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That Explains It: CMO’s Admit Consumer Insights Not A Priority

Posted on | June 22, 2008 | 2 Comments

by Andrea Learned

What might explain why so many brands still don’t seem to understand the women in their markets? While we are clearly seeing big-ticket ad-campaigns in print and television, and the occasional micro-site more reflective of today’s feminine perspective, disconnects still abound. It may LOOK like brands are trying to reach women more effectively, but they may still be missing the point.

Brands, and the CMOs that lead them, still need help wading through the layers and obstacles between their day-in/day-out decision-making and what’s really going on with the end-consumer, or all the marketing budget in the world won’t make a difference. In fact, what once may have just been a nagging suspicion (of mine and likely every other marketing to women consultant out there) with regard to this mis-ordering of priorities (branding over consumers) has now been proven by CMO-focused research.

According to a MediaPost article by Aaron Baar, the Chief Marketing Officer’s Council along with the Boston Consulting Group discovered some interesting truths in a study they did of 1,000 senior marketing executives. In general, survey participants admitted that branding and promotions continued to be their focus and that, yeah.. they were a little uncomfortable (and so a lot lacking) in their more tactical, customer-connecting, strategies. What gives with the inertia?

Here’s a direct quote from Baar’s piece:

“Despite their acknowledged deficiencies, the majority of executives are unwilling to stray outside of their comfort zone. Two-thirds of the respondents said they remained focused on traditional marketing capabilities such as branding and promotional communications. Only 26% said improving their consumer insights was a priority, while only 16% cited distributor insights. Retail and point-of-service execution ranked even lower than that at 14%.”

It may well seem more complicated and perhaps scary to leave your fantastic marketing strategies vulnerable to human influence, but – as marketers may be discovering even more in this faltering economy – the humans at (consumers) or close (distributors) to the receiving end of any product or service transaction have the insights your brand needs most.

Think of the small businesses of yesteryear (or the few that still exist in your life now). The owners knew nothing of “branding,” but they talked with customers every single day. No policies, mid-level managers or half-day meetings got in their way. Consumer and distributor insights would have been their only resource then, but now they are less likely to be considered by those businesses that need them most.

Of course, large brands cannot flick a switch to get back to more grassroots connecting with their customers, but they can a) consult with one of the bevy of talented women’s market researchers out there, and/or b) put some time and effort into building an accessible bridge between corporate and consumer by way of a customer advisory panel of some sort. Crazy idea, I know.

The resources that can help CMOs like the ones polled for this survey are at the ready. Knowledgeable consultants or advisory boards of customers will make the oh-so uncomfortable steps toward getting beyond branding and promotions a lot easier.

The brands that succumb to consumer insight inertia and don’t seek such help will have more explaining to do in the near future.

Comments

2 Responses to “That Explains It: CMO’s Admit Consumer Insights Not A Priority”

  1. Mario Bilotas
    June 26th, 2008 @ 7:49 am

    Hello Andrea,
    Well said/written and how ironic that the very companies that pay their bills by the consumers that purchase their products, will accept the sale, but don’t want to learn more about the buyer. The good news is that more and more organizations, I face, are becoming more end-customer sensitive, and we see an increase in customer-insight and user engagement demand progressively growing. Some want to use that knowledge to increase revenue, and reduce marketing expense, most want to increase sell-through with the use of actionable feedback, and many others want to increase brand value and take a positive step along their customers. Technology is making this transition more possible as the primary source of much research and brand connectivity is beginning online, but interacting with “your computer” is not quite warm-n-fuzzy. I think there is also a fear of hearing negative comments, and realizing that the company is not perfect. I always felt the best compliment someone can give me is to critique with kindness to help me grow. I encourage it, and make positive change. As you said, companies can’t just flick a switch, but fear will take you nowhere.

    Being in touch with your audience, and the human within, is the foundation of any organization. I see growth in marketers recognizing the power of end-customer voice, analytics, and the ability to make smart and customer-centric decisions.

    Have a great day.
    Mario B.

  2. Andrea Learned
    June 26th, 2008 @ 8:37 pm

    Overcoming fear – of becoming “vulnerable” to your competition or of becoming “known” to your customer – is indeed the biggest challenge, Mario. But, if you want customers to become engaged with and committed to your brand, they have to see you making the consumer insight investment. I say – take the leap!

    Thanks for your additional input. It all seems so obvious, but everybody can use the reminder…

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