Archive for the ‘branding’ Tag

Unbrand to stand out in the market

For organizations hoping to grow, the mantra is often: faster, better, cheaper. But is this an effective way to build and sustain a brand in an age of consumer skepticism, marketing noise, economic uncertainty and declining product differentiation?

Studies show that as consumers move online, buying decisions increasingly hinge on factors such as social proof, honesty and regular engagement. Firms that fail to pivot their marketing strategy to address these trends increasingly lack integrity and purpose in the eyes of consumers and put themselves at risk of becoming targets of fickle, social-media-enabled customers and activists (see: J.P. Morgan’s #AskJPM campaign).

That’s why some companies are embracing what I call “unbranding” to maximize brand equity and minimize risk. While traditional branding appeals to the left side of the brain — faster, better, cheaper — unbranding appeals to the right side: trust, aspiration, purpose.

  • Trust is is achieved by building credibility through transparency (see: Costco).
  • Aspiration is achieved by developing a brand that aligns with who the customer wants to be (see: Coach).
  • Purpose is achieved by articulating a clear set of values that permeates the entire customer experience (see: Apple).

McDonald’s Corp. is perhaps the most successful unbrander to date. Spurred by customer research and in response to socio-cultural developments, they launched “Our Food. Your Questions.” — a digital hub where McDonald’s employees, suppliers and nutrition experts answer questions from curious consumers and dispel myths that have long plagued the global fast-food giant. Here is a sampling from the site:

Q Is your meat made of cardboard?
A “Cardboard is for moving boxes, meat is for eating.”

Q Did McDonald’s hold a competition to make an edible burger out of worms?
A “We’ve never held such a competition.”

Q Is your beef processed using ‘pink slime’ or ammonia?
A “No.”

Q Why is the food at McDonald’s so cheap?
A “Buying power.”

Q Is your food tasty?
A “Is the Earth round?”

This program is not about bragging, preaching or evading. Rather it’s about dialogue, humility and openness. For McDonald’s, this represents a paradigm shift in how the company builds its brand and reinforces its core message of quality.

“Today, brands need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and challenge convention,” says Antoinette Benoit, senior vice president, national marketing, McDonald’s Canada. “It’s important for us to have an ongoing and transparent two-way conversation with our customers in order to make a meaningful and long-lasting connection with them. This not only enables us to tell our story but also to evolve our brand based on what’s important to our customers.”

This unbranding strategy has contributed to improving the overall perception of McDonald’s. The idea came out of the Canadian wing of the company, but benefited from further development by McDonald’s France and McDonald’s U.K., both of which were able to overcome business and public relations challenges and grow revenues. The campaign has now been adopted in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and parts of Latin America.

Behind the success of this unbranding strategy was an up-to-date understanding of consumer needs, a return to focusing on historical core values (“quality” in the case of McDonald’s) and courage on the part of management to follow though on the program’s requirement for honesty, transparency and directness. Moving forward, McDonald’s will build on the strategy’s success by incorporating these learnings across the entire customer and partner experience through new training, advertising and more.

How can you make unbranding work for your business?

  1. Understand who you are as company. This should be based on your institutional values, history and how you are perceived within the marketplace.
  2. Identify your customer’s needs. This should be accomplished through both traditional and new marketing-research techniques.
  3. Create a vision or ethos for your company. This should encapsulate who you want to be and how you want to be perceived as an organization.
  4. Select the appropriate communications methods. Understanding how to articulate your message is as important as knowing what your message is.
  5. Unify your message across all customer touch points. Consistency is key in articulating a message that will both resonate and change perception.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

Advertisements

5 steps to rebrand your business

The successful rebranding and strategic pivot of Tangerine, formerly ING Direct, was the product of strategic insight, thorough analytics and diligent planning. Just as critical was the firm’s ability to pull off a complex transformation in a time of market uncertainty and regulatory change. With 70% to 80% of change initiatives ending in failure, Tangerine holds many lessons for companies looking to strategically reposition themselves or undertake other change initiatives.

“Managing change can be both challenging and rewarding,” says Peter Aceto, president and CEO of Tangerine. “Since we all perceive change differently, it is a journey that must be met with honesty, regular communication, reassurance and, above all, a positive attitude.”

ING Direct was purchased by Scotiabank in 2012. The new entity had two ambitious goals to be achieved by 2014: first, to rebrand under a new name and identity (soon to be Tangerine); second, to expand beyond the firm’s core positioning (tagline: “Save your money”) to include new services and products relevant to their Web-based customers (tagline: “Forward banking”).

