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