By Alan Zorfas
In marketing, nothing is more powerful than an insight that ties the right human emotion to your brand. As legendary John Hegarty (Bartle Bogle Hegarty Advertising) once remarked at a planning conference: “Real life has a way of delivering the goods. No question that original, breakthrough ideas come from listening to and observing consumers. This “Marketoon” lampoons what we all know as a “moment of truth” for marketers: An insight can get our attention, we build consensus, professionals provide further interpretation and laddering, quant study backs it up and a campaign is born.
As an ex-planner and agency executive, I lived off such consumer insights. I convinced my clients to conduct focus groups, ethnographic studies, cultural studies, “Right Brain” research and other methodologies designed to reveal insights about our consumers. Despite the cost and time, they were all worthwhile.
So, what was missing?
A consultant specializing in observing business behavior and decision making said to me years ago, “Insights are plentiful and cheap. Finding out which ones matter is the trick.”
Which ones matter? That was missing!
Marketing’s “inside joke” is so centered on mystery, e.g., “Which half actually worked… it’s the fuzzy stuff, millions spent on what someone said in a focus group.” What’s not so funny is the crisis of credibility around marketing and—worse—its reflection on the players.
CMOs clamor for better metrics. Brand managers want more actionable consumer intelligence on hand. Agencies want length of tenure with clients to improve. A CMO of a Fortune 500 company once remarked to me after presenting his marketing plan to the board, “Look, there are believers and non-believers. That’s what it comes down to.” Yikes, that’s a tough job we have, isn’t it?
I’m not saying we should replace qualitative. Instead we need to find better ways to provide a bridge between what marketers need to know—what’s really motivating their consumers—and what businesses need to know—what’s going to drive results.
We’ll know we have the right kind of consumer intelligence on hand when marketing presents its recommendations to non-marketing and C-level executives and, for once, the “fuzzy stuff” makes business sense.