Execution missteps, such as ignoring cultural issues, poor planning or lack of management follow through, make real change very difficult to pull off. The challenge for a 1000+ employee bank like Tangerine is to execute major change initiatives with existing resources without compromising existing revenues, service levels or regulatory compliance.

“While it definitely had its challenges,” says Mr. Aceto, “I can say that we’ve come out stronger than ever before while staying true to our core values and the brand that Canadians know and love.”

Tangerine’s leadership deserves credit not only for formulating the right strategy, but also for executing on that strategy — arguably a much bigger challenge. The company pulled off the repositioning without missing a profitability beat or alienating its parent company. Since announcing its name change, Tangerine has exceeded its profitability and custom acquisition goals without compromising its image.

What best practices for managing change can other companies learn from Tangerine?

Start at the top

Successful change requires cross-functional involvement by senior leadership throughout the entire transformation process. Management accountability ensures appropriate focus, ownership and resources, as well as providing timely attention when unexpected problems arise (as they inevitably do). In alignment with Scotiabank, Mr. Aceto personally led the brand transition from the initial discussion through the planning and execution. He was also active in removing resource and organizational roadblocks when they occurred.

Create a narrative

A “change story” should be developed at the outset, connecting the change with who you are as an organization, how you generate consumer value and where you are going. Where cultural change is required, management needs to deploy detailed programs outlining target behaviours, processes and practices. Tangerine expended a considerable amount of effort developing a positive narrative for its customers, employees and partners — namely, that the acquisition was the best way of enabling future growth beyond the core business.

Communicate regularly

The likelihood of misinformation, rumour and uncertainty is quite high during transitions. To avoid these traps, leaders must regularly communicate to all stakeholders in a direct, honest and succinct fashion. Initially, key messages should articulate a desired end-state, a high-level roadmap and the benefits and risks associated with the strategy. Once the transformation has begun, communications should reinforce the narrative, acknowledge positive role models and provide progress updates.

Pay attention to the human element

Management actions early on signal to workers the priority and tenor of the change initiative, as well as what life will be like post-change. Successful change pays attention to each employee by creating individual metrics and adjusting priority lists. While plans and processes are important, ignoring the human dimension can scuttle buy-in and morale and increase business risk. When necessary, Tangerine’s managers undertook the “tough” conversations with employees in the spirit of mutual respect.

Don’t mess with success

Tangerine’s leadership, planning and execution were vital to ensuring the transformation happened in fewer than 18 months. However, credit must also be given to the role played by Scotiabank. Many acquirers feel compelled to take charge and be highly prescriptive in their oversight. Scotiabank’s post-acquisition leadership team understood much of what they were buying was a unique culture and aligned early on with Tangerine’s senior team to avoid over-managing during the transition or in ongoing operations.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc., web site.

Guaranteeing integrated marketing

Many marketing departments resemble the Tower of Babel:  disparate teams, speaking different languages, working at cross paths and often not getting along.  In business parlance, this is called an integration problem.  Like the challenges facing the denizens of Babel, poor integration can wreak havoc on a company’s marketing effectiveness and brand image. Luckily, CMOs can overcome these problems by tweaking their structures, processes and practices and driving tighter strategic alignment.

Loose integration occurs when different customer-facing groups (e.g., marketing, sales, customer service) pursue different institutional (or personal) agendas. We have seen the implications of weak integration in dozens of our clients and the firms we benchmark.  Symptoms include: schizophrenic brand messages; tactics that run counter to the marketing strategy; duplication of effort and; in-fighting around who controls the priorities and budget.

The root causes of loose integration often arise unintentionally.  For example, programs are implemented unevenly; customer and channel fragmentation leads to a plethora of conflicting messages and tactics and; the growth of marketing outsourcing increases the odds of misalignment.  Not to be minimized is the personal dimension where department heads or employees purposely pursue agendas that are not aligned with the marketing strategy.

An almost fully integrated company  (complete integration is probably unrealistic) stands a good chance of delivering superior marketing performance as defined by lower cost and higher levels of customer acquisition and retention, higher levels of innovation and a stronger brand image. Examples of highly ‘integrated’ firms include: Apple, Four Seasons, Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Victoria’s Secret.

