‘Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black’

With this quote in 1909, Henry T Ford fired the starting gun for consumerism. Over the next 100 or so years, it’s safe to say that consumers evolved from being a mass of one size fits all, to an incredibly complex niche of bespoke, well-informed and savvy buyers. Huge increases in disposable income and the advent of technology has turned Mr Ford’s ground-breaking quote on its head.

Companies and their marketing strategies have also evolved to match consumer expectations, with an ever-increasing importance being placed on customer insights. In fact, I would go so far to say that knowing the customer has become THE most important factor in determining a successful marketing strategy. Get it right and you create a loyal customer; get it wrong and your buyer can, within two clicks, be transacting with a competitor.

Yet there are many companies who still think that market research should be at the end of the process. They see customer feedback as just that. A process of reflecting on what they have just served up to the consumer, rather than something that could be used to frame the product and service up front. It could be seen as arrogance and high level execs thinking they know what their customers want, rather than basing it on solid research – it could be that they don’t like what their customers are saying! But it’s most likely because that is how things have traditionally been done.

In the era of big data and a multitude of intuitive analytical tools, there is simply no excuse of not knowing enough about your customers – in fact, your customer base should be writing your marketing strategy for you, as every click, scroll and share, should be informing you something about your offering.

Amazon has taken this concept to the extreme. Pretty much every product page, headline carousel and search listing is driven by customer clicks. Every creative execution is A/B tested and they have a ‘King of the Hill’ philosophy, which translates as the customer determining what wins. Their creative approach is driven totally by the customer – however simplistic the execution might look. You can’t argue with their data-driven results!

So how might a company go about evolving its creative marketing strategy to a more customer-centric approach?

Insight. Strategy. Creativity. In that order. Our strategy-first approach is about understanding what will generate real response. That’s why we never start with creative until we have the strategy nailed. And, in our experience solid thinking, based on proper insights, makes for brands and campaigns that have the greatest chance of connecting with your audience.

Paul Greenwood
[email protected]
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