Beyond Understanding Consumers and Into Improving Their Lives

People care less these days about what brands are trying to tell them. What people are interested in is how they can improve their own experiences. If you can show them that your products will enhance their experience, or if you can directly improve their day, commute or bar night out, you are going to stand out in that person’s mind for a long time to come. Otherwise, they will probably find a way to avoid your message.

For a while now, many brands have turned to storytelling to connect with their target and many have executed this strategy very well – from leveraging a brand’s heartwarming origin story, to a tale of how someone used the product to change their life, or even the world. But, as Mastercard’s CMO, Raja Rajamannar, puts it, “Storytelling is dead” in part because we are all now “operating in an ‘expectation economy’.” Today’s consumers desire and expect their own amazing experiences, not being told about someone else’s. These high expectations are not always met by brands in their outreach.

Consumers are connected to technology close to 24 hours a day, and certainly seven days a week, leaving brands with more opportunity than ever to connect. But we need to make sure we are reaching out with the right message. Brand marketing messages need to move beyond storytelling about themselves and start enabling the consumer to create their own story. In the best case, marketing tactics should act as a tool to enhance the consumer’s experience. Make it about them, not you. 

We operate in a world where content is king and content needs to make sense how, where and when it is delivered and it needs to resonate with the person it is delivered to.

Put yourself in their shoes and then think about if what you are saying to them matters in their busy life.  If it doesn’t seem like something important, start again. Don’t interrupt people with a marketing message that they now have the tools and know-how to avoid listening to.

So how do we figure out who our customers are and what our customers want? Some of it is common sense, but some takes real-time learning. You wouldn’t ask someone that you met at a vegan advocacy meeting out to a steak dinner, right?

Do some work developing your target personas – if you know what they do and what their passion points are you can find out where they spend time both on and offline and take advantage of an “already-there” strategy hitting them with relevant material. Research will help set this up, but the ever-important steps of testing and optimizing are necessary to keep up and improve results. 

A great recent example of this is the #weighthis campaign from Lean Cuisine. The brand worked hard to understand their target consumer on an empathetic level and deliver messaging that enhanced these consumers’ view of themselves and reinforced their self-value. Instead of Lean Cuisine focusing on their product, the brand asked consumers to evaluate what really matters in their life and ‘weigh’ its importance. The campaign recap video is heartwarming and inspirational.

Throughout the campaign, which ran as an event activation, on social media channels and through a tech-forward ‘diet’ filter that muted the word ‘diet’ on TV and blocked it on web browsers, there was no required interaction with a Lean Cuisine product. From an experiential standpoint, no one was interrupted, asked to try the product or prompted to answer questions. The event display itself drew people over to observe, and then interact if they felt moved by it. On the social media side, consumers took their own action posting what they want to be measured by with the hashtag #weighthis.

There is no question that the people involved in the event were moved, and the results on social media underline the inspirational power of the campaign. Their day had been enhanced by a brand that provided a platform for them to reaffirm their own self-value and feel good about who they already are. For a brand that used to be all about focusing on what a person might want to change, it was a big leap, but one that paid off.

Phoebe Evans

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