helpful when deeper dives into consumer psychology are needed. Qualitative research can solve specific kinds of problems that survey-based or online behavioral research cannot.

Amplifying The Private Voice Of Consumers

Depth psychology has shown that people commonly listen and speak with different “voices”. The public voice is sourced from our intellect and ego. It responds to rational questions and it can easily fabricate an answer to any question you can ask. Sometimes people fabricate answers based upon what they think you expect or want to hear. Sometimes people fabricate answers based upon a perception they just want to go along and be liked. People can intentionally or unintentionally mask their true feelings and provide inaccurate answers.

The private voice is sourced more from our gut, heart and our “feelings” about things. Based upon how we are educated, socialized and brought up, we all learn to hide or disguise our private voice in situations or circumstances when we don’t know or trust people. The difference between these voices governing thoughts vs. feelings (public vs. private) affects the accuracy of research results, particularly if these voices are not aligned. This was put on full display in 2017 with both the Brexit vote in England and the presidential election in the US. Opinion polls in both cases were gathered with online surveys asking people how they were going to vote. In both cases the opinion polls predicted the wrong outcome of the actual vote. Britain elected to leave the EU and Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump.

Human beings have complex psyches. In this particular case the public and private “voices” of a large swath of the population were not aligned and saying the same thing. Many people said one thing in the opinion polls but they voted their true feelings in the actual election. These events have led to many people questioning the value of opinion polling for politics and in many corporations, there is a love / hate perception about marketing research. Market research surveys have been wrong, yet there are many business situations where we need some kind of research to support important decisions where a large amount of marketing money is at stake.

Emotional Connection Measurement

Over time hybrid research organizations have emerged with tools and technologies to try and bridge the gap between thoughts and feelings to sort out when they are aligned. With online survey-based techniques they simultaneously and accurately evaluate each when it comes to rating the impact of marketing communications.

These highly regarded research companies have figured out how to present stimulus, parse questions with just the right language and present agree / disagree scales that approximate the strength of emotional connections, not just thoughts about topics of interest. They have quantitatively proven that authentic insight into consumer feelings is more predictive of future market success than any other kind of research. Which is why these firms are so highly regarded as research innovators.

Going even further, exploring brand positioning insights is possible with Consumer Depth Workshops. This research explores a wide range of topics and stimulus in a two-hour period in a focus group setting. But these are not focus groups. These Workshops are capable of sensing public versus private voices and alignment. You can also explore latent and tacit needs, hidden from all other brands in a category. You can play with ideas, ideals, brand image projections and stimulus to understand what people notice and respond to the most through non-verbal feedback (body language, voice volume, tone, facial expressions and group dynamics). This kind of research harnesses the power of group dynamics and goes beyond scaled survey responses. People tend to open up more with their feelings and project ideals when things are as good as they can get. From this work, brands can map gaps in their performance and develop specific insights into how to close positioning gaps.

In conclusion, the market research industry has a wide array of tools for solving unique problems. It is fair to say that over-emphasized in research today are surveys aimed at the public voice (top-of-mind thoughts) about products, features, transaction benefits. Commonly under-emphasized is the private voice (feelings), exploring latent & tacit unmet needs, quality of a contact, emotional rewards and which brand personas are the strongest and why. If you locate and understand your internal research biases, you can better tune and design future research projects to uncover new brand territories for greater business success.

These and other insights into brand strategy and development are covered in greater detail in my book, Soulful Branding – Unlock the Hidden Energy In Your Company and Brand

The Blake Project Can Help Your Brand Grow: The Brand Growth Strategy Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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