Leaders can preempt and overcome the harmful effects of low integration by considering three, interrelated, approaches:

1.  Drive strategic congruence across the company

Brand internally

Your employees are market ambassadors as well as influencers within their organizations. Getting them to read and execute off the same marketing script will minimize integration issues.  Some management action items include evangelizing the marketing mission and strategy across the company, regularly communicating the firm’s value proposition and point of difference, and quickly updating stakeholders with any important changes to the program, partners, etc.

Make planning visible

A transparent and inclusive planning process increases integration and alignment by ensuring all views are aired, promoting fact-driven decision making, exposing management bias and reducing organizational uncertainty.

In-source more activities

The more marketing agencies and contractors are used, the greater the chance of integration problems, tracing to complexity-induced errors and strategy-execution gaps. Bringing more work and functions in house (and ensuring they are properly managed) will improve integration.

2.  Break down silos

Revamp the structure

A business maxim says that structure should follow strategy.  Often the structure gets out of sync and needs to be corrected.  Some ways to do this include organizing around capabilities or strategic goals like customer acquisition and retention, and introducing a shared service-delivery model that centralizes program execution.

Rogers Communications uses a couple of different structures to drive integration. “We bring people from across the organization and regardless of reporting relationships on teams to focus around common goals such as retention or acquisition,” says John Boynton, chief marketing officer. “Another approach is around execution. For example, with social media executions we have a hub-and-spoke model with experts in the hub giving advice and assistance to those in the spoke trying to use social media for varying different objectives.”

Clarify roles and responsibilities

Unclear accountability and decision rights naturally lead to conflicting programs and duplication of effort, not to mention internal strife. One way to address this problem is to clarify and formalize roles and responsibilities with charters and circulate them to key stakeholders.

3.  Use one playbook

Fine-tune the management systems & culture

Employees often work at cross-purposes when their goals, metrics and incentives are not aligned.  Leaders need to ensure there is a shared marketing mission, lexicon and performance measurement systems that is congruent with corporate priorities and integrates every activity up and across the organization.

When formal systems are lacking, companies need to be pragmatic. “Our goal is to define and create a marketing culture where it is okay to have discussions at the outset to establish decision makers and inputers,” says Boynton. “This can save a lot of time and avoid disparate executions and decisions.”

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

Lady Gaga, social media queen

The inspiration for this week’s column comes from my daughter.  I was musing out loud about what to write in an upcoming column. While dancing to a YouTube video, she said, “Dad, why don’t you write about Lady Gaga.  She’s cool and all over the Internet.”  It just so happens my daughter was on to something. Much of Lady Gaga’s success can trace to her skill as a digital marketer;  her approach holds many lessons for marketers looking to quickly build strong and compelling brands online.

Lady Gaga exploded from relative obscurity in 2007 to become one of the biggest pop acts in the world, selling millions of songs and performing in front of millions of admirers.   She did it with a combination of talent and showmanship plus an adroit use of social media.  Today, Lady Gaga is an online heavyweight with roughly 19 million Twitter followers and 48 million Facebook followers.  Her total number of YouTube views has exceeded 2 billion.

What is her secret?

Lady Gaga pursues a social media strategy we call “mass intimacy.”   This approach looks to build an emotional connection with fans by leveraging a unique brand identity, regular communications and exclusive, web-friendly content.

Keep it personal

When it comes to her fans, Lady Gaga is anything but a poker face.  She strives to create emotional relationship with her fans.  One way she does this is by telling her “little monsters” (the affectionate name she gives her fans) stories about her life and values, in particular about her challenges growing up. Lady Gaga comes across as candid, approachable and authentic in all interactions. Fans can easily relate to her and be inspired by her.

Embrace your loyal fan base

Lady Gaga prioritizes her devotees and tries to make them feel special.  She typically does not use publicists or canned content, preferring to connect directly and personally by regularly tweeting and replying to tweets. Through all channels, Lady Gaga communicates to fans as if they are part of her team or family (i.e. using the plural “we”) as opposed to them being outsiders (i.e. using the singular “I”).  Finding new online connections is not as important to her as cultivating her existing fan relationships and turning them into ambassadors for her music and message on empowerment, acceptance etc.At the same time, Lady Gaga encourages her “little monsters” to participate in her career.  In one case, she asked her fans to upload videos of them singing and dancing to a newly released song. These clips were compiled, edited and premiered during her performance at a Saturday Night Live season finale.

