By Alan Zorfas
We would never suggest that a marketer kicking off the annual planning process knows “diddly squat” about their consumers’ motivations. (Well, I guess the Marketoon did.) But remember, it’s just a cartoon–meant for us to collectively peek into our own marketing experiences…and laugh!
Having attended dozens of these meetings for myriad blue chip brands, I recognize the truth embedded in this humor. Decades after marketing has entered “the age of the consumer,” it’s startling how little we do know—at any given time—about what’s truly motivating consumers to choose or advocate for brands. And it’s marketers who have to endure the pressures and pain points of this information gap.
Especially at moments like “kickoff meetings.”
Most would agree that what truly motivates our consumers is essential knowledge for marketing. Yet I could argue that the vast majority of marketing activity compensates for the lack of that knowledge. We create offers, add new product features and run promotions to see what sticks. “Look, we moved the needle!” Brands trade against their equity to stimulate short-term sales. We affix on competitive moves. They add a feature, we match. They lower their price, we match. We add a feature; they match…and so on. The paradox here is that the more we try to one-up our competition—instead of really connecting with consumers—the more we commoditize.
But understanding why consumers connect is hard work. It takes lots of planning, time, expertise and collaboration. You peel back the layers and unearth a gem of an insight; we learn what makes a consumer tick. Even with these rich, brilliant insights, we can fall short. Why?
The business world we operate in today requires us to have information that’s current, data-driven, accessible and actionable, now.
When it comes to knowing the consumer, there are many instances where marketers feel less than armed. The kickoff meeting is such an event. It’s day one.
On the agenda: Last year’s sales and market share numbers, competitive campaigns and products, the innovation pipeline, maybe some awareness and perception scores, opinions and views are shared. And, surely, we walk away with an action item to learn more about the consumer over the coming months.
The kickoff meeting should no longer be day one of not really knowing what’s motivating consumers. Marketers need to start the process with data-driven intelligence about what’s really motivating consumers to buy, stay loyal or advocate. What connections really matter? What connections should they own? How are consumers connecting with their brands vs. competitors? How they can build connection with high-value segments?
I’d like to be at that kickoff meeting. On day two, the process is already in high gear.