Rather unhelpfully, our perceptions of products and their performance are peculiar to each and every one of us.
These perceptions will be generated by the experiences we have buying and consuming these products. We may take the opportunity to share our experiences, and those of other users, though social media. We will store these experiences and conversations as memories in a manner that is entirely unique to us.
So our experiences, and memories of these experiences, are as unique as our fingerprints, and entirely subjective.
It seems sensible therefore to endeavour to understand people by employing tools specifically designed to unravel the subjective.
What are these fresh and innovative tools for our exciting new world?
Aged 7 I attended my first woodwork class. The ageing Major Pardoe, heroic survivor of the D-Day landings, offered 2 perennial pieces of advice. Always cut away from you, and use the oldest tools in the box (because they have survived the test of time).
So, as we strain to understand the relentless pace of change of today’s consumer world, spare a thought for the branding equivalent of radar and the jerry can - qualitative research and NLP.
Understanding people has always been the most important skill in the brand person’s armoury. It may not be fashionable, but sitting in a room, or in a customer’s home, or walking with them as they shop, are still the most important hours any manager will spend building their brand.
And when we are with our customers, we need to remember to listen, watch, and interpret intelligently. What we say typically accounts for around 7% of our communication. The remaining 93% is communicated in other ways – body language, facial expressions, tone of voice etc. So we need to work hard to understand what customers really feel, as opposed to relying on the words falling from their lips.
So, in times when smart use of oceans of data is a common focus for competitive advantage, we shouldn’t forget to employ all the senses available to us when understanding others.