Who can you trust these days? That’s a question on the minds of many citizens as we see politics becoming more and more polarizing, media becoming less and less objective and our political process becoming high-centered and high-jacked by lobbyists, redistricting efforts, foreign governments and those who would trade the spread of fake news for power.
Interestingly, the question of who or what to trust also on the minds of marketers, organizational leaders and market research professionals. If we are basing our business and brand strategy decisions on survey methodologies that rely on recruiting consumers to share opinions they may not truly hold or act upon, shouldn’t we in the research community be asking the question… is there a better way here? And do we possibly have our own fake news problem?
I believe the answer is YES. I don’t know about you but I’d much rather base a decisions off of behavioral data – by drawing insights from what people actually do — versus what they claim they will do. How they actually spend their money – versus how they say they will spend it. What they actually say to their friends and family – versus what they might tell a paid moderator they just met.
I grew up in the brand strategy world where we paid a lot of attention to 5-point scale survey questions… As I get older I increasingly think “asking methodologies” must be balanced with “showing methodologies”. And to show what consumers are actually doing and saying we have to leave the predictable and comfy confines of the survey environment and the focus group facility to venture out into the real world.
Think about it. Wouldn’t you much rather base insights from consumers who genuinely care about your brand and competitors and category versus someone who was recruited into a research sample just to win a prize or earn some spending money? I would. And isn’t the opinion of a highly engaged consumer – someone who took the time to blog about you for example and influences hundreds of others – a disproportionately important voice to be listened to?
Again, my answer is YES. And this is why I’m a believer in making connections between the actual behaviors of consumers in-market versus the claims of survey respondents.
To get to the heart and mind of your customer I recommend following the big data footprint of millions of engaged online customers. See what they post. See what they write. Study the strength of language the use. See how they review your product. And quantify all of these attachments to a brand with a behavioral model that compares one brand’s performance across an array of brand attributes to a relative competitive set.
This used to be very hard to do because the volume of online comments is simply overwhelming. But radical evolutions in online brand tracking methodologies make it not only easy, but incredibly fast and sophisticated and now a legitimate replacement for companies paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to ask the same set of survey questions via the annual brand tracking tool. New methods also create cost-savings opportunities and present real-time data profiles that are much more dynamic and actionable.
Engaged customers are gold mines of information – worth ten times more than customers simply completing a survey. If someone is going to take the time to tweet about your brand, write a review on Amazon or post a blog then that someone should be taken super seriously because their words influence the broader world.
Word-of-mouth is the cornerstone of how consumers communicate with one another. It’s amazingly powerful because humans simply trust other humans far more than they trust advertising or the companies that buy advertising. So to assess the health of a brand it stands to reason that we ought to be paying close attention to engaged consumers and what they say and write on-line. A staggering volume of social and review-based content now exists and that ocean of data is a treasure trove for understanding how a business is actually doing and how beloved it truly is.
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Peter Murane is the Chief Innovation Officer of Temmpo/Brand VO2, a leading behavioral insights platform rooted in understanding truth — what customers actually do in the real world.