Regularly offer unique content

Lady Gaga uses social media like the vast majority of her fans:  to update her friends, share her thoughts or ask questions (as opposed to promoting products and bragging about her success). Lady Gaga treats her social media friends better, in many cases, than the media.  Friends often get compelling content not always available elsewhere.  This includes regular news updates, announcements, prizes special features and exclusive interviews, all of which help to prevent the relationship from getting stale. Finally, many of Lady Gaga’s music videos appear tailored for the Web.  Some of her web-only videos are almost nine minutes long (instead of the standard four-minute clips produced for traditional radio and TV).

Align with a cause

Consumers respond positively to brands that care about something more than their commercial interests.  Lady Gaga is a pioneer in linking her social media activity with good causes.  In 2010 she pledged to stop updating her social media platforms until $1 million was raised for Alicia Keys’ ‘Keep a Child Alive’ charity.  In addition, she actively promotes tolerance through publicizing her Born this Way foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

Her strategy

Unlike many artists in the mid 2000s, Lady Gaga quickly embraced the potential of the Internet.  As the brand custodian, she is personally involved in all social media and branding decisions.  Working with an agency, she built an informative and appealing website, habitually engaged fans through MySpace, Facebook and Twitter and communicated her message via 50 interviews with popular online bloggers.  Lady Gaga accelerated her web coverage by forging strategic promotional partnerships with a variety of firms including Starbucks, iTunes, VEVO, HBO and Zing.  Finally, she looks to have all her marketing channels working together through a single brand “voice” and marketing message.

Obviously, Lady Gaga’s experience will be not be relevant for many firms.  However, it does show that employing a winning formula — having a strong brand identity, understanding social media’s key success factors and delivering compelling value — can rapidly propel and differentiate a  new or existing product.  When it comes to social media, Lady Gaga may not have been born this way but she learned quickly.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

The power of underdog brands

Increasingly, many firms are looking to connect to their consumer’s heartstrings by repositioning their brands as underdogs.  Although this strategy has been employed many times, there had been no empirical research to prove the supposition that underdog narratives resonate well with customers — until now.  A topical study by Anat Keinan, a professor at the Harvard Business School, shows that a narrative grounded in hard luck and determination can improve a brand’s attractiveness across multiple sectors and a variety of geographies.

Branding a company or product as an underdog is not a new idea.  Though there are many variations, all of them incorporate a ‘David vs, Goliath’ or counter-culture theme.  Examples range from Avis’ classic positioning: ‘We are number 2 but we try harder’ to more recently Adidas’ “Nothing is Impossible” brand campaign which emphasizes the underdog stories of famous athletes.

Despite its usage, it is not self-evident that underdog branding passes the common sense test. Extensive psychological research has shown that people want to associate themselves with winners — and by connection with winning brands — even if they find underdogs more appealing.

The Findings

Professor Keinan conducted a series of lab and online studies with more than 2,000 American consumers recruited from national online samples. The studies examined the effect of different underdog brand biographies on a consumer’s choice, purchase intention and product loyalty.   Her findings clearly supported the premise that an underdog narrative can improve a brand’s relevance, purchase intent and loyalty.  According to Keinan, “underdog brand biographies are effective in the marketplace because consumers identify with the disadvantaged position of the underdog, and also share their passion and determination to succeed when the odds are against them.” Having these two important narrative components is vital to building a powerful underdog brand.

The research also found that the underdog effect crosses cultural boundaries.  Participants in Singapore and the United States both exhibited preferences for underdog brands. However, underdog preference was stronger for American participants.  This may be due to the fact that Americans may be more receptive to underdog narratives because of the unique role of underdogs in their history (think Rocky and Seabiscuit).  In particular, underdog stories about overcoming great odds through passion and determination resonate strongly during tough economic times. They inspire and give hope when the outlook is bleak.

In addition to its primordial appeal, underdog branding may also reduce an organization’s reputational risk by shielding it from attacks from activists who look to criticize a company for being large, successful or too visible. Including underdog branding elements and values allows consumers to identify with a brand’s passion and struggles rather than its size or profile. This effect may overpower any negative attributions associated with large size or a firm’s leadership position.

Making it real

To implement an underdog branding strategy, marketers need to carefully build a compelling story:

  1. Frame the external environment as largely negative. Underdogs start from a disadvantaged position based on having a more difficult history or less resources.  They hit obstacles along the way, making it a more difficult struggle for them than for others.
  2. Create a likeable brand personality. Underdogs possess appealing and universal values and goals that many people can relate to. Underdogs appear more passionate than others about achieving their goals, even when facing challenges.
  3. Align with each consumer touch point.  Great underdog brands fully integrate their story through their advertising, packaging, web sites, social media, and marketing communications.

