As any parent will attest children’s parties can often resemble a classic horror movie. They open on an idyllic setting full of smiles and joy and culminate in a house full of sugar-engorged monsters wreaking havoc everywhere. The inflection point often tied directly to the moment where, with a polite and deferential tone, your darling 6 year old asks for an extra, extra large slice of cake.
That is a rookie move with children.
But is it when you’re talking about your customers?
The jury remains out.
Henry Ford’s quote about “Faster Horses” – which interestingly is of debatable provenance – butts up directly against David Ogilvy’s missive “The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife” Creative directors, taking a page from Steve Job’s philosophy, dismiss focus groups as the worst example of group-think and the dilution of creativity. There is a pervasive attitude in many corners best summed up by Viggo Mortensen’s line in the torrid movie “GI Jane”…”If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you”
So, who is right?
Should our belief in customer-centricity mean we become order takers for the most outlandish customer suggestions? Or should we eschew all that “input” and co-creation stuff and say “we know best, here’s what you really need”
I’d suggest that the smartest marketers look beneath the “want” to find the true “need”. Wants, as any parent will tell you, are pretty easy to articulate. Needs require a deeper level of introspection and analysis that, in fairness, few consumers are capable of because it’s really not their jobs.
That job is ours.
“I want to find the lowest price for this flight/hotel/piece of technology” versus “I need a simple, customizable way to see what my travel/technology options are”
“I want my family to eat healthier and I don’t believe fast food is healthy” versus “I need to understand where you source your ingredients, how you prepare this food and what its calorific count is”
See a great example of how TribalDDB answered this need in Canada.
From my experience, here are several needs that really are non-debatable in today’s market;
- It must be OPEN: I need to be able to customize this to my requirements. I need to be able to integrate this with other products and services I already use.
- It must be SHARABLE: I need to be able to include others in my social sphere in this experience. I need to be able to share my opinion with you Mr Designer so you can improve it.
- It must be INTUITIVE: My time is precious so I need this to be simple and self-explanatory.
- It must be able to EVOLVE: I don’t expect this to be perfect. I just need this service/product to get better and better over time – ideally with my input.
Customers may not always know what they need but they certainly have no problem broadcasting what they want. How are you working to make the distinction? It can’t always be a larger slice of chocolate cake.
I’d love to know which other needs you consider non-debatable in today’s market.