In an age guided by engagement metrics, clicks, likes and follows, I find myself returning to a lesson that I learned early on in my career. As a marketer, your job is to listen to your consumers, and above all else, understand their needs, wants and motivations.
Our world is dominated by performance marketing like algorithms, big data, retargeting and more. It’s easier than ever to discern a clear picture of who is using your product. But the question we should be asking ourselves is why they’re using it. How do they see themselves? What are their aspirations? What’s important to them?
Every audience is comprised of actual humans with very real wants, needs and values. While it can be difficult to parse those out, it’s critical to developing not only a marketing strategy, but a product or service that resonates with your audience and is additive to their life.
It’s even more critical as Gen Z comes of age. By now, we all know that Gen Z has a laser sharp radar for inauthentic brands. In a report published on CNBC last year, which surveyed females between the ages of 13 and 24, 67% agreed with the statement that “being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.” This generation of digital natives can easily detect a disconnect between what a brand says and what it does. A deep understanding of what people want is the first step in building a brand with values that are aligned with its consumers.
As they say, the first step is always the hardest. How do you get your audience to reveal their truths? Getting meaningful feedback from consumers takes meaningful investment from marketers. As experiences become more and more valuable to millennials and Gen Z, crafting a consumer insights project that’s dynamic, engaging and offers a new experience to your participants is essential to drawing out useful insights. Consider your audience, their preferred communication styles and a balance of activity and conversation. And most importantly, make sure that you have the right moderator to build trust and rapport with your consumer group. Then it’s time to ask questions and listen.
Distilling those conversations and understanding your audience’s fears, dreams, needs and wants isn’t only the basis for a marketing strategy, but should serve as a brand’s north star. A set of consumer truths empowers every function in an organization to ask themselves how they’re serving the consumer. From marketing to product to customer support, it gives every role an opportunity to connect with and understand the consumer. And while it’s an excellent way to create alignment across company teams, it’s an even better way to ensure that a brand is consistently demonstrating their ideals to consumers.
Gen Z, the largest generation in the U.S. today, are not unquestioningly loyal to brands, but skeptical and well-informed. The brands that will succeed are those that understand their wants, needs and desires and make them their own.