Some watch outs

Authenticity is a critical ingredient in an underdog brand narrative.  If the underdog appears disingenuous or is later acquired by a large corporation, it will diminish the credibility of their story. For example, consumers criticized brands like Snapple and Ben & Jerry’s after they were acquired by conglomerates. Additionally, there are product categories that may be ill suited to an underdog brand strategy. Specifically, consumers may question the quality and safety of an underdog healthcare, financial services or security brand.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site,

Brand building without marketing

Companies who think that a strong brand can only be developed through marketing are missing out on other ways to improve their image.   While marketing is vital, we take the view that the brand is impacted by the entire business.  Many functions like sales, customer support and facilities management play a key role in creating customer perceptions.  While this is not an original idea, most companies still rely on traditional marketing activities like advertising, packaging and promotion to build their image. Our research suggests that other factors are equally if not more important in influencing a brand.  Companies who can identify these key brand drivers will be able to improve their brand execution, not to mention business and financial performance.

No logo

Loads of research confirms that trust in brands has declined.  People view brands with a jaded eye and consumers are uncomfortable with a brands’ desire to control the message. The market research firm Young & Rubicam found that the percentage of brands that consumers consider trustworthy plunged from 52% in 1997 to 22% in 2008. This skepticism is being amplified by the power of social media which now give consumers and influencers as much power as the marketer to influence the brand.

A new branding paradigm

Enlightened organizations understand that building a trustworthy branding is a process that is too important to be left only to the marketing department. These companies recognize that brand communication is the responsibility of all employees, involves every department and is a participatory process. As a result, some firms are moving away from a marketing-led, push-based communications strategy towards a more holistic approach that seeks to rebuild consumer trust and communicate the brand promise at every external touch point.  This new paradigm integrates corporate strategy, employees as branding ambassadors and regular engagement with external stakeholders.

Keeping it real

Implementing this new approach is part marketing program, part operational strategy and part cultural change.  Below are a few ways managers can build their brand without traditional marketing:

Employees as brand ambassadors

We have seen many companies spend millions of dollars on advertising but neglect to effectively communicate their value proposition to their employee base – many of whom deal with customers on a regular basis. Marketing one thing and having your employees believe something else is a recipe for poor brand execution and wasted spending. Getting everyone aligned takes time but will pay dividends through reinforcing branding messages and increasing clarity.   

Optimize the customer experience

A compelling brand strategy will flounder if the customer experience is not supportive of the brand promise.  Our client experience bears this out. We have seen a service-focused hospitality brand stumble (and witness declines in loyalty and up-sells) when the front line staff was not consistently friendly, responsive and knowledgeable.  In another case, we witnessed how ignoring channel needs and product documentation compromised the brand equity of a leading software product.  Ultimately, this helped contribute to lower market share and margins.

Open up the brand

One way to garner trust is to open up your brand to your stakeholders.   In essence, customers, employees and influencers contribute to your brand message through social media and other marketing vehicles.  Although the likelihood of frank discussions – warts and all – is high, this strategy can reduce skepticism and mistrust by portraying the company as an honest, open, credible and authentic corporate citizen.

The Danish toy company, Lego Group, is a good example of well-known brand that has gotten even stronger through open branding.  Lego recognized early on that its brand was not created by the marketing department, but instead by the entire company through its interactions with its community – retailers, consumers, media and other stakeholders.

Open branding is a great way to reinforce your brand building blocks.  To best leverage this new construct while minimizing risk, marketers should-

  1. Deliver value not communication – Typical marketing communications is a turnoff to customers as well as employees.  Increasingly, consumers want valuable, objective and timely content – not just slogans – that helps them and respects their time.    
  2. Share control – If brands want to be seen as credible, authentic and compelling, firms must accept that their image is no longer solely controlled by its managers.  With the emergence of social media and other new Web 3.0 technologies, brands are now being molded by a diverse group of people whose opinions should be heard.
  3. Open up – A brand manager’s role must go beyond traditional marketing to fully engage – listen, absorb, facilitate and share – consumers and influencers.  The key organizational shift here is to stop seeing consumers as an object or transaction and to start seeing them as a source of creativity and co-creation in areas like branding, product design and support. Many successful brands like Harley Davidson and Apple nurture communities of passionate users who evangelize the brand and provide vital market and product information. 

