By Jen Drexler
As marketers, we are constantly looking for the new “it” way to learn more about how consumers behave and feel. In the process, the industry can get distracted by what I call “sparkle ponies” – leaving behind techniques that are evergreen for a reason.
Bottom line, immersion is the bedrock of innovation.
To birth successful products or to create successful content, leaders need unfettered access to consumers’ lives. Focus groups and virtual research are valuable but it all starts with radical consumer intimacy: walking in your consumer’s shoes – or even better – side by side with them.
If you currently speak with consumers to discover the next breakthrough in mealtime, consider instead eating dinner with consumers and their families. Not watching them eat or seeing pictures of their dinner table, but cooking and serving at their side. Have your consumers supply the recipes that your CEO has to try for Sunday dinner. Look at the coupons they carry around in their purse. Examine their pantry graveyard where failed products go to die.
Want to know how people feel in your dressing rooms or at checkout? Then, experience their journey first-hand. Recently, we assigned a predominantly male leadership team to shop their women’s clothing stores for a hypothetical Saturday date night outfit for less than $50. We asked: Can they find what they are looking for? What do they notice on the mannequins or dressing rooms? Are the associates helpful or on the hunt for commission? This kind of exercise reinforced why it is important to invest in associate training, store design (those funhouse dressing room mirrors!), and product assortment.
Years ago, I was tasked to bring female business travelers to life beyond the data that my travel client had collected. So, we put male and female execs through the paces. They fielded in and out of their own lobbies and conference rooms with wheelie luggage filled with weights. They were asked to change clothing in lobby restrooms. They ordered room service and considered how safe they felt when room service rang their bell. These and other exercises lived on within the company and was the crucial key to socializing the learnings from their research.
Your takeaway: immersions can take place at different stages in the insights and strategy timeline, and should be prioritized in the process.
Jen Drexler is Senior Vice President at Insight Strategy Group.