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Understanding Consumer Identity


Understanding Consumer Identity

Finally, marketers are acknowledging the necessity of listening to consumers – aka “people” – and brands are adjusting to the social networked environment by opening conversations. Market researchers cannot ignore these developments since they dictate the necessity of understanding peoples’ identities, not only their interests.

We Are People, Not Data Points – See Us Live

Times of societal stress demand that marketers comprehend the authentic experience of individuals’ personal worlds, which includes one sillogical preferences, innocent desires, messy assumptions, and untested deductions. The key to making a successful transition will be found in focusing on the changing ethos; in short, taking note of what tongues are saying.

This emotional-cognitive progression is ceaselessly informed by the development of one’s self-identity, which underlies their unconscious purchase calculus. Understanding this process entails a shift in perspective from seeing consumers as data points to valuing consumers as people. Traditional attitude and usage studies, surveys and focus groups, are not adequate to the task.

Identities -Moving Beyond Interests

Traditional methods of inquiry that focus on product attributes often catch the superficial, top-of-mind impulses. But to succeed, brands must fit into peoples  lives, rather than the other way round. So let’s focus there.

People buy into things that fit their personal brand of meaning. The core task of marketing is, therefore, to entrain peoples’ emotional based logic that shapes self-identity and product-identity, into narrative. That force wins sales and boosts profits.

Brand is that spasm of sentiment – illogical, immediate, and rock-solid – that convulses us when we perceive a product as a venue to manifest our latent selves; brand is about what people wish to become, i.e. Just Do It, not what they are.

A critical implication for marketers is the need to understand peoples’ identities, not just interests. Satisfying consumer needs is but commodity, not brand. Marketers should not waste time asking what people like, need or want. They will do better to discover who these people are.

Hearing, Not Just Listening. Seeing, Not Just Watching

Listening for identities requires the skills of a “loving Interrogator” into the process by which people make meaning, justify it, and author a vision of their future selves. To elicit peoples’ “self-stories” requires establishing an environment in which people can live at the level of “themselves as an idea.” This demands skills beyond the moderator in terms of the questioner’s subjectivity and courage. As Samuel Beckett said, “let peoples’ words do what they want to do and do what they have to do.”

Within this stance, peoples’ words are heard from several perspectives: as outward communications, as self-talk, and as shadow (what is talked about is more than what is said). Recurrences and derailments of logic in self-narratives provide critical information that people should be held accountable for if we hope to reveal what they will give up and what they will hold fast to.

This is not psychotherapy, demographics or personalities. This approach exposes the cognitive zigzags of mind that lead to the formation of beliefs and attachments. This is the currency of marketing since people are at their core pattern, symbol and metaphor makers, makers of meaning and storytellers.

The Grand Narrative Leads To ROI

Once self-stories about I and their world are understood, the analytical task is to locate the “core metaphor and mythology” that composes the “grand narrative.” Such a report from the interior represents a primordial expression that embodies folk dreams as well as one’s fears. Such analysis can produce ideas that balance poetic abstraction with mundane specificity, a story well honed and vivid, that may be called an exercise in “spontaneous craftsmanship.”

The goal is the unexpected insight into how our internal emotional dialog connects to the outside tangle of societal structures. In other words, we need to find in each subject the cultural detritus of ALL minds, the controlling cultural ideas that exist in everyone’s mind.

From such deep insights can arise potent communication plans that have the maximum chance of increasing ROI, as it is here that marketers can tap the primal structure of the authentic human experience.

When it all works, marketers can create – a message, a campaign, content, multi-platform strategies, etc. – that lodge indelibly into peoples’ lives so that even when they do not think about it, their existence resonates.

Whether Campbell’s or Hermes, this act is required of all market leaders, of any corporation that seeks to profit through brand magic.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Dr. Bob Deutsch, Brain Sells

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