Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Consumer is NOT my wife

Wearing the consumer’s shoes more often than we do.
I am  in the business of advertising. I am also a  mother and wife. And yes I am a consumer. I consume multiple brands in multiple categories everyday. I like wearing some brands on my sleeves and lining some brands on my kitchen shelves. I  pride myself in coming up with insights on X brand of noodles or Y brand of  facewash. After all I use them everyday.
Time for a reality check. I am probably the top 2% of the country . Whichever scale I am categorized by. SEC, LSM etc etc. So my insights and understanding as a consumer need not necessarily reflect the attitude and behavior of Sita from Sonapur. Who in fact represents  a big percentage of the pop strata.
So how we get under the consumer’s skin?  How do we understand our consumer better?
Thanks to my 14 years in advertising and working on some power brands and power clients, I have the experience of some very good ways  of wearing the consumer’s shoes.
1.     A 24 hour  Consumer Observation: Spend   a day ( and a night) in the consumer’s house, simply observing. The trick is to almost melt into the background, letting the family go about their usual day, and the usual  routine. Some of the most amazing realities emerge in the  depths of the kitchen  over rotis.
           What to look for.
·         Routine
·         Consumption habits
·         Relationships, roles, responsibilities of family members
·         Cultural, religious influences
·         Media consumption

2.    Shopping  Journeys: Accompany the consumer on her shopping journeys. Could be anything from the regular groceries to the jewelry store. The best way to do this is of course during the monthly shopping. It is sheer magic to see the housewife manage budgets better than most accomplished finance directors.
           What to look for.
·         Buying behavior
·         Impulse vis a vis planned purchase
·         Time spent over each purchase
·         Interaction with retailer

3.    Shopper Observations: Simply spend a day at the kirana store, the neighbourhood mall, the sabzi mandi and watch. Observe.  It can definitely build on  to any thesis on consumer buying behavior.
           What to look for.
·         Cues to purchase
·         Impulse vis a vis planned purchase
·         Impact of displays
·         Window shopping patterns
·         Negotiation and bargaining in mandis

4.    Consumer Entertainment: Watch the channels that she watches, tune in to the  FM she listens to, read the magazine she browses.  Soak in the soap characters she is inspired by, the fashion trends she follows. The incentive is that we will also end up watching the brands that talk to her in these channels. We once had sessions called Eve Chats on a  hair brand that just meant the entire team sitting together for a hour reading regional magazines and watching regional soaps every month. The insights mined were unparalleled.
            What to look for.
·         The fabric of the shows/soaps- what appeals, what are the cultural/regional nuances
·         How are sensibilities addressed
·         The Engrossment quotient of each popular show
·         Features in magazines- what interests
·         Consumer letters to the editor
·         The key character of popular protagonists
·         The brands that beam during these shows and their conversations

5.     Make friends: The neighbourhood grocer, the mall attendant, the gol gappa walla can be the perfect lens for consumers when it comes to behavior. It’s time we spent  ten minutes with them. And chat.
            What to look for.
·         How do they sell their wares
·         Loyal consumers and what makes them tick
·         Buying behaviours

6.    Expert Talks: The gynaecologist, the temple priest, the school teacher, the gym trainer, the  beauty parlour lady , the reality show recruiting agent are experts. They have an understanding on consumers  that   none of us can hope to have.  Talk to them. And share their views.
            What to look for.
·         Understanding the consumer from their perspective
·         The changes and trends in lifestyle
·         Attitudinal changes
·         Stress Points and Happiness Moments

These are just a few ways in which we can live and breathe our consumers. To have a  conversation with them , we need to lead two lives.  With passion and not as a task.
That’s the only way the consumer truly becomes “family”. ( did not dare write “wife”)

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