You are not your target audience: How research can save us from marketing myopia
By Senior Planner, Caroline Olechowski
The rise of behavioural economics means more and more of us marketers now understand that consumer behaviour is rooted in automatic, fast and often unconscious ways of thinking. But all too often, we seem to treat ourselves as though we are exempt from these cognitive biases. To create great (and effective) work, we need to recognise how these biases affect our own thinking, and use the right tools to overcome them.
An in-depth understanding of the mindset and behaviour of our target consumers should be a given for us marketers. How can we build brands that resonate with real people, or position products that solve real problems, if we can’t understand what our customers are paying attention to or struggling with?
Though we might not want to admit, we are often guilty of assuming consumers think, feel and behave the way we do.
Take media consumption habits for example. It’s not uncommon to hear marketers cast doubt on whether TV should be included in the campaign media plan. The marketer points or that he or she (or their teenage children, or their teenage children’s friends) doesn’t watch terrestrial TV anymore, assuming that other families share their obsession with Netflix and Youtube.
An eye-opening piece of research asked people working in the advertising industry to guess the media habits of the general public. It found that ad folk tend to seriously overestimate the public’s use of new technology such as Youtube, Video on Demand (VoD) platforms like BBC iPlayer, or subscription services like Netflix.
Blame our biased brains
In an industry where we’re meant to have our pulse on the public’s habits and behaviours, why are we getting it so wrong? In short: we’re human. Try as we might, we often fall into the same biased thinking patterns, revealed by fields such as Behavioural Economics, that all humans do.
In this case, our misconceptions could be down to something called the False Consensus Effect – our brain’s tendency to overestimate the extent to which our opinions, preferences and habits are normal and typical of others.
It seems that we’re assuming our technology habits are more common than they are. The piece of research mentioned above also revealed a wide gap between ad people’s online habits and those of the general public. For example 68% of adland claims to have used YouTube in the past month, compared to 18% of the general public.
That’s not to say media habits aren’t changing. These figures are a few years old now – so it seems unlikely that this gap is as wide today as it was in 2016. But the research highlights how important it is that we look at the data and conduct research with consumers, rather than relying on generalisations based on our own lives and experiences.
How research helps us break out of our bubble and get to great ideas
This ability to validate (or disprove) our assumptions with real data from real consumers is core to how we work here at Guy & Co. Rapid primary research is built into our creative development process, allowing us to understand whether our creative concepts or new propositions will resonate with consumers and stand out in the market, and optimise our ideas based on research learnings.
When I joined Guy & Co earlier this year, this emphasis on consumer research was music to my ears. As a planner, it’s no surprise that I was excited at the prospect of having this primary insight built into the agency system, instead of a ‘nice to have’ included on the bigger budget projects only.
I’m not sure who said it first, but as the old saying goes, ‘You are not your target customer.’ While our own lives can provide us with hypotheses about consumer habits and behaviours, truly great (and effective) creative work happens when we are able to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. By breaking out of our own bubbles and seeing the world (and the work) through their eyes, we can build meaningfully unique brands that people actually want in their lives.
Want to learn more about our system of rapid consumer testing and how it can deliver great ideas for your brand? Please get in touch.