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site

Social media is dead…long live social media

Over the past year, a number of much-heralded social media campaigns have floundered failing to deliver the desired results.  To wit:

  • Despite a variety of Facebook and viral marketing campaigns that generated considerable buzz, Burger King sales witnessed 6 consecutive quarters of declining sales;
  • Pepsi’s very public shift away from Super Bowl ads to Refresh Project, a social charity program, was unable to prevent the brand’s drop to the number three market share position.

In addressing these setbacks, SM boosters will argue that these initiatives surpassed their customer response and engagement goals.  As well, they contend that some failures are to be expected given the nascent state of the SM space.  Finally, apologists will blame other culprits such as the economy, pricing, and distribution that can sabotage campaign success.

In reality, these arguments are a little specious.  If a SM campaign can not directly trace to higher sales then what is the use of measuring esoteric values like a conversation and tweets in the first place? Interestingly, some SM programs have been in market for over 6 years belying the claim that the “media” is relatively new.  Finally, if other marketing or product elements mattered more than SM they should have been the focus of the program investments in the first place.

Should these poor experiences cause marketers to reconsider their ambitious SM plans?  Maybe, but not so fast.  Concurrently with the failures, there have been a many SM successes across a variety of industries including retail banking, automobiles and insurance. The aforementioned problems may have more to do with the end of SM as a fad and the emergence of SM as a serious marketing discipline.  Within many companies, there is a growing realization that SM is just one marketing tool and cannot kill traditional advertising & promotion in the same way that the arrival of the microwave didn’t kill the oven.

Some important lessons can be gleaned from these high profile failures as well as the successes:

SM has not changed people’s buying behaviour – Most people still evaluate and purchase products today the same way they did 10 or even 50 years ago. As long as the vast majority of sales occur in stores or through sales people, driving traffic to these areas should be the focus of SM programs.

Marketing integration is essential – Without the support of value-based pricing, optimal channel management and solid product quality, all SM efforts will fail to generate meaningful results.

The brand promise remains paramount – If it doesn’t reinforce a brand’s winning value proposition and character, a SM program will be nothing more than a cool (and often expensive) marketing activity.

The key metrics haven’t changed – Today, SM metrics and analytics are not ideal, being inherently qualitative and relational.  Until metrics can be linked to revenues by becoming quantitative and absolute, then there will be a challenge justifying program ROI.

Competitive matching is the last reason to deploy SM –  As the negative examples of Domino Pizza, Amazon and KFC demonstrate, SM can be a high risk activity and should not be pursued without a compelling strategic and revenue-generating rationale.

You still need to execute with excellence – Like other marketing or product initiatives, SM activities need to move beyond the creative, “cool” factor and focus on delivering marketing and operational effectiveness and efficiency.

Most pundits would agree SM’s future is bright.  It’s the short term that marketers should now focus on getting right.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.

Richer consumer insights via ethnography & anthropology

In today’s hyper competitive consumer goods, healthcare and service industries, achieving meaningful product differentiation has become quite difficult.  Part of the challenge is in gaining a thorough understanding of a consumer’s functional and emotional needs.  Too often, overt response-based qualitative research tools like focus groups and 1:1 interviews don’t go deep enough in uncovering unmet needs and purchase drivers.  That’s when savvy marketers turn to consumer ethnography and anthropology for help.

Ethnography uses qualitative techniques to better understand what consumer want and how they purchase through researching their behaviors, attitudes and external influences. Some common tools include: voice of the customer studies through the product awareness/evaluation/purchase and service continuum;  observational research at evaluation and point-of-purchase moments, and (secret and overt) day-in-the-life interviews around product usage. In other situations, marketers can use anthropology to better understand the key role culture, values and religion plays in motivating consumer behavior.  For example, I have used anthropological research in the hospitality sector to help design a customer experience that takes into account the subconscious drivers of body image, socio-economic aspirations and wellness. 

A detailed review of observations, respondent feedback and societal norms is often synthesized to reveal hidden consumer needs, habits, influencers and barriers which are then used to better design, position and promote products & services. Ethnography and anthropology are superior qualitative research tools because they focus on what consumers do and how they act, in addition to what they say.

Many marketing and product design challenges could benefit from an ethnographic and anthropologic lens, including:

  • Uncovering unmet consumer needs and segments;
  • Launching new products and new geographies;
  • Rebranding products with little or no functional superiority;
  • Designing the optimal consumer experience including stores, service channels and marketing aesthetics.

For more information on our services and work, please visit us at www.quantaconsulting.com