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Consumer knowledge is the bedrock of strong brands

An FMCG company’s marketing team undergoes consumer immersion through Acumen’s Consumer Centricity and Insight Mining program.   


Brands often lose their way when they forget that the very reason they exist is to meet the needs of their consumers.  After all, with no consumers, there can be no brand.  That is why consumer centricity needs to be at the forefront of every brand manager’s skill set.


Let’s tackle first the question: What is the difference between a brand and a product?


A product is tangible with features, functions and specifications.  On the other hand, a brand has an intangible magic: Embedded in a brand is a story, an experience, a memory and emotions that make people choose one over the other.  The essence of a brand is not what the product is, but rather, how the brand makes them feel.


Assuming you are consumers of the following categories, I am sure if I ask you to think about what your favorites are,  you will immediately have a very specific brand in mind: What is your favorite: (1) sneakers/athletic shoes; (2) coffee; (3) mobile phone; (4) cold beverage; (5) burger joint?


FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) is dynamic, competitive and ever-changing.  One of Acumen’s FMCG clients in the food space recognized the need to build strong brands and ensure relevance among consumers.  They asked Acumen to upskill their marketing team on Consumer Centricity and Insight Mining — specifically how to create a consumer profile, conduct actual in-depth interviews with consumers and to create a complete concept statement, including an insight, a benefit, a reason to believe and marketing mix elements.


We started out by asking the participants to identify a marketing task. 


A marketing task is the “Get WHO (who is your target) to do WHAT” (desired change in behavior that expresses a conversion in consumer action) in order to satisfy a particular business and marketing objective. A business objective could be to “gain 5% market share” and the corresponding marketing objective could be “acquire new users to the category and/or brand.”  The marketing task for such objectives could be “get young moms aged 25 – 35 to cook with ingredient x at least once a week.”


Once we have  the marketing tasks defined, the next step is to profile and understand that consumer.  To do this, we asked the participants to profile their consumers in 4 areas:  

·      Person – which includes demographic information such as age, gender and personality;

·      Personal context – which includes family ( for example: if target is a mom, does she have kids?  How old are they?), school, work or peers; 

·      Macro environment – this is similar to the PESTLE model, where we look at external or uncontrollable factors, like inflation, political environment or technological advances that will have an influence in purchase behavior; and

·      Category usage – This comprises their current relationship with the category, including the attributes they are looking for when using the products in the category, how they make decisions on what to buy, what products they are using now to solve their need (if its not our brand), and an initial hypothesis of the barriers that are stopping them from using our brand (Awareness?  Price?  Availability?  Relevance?)


Once they created robust consumer profiles, we then asked our participants to determine what questions they have for when they go out for consumer immersion.  These immersions took place in the form of one-on-one in-depth interviews.  We provided the participants with a sample questionnaire, and we asked them to tailor it,  taking into consideration (1) the knowledge gaps from the data they already have;  and (2) add questions that relate to their marketing task. 


We emphasized that the point of the consumer immersion is not to come up with ideas or to “sell” an idea that they might already have to solve the marketing task, but rather, it is to mine deeper insights, by understanding the consumer pain points and needs.


Post-consumer immersion, we took the participants through the Acumen 6-Step Insight Generator to come up with a consumer insight. 


We emphasized the difference between observations and insights. Observations tend to be descriptive and state facts or what is seen, they are surface level, data-driven and focus on behaviors.  Insights, on the other hand, provide an explanation for the observable behavior, offers a deeper understanding of consumer behavior that can lead to strategic implications or actions for the brand and they reveal motivations, attitudes or beliefs that drive consumer behavior. 


We provided them feedback on the insights they wrote based on the following questions:   

·      Is the insight fresh and surprising?   

·      Is it based on not just an observable behavior, but something deeper?

·      Does it answer the “why?” and not just the “what?”

·      Is it based on a real consumer need and can the brand realistically deliver on  that need?

·      Will it address the marketing task?


We also took them through a framework for identifying how to address the insight through a benefit statement — including  both functional (what the product does) and emotional benefits (how it makes them feel) of the brand, a reason to believe (how the brand can deliver the benefit promised) and finally, the solutions, which are areas of the marketing mix they can pull to remove the benefit barriers and achieve the marketing task.


After the course, we took a post-test and compared it to the pre-test, which tested their knowledge and we saw a delta of +22% across 2 classes.  Moreover, as faculty, I was happy that they rated the class 3.8 out  of 4.0 in terms of the usefulness of what they learned and 3.9 on the faculty providing a safe learning space in the session.  


Brands, whether in FMCG or other industries, can remain relevant and strong, we just need to ensure that brand managers always keep consumers at the forefront of all that they do, and connect with them at a deeper level through a robust and methodical consumer insighting process. 


Acumen’s customer centricity and insight mining course provides  them with the skills to be able to do this and I get excited when I see their communications do just that!  Written by: Cherry Tantoco-Daniels - Vice President - Organization Transformation Practice, Acumen Strategy Consultants


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