At his presentation at The Un-Conference, Chris Wren included this deceptively simple observation: “Follow the insights,” he suggested, “Wherever they may lead”. I was struck immediately by the extent to which brands don’t. Too often it seems research functions as something of a confirmation bias – reinforcing beliefs that are already deeply held.
Wren’s challenge to delegates to take the path of greatest insight rather than the one of least resistance was a reminder to every brand strategist and manager in the room that customer-centricity is not always convenient or personally intuitive. In fact, it may require us to pursue paths and approaches that fight with everything we think we know, want to know or believe we have been told.
The Western Union example
“Data and research are only powerful if they are acted upon … Even if it seems crazy.” In the Western Union case study that he gave to support his point, Chris explained that while money may have seemed the obvious point of connection, in reality that was not what really connected Western Union consumers with their homeland at all. Money was the transactional basis, but not the emotional basis for the relationship. What motivated those customers was what was going on at home and what they really missed was food – not just any food or even the food of their country, but specifically a home-cooked meal. So Western Union set out to celebrate the things that their customers yearned for most by preparing and serving them their favourite dishes.
“When you are away from your home you long for those things that connect you to your culture, and nothing is more fundamental than the family dinner table,” says Diane Scott, CMO of Western Union. “Through the #WUHomeCooked campaign, Western Union is continuing to get to know our customers on a personal level, and connect them with their families back home to demonstrate our gratitude for all they do.”
So here we have a company in the money transfer business exploring motives that, on the face of them, seem well removed from the business at hand: loneliness; isolation; homesickness; familiarity; nostalgia; gratitude. And yet, framed in the terms that Scott expresses them above, they make complete sense. Retrospectively. For a team working through these insights at the time though, I can well imagine that at some point they must have wondered whether they were on the verge of uncovering a human gem or in real danger of going off-course. Kudos for making the right call.
Pursuing the 5Ys
Those of us who have followed a 5Y approach to discovering motivation will know that the insight uncovered at the first “Why?” can be a very long way indeed from the understanding that one has arrived at by the fifth “Why?”. The temptation as we work to increasingly curtailed timeframes is to shortcut the process: to take the first answer or the most apparent insight and build everything on that – when in reality, that insight may only be an expression of the truly human driver. If we succumb to this temptation, we risk short-changing our communications (and customers) emotionally.
Customer-centricity is not always convenient or personally intuitive
But equally, the secret to having what Annette Gleneicki neatly describes as a “sixth sense” around customers is knowing when you have reached an intuitive point in your pursuit of an insight that is refreshingly perceptive and, at the same time, delightfully workable. Pursuing an insight beyond that point risks over-shooting the framework that consumers recognise and respond to. So knowing when to stop is just as important as knowing when to continue.
Here’s the thing. If it’s hard to explain the value of marketing when it’s rational, imagine the challenge of explaining what you’re planning to those around and above you when it’s irrational – or at least not obvious. Ironically, marketing at its most powerful, at the point where it is an expression of everything that insight has guided it to, can also be the most difficult to explain.
Photo of “Pinheads” taken by Martin Fisch, sourced from Flickr