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IIM's Top 13 Insights from 2013 (Part 3 of 3)

Consumer ChoicesEach year, Insights in Marketing identifies insights across all of the work we have done in the previous year to share with our valued clients. (To review the first set of 2013 insights click here and for the second set of our insights in 2013, click here.) These insights can often be game-changers and are cross-category / cross-industry insights that can have a large impact on your brand's growth.  

Changing Consumer Behaviors

The world is changing rapidly, and consumer behavior is adjusting to keep up (as demonstrated by insights #9 - #11). Consumers want marketers to support them in these new behaviors, in order to help them stay abreast of the challenges in their world.

9.   Unlimited Choices Are Resulting in Multiple Perspectives & Interpretations

Today, the roles of consumers are wide-open, and extremely fluid. We are all open to choose whatever path appeals to us. But, each choice we make corresponds to something else not being chosen, a choice we can no longer make. While being able to choose from a broad array of options sounds appealing, it actually results in consumers dealing with great uncertainty - if everything is available, how do I know I have made the right choice? And most importantly - how do I judge success? This represents a great change from even one generation ago, for both men and women.

This makes forging marketing messages extremely challenging, as it is difficult to understand how consumers will interpret them. For example, consider Dove's campaign for "real beauty." Some consumers might interpret "real beauty" as "inner beauty." But if the message is inner beauty and accepting yourself however you look, why would consumers need to purchase any of their products, which enhance external appearance?

Implications/Actions:  Marketers should be very careful to understand all of the implications of their messages and that they are not inadvertently alienating some of their market. Marketing research can be very valuable in teasing out consumers' emotional interpretations of marketing messages post hoc. However, it is critically important and much more efficient that marketers understand consumers at a deeper level to anticipate interpretations to marketing messages.  Knowing their consumers' underlying values, personality and habits help marketers develop a psychological profile to guide all marketing activities.

10.  Commonalities are the New Black

Marketing is founded on targeting and segmentation: finding the parts of the market that you can most uniquely serve with the products and services you offer. Big Data and innovative analysis allow marketers to slice-and-dice the market endlessly, with some marketers advocating that we should target each consumer individually in "markets of one." However, focusing on what consumers have in common with each other can give a new perspective for marketing.  After all, as human beings, we have more in common than not, and those commonalities cut across micro-segments.

Implications/Actions:  Find the common benefit delivered by your product or service to the broader audience. Once that common benefit is established, marketers can target smaller segments by crafting messages around those key benefits.

11.  New Frugality Is Giving Birth to Refreshing Honesty

The economic downturn has created permanent shifts in how consumers assess value in the product/services they consume.  This insight holds across economic strata, with the result that consumers are being more careful about consumption choices than ever before. There are examples of this insight: gas prices influence driving behavior. Consumers are saving money and paying down debt. Consumers are concerned about high food prices, as demonstrated by more interest in couponing and more awareness of downsized packaging as a way for manufacturers to control costs.

Implications/Actions:  In 2012, one of the top insights identified by Insights in Marketing was that transparency and authenticity were critical to building brand trust, and this continues in 2013 with this insight.  Consumers want to make sure that they are getting the best value, and that breeds a certain level of skepticism. Consumers want to avoid being had - and they are always looking for the catch. Because of that, manufacturers have an opportunity to overcome consumers' concerns with honesty and transparency.

Marketing Research Reduces Risk and Leads to Success

In 2013, we also found two insights that relate directly to our marketing clients. Similar to consumers, marketers are also changing. Being aware of these changes - and the opportunities they create - for they can lead to greater success.

12.  Marketers are Handcuffed to Uncertainty

Marketers never have enough time or resources (political capital, people or money) to fully understand the consumer, so they are laboring under great uncertainty. Your jobs are on the line, making you extremely risk-averse, and in today's climate, marketers do not expect to be allowed to fail without consequences. While the job of marketing research is to reduce risk, spending time and money conducting marketing research is just seen as adding to marketing risk. The result is that marketers manage in order not to fail, not to succeed.

Implications/Actions:  Use marketing research judiciously to create certainty and reduce risk. Really understand your target consumer's values, habits and personality (things that won't change significantly overtime!) before marketing to him or her. Using marketing research to create a sound understanding of the consumer allows marketers to take calculated risks that will lead to greater business success.

13.  The Right Marketing Tool for the Right Marketing Problem

This insight is not new of course, but by combining tried-and-true techniques (such as omnibus surveys) with the proliferation of new techniques, new modalities, and the do-it-yourself marketing research tools, marketers are now finding room for all of these tools in the toolbox. Marketers are getting better at choosing the best methodology for the research problem at hand, whether it's DIY or calling in a professional marketing research firm, making the most of limited research budgets.

Implications/Action: This insight is good news for marketers, especially in light of the other insights we found this year. Reducing the risk of marketing tactics and strategies is critical to success, and the diversity of marketing research approaches allows marketers to get information using the best methodology at the right price point.

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The 2013 top insights reveal many challenges and opportunities for marketers. Consumer insights/research can help marketers navigate the correct paths through these challenges and develop the deep understanding of their customers required for success in today's marketplace.

The Insights in Marketing team hopes that these insights will help our friends and valued clients to make 2014 your best marketing year ever!

 

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