Don’t tell my clients (or employers), but I'm not really a marketer. I'm a consumer. Don’t get me wrong, I have been to watch the occasional focus group, where I sit behind intimidatingly mirrored glass and listen to claimed behaviour, but most of what I know of the illusive consumer is built around observing my friends, and by actually being one myself. I do not see it as us and them. We are all consumers. So why is the notion of “putting the consumer at the heart” of advertising still so foreign and novel to so many people?
Maybe I'm a bit harsh, but when I see news stories where the head of a major retail group in New Zealand says something to the tune of “if we give the consumer what they want, we get good results” (1:30 - http://www.3news.co.nz/Sales-surge-thanks-to-savvy-marketing/tabid/369/articleID/282384/Default.aspx), I want to cry. This should not be a revelation.
This concept should absolutely be at the centre of everything we do. Sure, we can occasionally make new products the consumer does not know they want until they see it (thanks Steve Jobs, still loving the iPhone), but the vast majority of what we do in adland is sell more of existing products/services. So how do we do that? By putting some stoners in a room that looks like we rented from the FBI and giving them a pizza while we take notes?
As David Ogilvy said “The consumer isn’t a moron; She is your wife.” Or boyfriend. Or neighbour, or family member, or workmate, or drinking buddy ... Or you and me. Why do we not treat them (and ourselves) with a little bit more respect?
There are many ways in which media strategists come up with insights, but all good media plans will be based purely on consumers’ behaviour and attitudes. Shouldn’t the insight work be done prior to creative execution? Should we not research what the consumer is talking about and participating in prior to creating the advertisement?
We all want positive word of mouth advertising done for us. We want things to go viral. We want to create stories about our brands that spread. Here is a free insight: people talk about themselves.
If you want people to share your story, make your story about the consumer, and give your brand a supporting role (ideally as an enabler) in that story. Step back, give the consumer the limelight.
I was discussing this with some of the older generation over the holidays and they said “Brands like Coke would never do that. Their branding is too famous, too big.” Yet it is one of the few companies to really do this. And although it was not as successful here as in Australia, the results from their 'Share a Coke' campaign speak volumes for that approach.
How much more powerful would it be to find out what actually matters to the consumer, what stories they are telling, and then give our brands a supporting role in those stories via both traditional and non-traditional media channels?
I want to participate in your advertising, not have it stop what I am trying to do. Even better, I want your advertising to participate with my life. I want it to stop being an interruption and start being a part of my lifestyle in a way that doesn't cause friction. I’ll tell you what, I will even give you all my demographic and social graph data for free to make it easier for you, so long as you treat that data with respect and use it to make my life better.
I want things that make me happy, that give me utility, and that are relevant to me. Give me that and I will tell everyone how great life is, thanks partially to your product.
But what the hell would I know? After all, I am just a consumer.
- Anthony Gardiner is a social media strategist and self-proclaimed 'askhole' with OMD Word.