I’m continually amazed when I do interviews with consumers just how mis-informed they are. Yesterday, we conducted four, in-home interviews with very affluent, well educated families. Each of the four began telling us with absolute certainty about products that have been launched by brands (but not the right brands), and features that they’ve seen that are highly desirable (features that don’t exist on products in the market today). They point to a product in their home and talk about the miserable experience they’ve had with it, vowing to never buy that brand again. Ask them what brand it is, and they tell you the wrong one.
Contrast this with product and brand managers at big corporations. They spend their time “fine-tuning’ their messages and focusing on minutia. Because they live and breathe their products and brands, they mistakenly assume that their target customers are doing the same. They spend countless resources on research that often serves only to validate their own opinions. Once surrounded with these “statistics” they are ready to further tweak and refine their already complex messages and offerings. This is especially true for products with long life cycles. As an example, if a typical consumer replaces their refrigerator every 10 years, they are realistically not paying attention to changes in these products between buying cycles. They’re certainly not stressed that this years model is too similar to last years. They only care about what is different when they buy their new versus the last time they were in the market. Unless an innovation really changes the way people live (and gets the necessary buzz to let the world know it), it will typically go unnoticed until people are in the position of buying.
Maybe it’s time to “dumb it down” a bit. I’m not saying that your consumer base is not comprised of intelligent people. But I am saying that no one lives and breathes your products and your brands like the corporate insiders do. What can you do to innovate your brand or your image? A huge step would be to ensure consumers know that they buy into your company when they buy their next product. Obviously some companies do this very well. No one drives a Harley without knowing exactly what it is, and no one buys an i-phone without getting caught up in the Apple mystique. These companies didn’t get there overnight, and neither will you. But maybe its time to start listening to your customers and hearing what they really say as opposed to generating reports in support of what you assume.