I have been working with some Visual Merchandising and Branding students recently. For the Consumer Behaviour and Psychology unit I am lecturing on, they are asked to do some consumer research. Throughout this assignment their focus should be predominantly on consumer, not on brand.
There is a problem however. Throughout their studies they’ve been conditioned to focus on brand all the time and only research the brand. They therefore find it hard to switch their focus and put majority of their attention to understanding the depth of the consumer and their behaviour.
This problem is not only visible at universities however. It is prevalent across all consumer business. Someone had to come up with the concept of ‘customer-centric’ to make consumer brands pay attention to customers! Really?! Is that the best we can do?
This might sound rude and majority will object and say something along these lines: ‘But I always think about my customers, what they want, how to best deliver it to them etc.’ And maybe some of the readers actually do but most professionals working within consumer brands have been conditioned to focus on thinking about brand, profit, costs, latest tech etc.
For example, the first question when designing a new store is NOT how the customer will experience this place, how they will feel, what they will think and so on. It is about making it future-proof, ensuring good ROI and reducing design and construction costs.
It’s all fair as this is how the business world has worked for decades. This is not the way however which will ensure your survival.
Customers are increasingly demanding and I don’t mean that they want the latest tech toy in the store and faster delivery. They are looking for meaningful brands, brands that stand for something important, brand that are authentic, basically HUMAN BRANDS.
This is the key! Our HUMANNESS! We are not customers in isolation to being human. We are not consumer industry professionals in isolation to being human.
WE ARE ALL HUMAN! We are all built in exactly the same way. We all have brains that work pretty much the same regardless of our culture, profession or current role we’re playing (customer or professional). We all have emotions, long for close relationships, want to belong to a group etc.
As soon as you look at our humanness and apply it to your efforts to improve customer experience, you realise that actually it is not that hard and can be incredibly effective. For example, those ads (or even politicians) that started focusing on universal emotions of happiness or fear were incredibly successful. As I say ‘It’s no brainer for those who know how the brain works’.
I call this approach Human-Centred and it basically means that when you look at fundamentals of what makes us human and apply them to your business and creative decisions, it suddenly doesn’t seem so difficult and becomes more effective. Then ROI is a simple side effect!
So let’s stop asking whether we should focus on brand or consumer and start saying let’s focus on HUMAN.