IF consumer is god, then WHO has the Holy Grail?

January 30, 2010

What do you want?  This is the question marketers have been asking consumers since the commodity begun. They asked my grand dad. My dad. And now Me. And yes, they will ask my grand son too.

The fact is that the consumers themselves don’t know what S/He wants! It’s foolish to expect them to fit your strategy just because you are from the Harvard or Oxford Business School. The consumer expects you to surprise him with your offering. BUT yes he won’t tell you what he wants. For instance, let’s take one of those evenings when you visit a restaurant and grab the menu. Most of the time you see is a BLANK PAGE. You are not sure what you want. Now let’s imagine that the waiter over there observed you during your last few visits and noticed that you loved sandwich with a fruit drink and that you are also calorie conscious. Now if he suggests you a fresh vegetable salad with a sugar-free fruit drink, how do you feel?

This is what they expect you to do. They don’t care if you observe them. They don’t care if you track their behaviors without affecting their privacy. They believe they are smart, which is true. But they expect you to outsmart them! But again, I strongly believe that all great minds in advertising and marketing are working based on perceived assumptions, supported by year long research done on SAMPLES not CONSUMERS. Focus groups which tell what WE want to hear. And my favourite weapon SEC A, B, C A-, B+ etc.

Consumers are human beings! Why do we need to follow SEC categories derived from census which is 10 year old?? In this fast paced world, status of a person is changing with every great invention. With a new job, suddenly a consumer moves from SEC C to SEC B. Just by upgrading from Nokia to iPhone, a normal youth becomes a trendy, lifestyle dude! When you go to buy a pair of jeans would you tell the store assistant that you are SEC B, monthly earns around Rs. 20K, loves to stay connected with friends, a go-getter???? Or just say that I need that low waist jean. Show me new designs???

Have you ever noticed that consumers ignore product details in print ads, but they never mind doing research, product comparison, check out customer reviews online? Because traditional media tries to STEAL their time, but interactive media EARNS their time. When you talk to most marketers you can clearly understand the frustration why it is becoming harder to get the pulse of the consumer. But if you look at the brands that never advertised but created conversations and played a host for consumer’s interaction, they will see the potential of walking with the small guy – The consumer.

See you after a commercial break ;)

As Graham Brown of Mobile Youth points out, marketers need to answer the question “Am I trying to marketing TO consumers or marketing WITH them?”. “Let’s get it to our heads that youth don’t wake up thinking about our brands!” Check out for more of his insights on Youth marketing at his “10 Quotes for Youth Marketers”. The fact is: youth of the world are waiting out there to put their brand names to test.

If you observe developments in global brands, especially after last year’s recession, you could have realized that change has already started to happen. First time ever Unilever and Coke appointed Digital AOR, Pepsi has stayed away from Super bowl for its socially embedded initiative “refresh everything” and so is Coke which has decided to rely on social media for  its much awaited Expedition project.

Who can forget the run away success of the Ford Fiesta movement, an idea by Scott Monty, Ford’s Social media head? Dell, which was considered as a falling brand once, now one of the preferred brands after they realized the potential of social media and had embraced social media for good and created one of my favourite initiative Digital Nomads. For your information, Dell has generated revenues of $6Million ONLY through Twitter! Though the numbers looks small compared with their huge revenues, $6Million is a HUGE amount!

I believe we are living in the awesome era, where we witnessed innovations which are potentially the triggers of change. The iPhone. Evolution of Google. Facebook. Twitter. FourSquare. Technologies like these has made possible to move closer to the consumer’s mind. First time ever in the known history of our mankind, marketers of the future can ACTUALLY give what consumer (my son??) wants.

Consumers today are connected like ever before which provides marketers with loads of insights and opportunities. For instance imagine a very simple probability offered by social media today. You update your Facebook status that you need a break and “would love to go to Hawaii to recharge yourself”. 5 of your other friends ‘likes’ it. Now a tour operator offers you and your other 5 friends an exclusive ‘Group’ package to Hawaii. How about that? According to Prinz Pinakatt, Coca-Cola Company’s interactive marketing manager for Europe, “We would like to place our activities and brands where people are, rather than dragging them to our platform” – BINGO!

Marketers today have the luxury to measure and provide what a consumer wants. And there is one company that can make it happen. Who else than Google? What do think Google dudes have been doing all these days? They made smarter moves by pairing hands with Twitter. Prepared to take on Microsoft with the futuristic Chrome OS. Created a dream run for Android through Droid, Nexus One. Introduced awesome Google Goggles and smart Favourite places. How can I miss the acquisition of Admob?

Connect the dots and you will realize the vision of the cool chaps at Googleplex, Mountain View. They track your social media conversations, your Google search history, your locations through Google maps, your usage in Android powered mobile, your collaborations in Google Wave and your every actions using Google tools like Goggles, Favourite places etc.

Then what you have is the ‘Holy Grail’ in the hands of Larry and Sergey ;)

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  1. This sounds much more logical than most of the consumer researchers I have seen in my career.
    When will the marketers finally discover how to deal with their existing and potential consumers!!!

    • Dear Sir,

      I can’t ask for better compliment than this! Thanks a lot for taking time to read my blog and post your valuable comment!

      Good day,

      Manoj Kandasamy

  2. Manoj am completely with you on this….because I have travelled across small and big towns…..the current advertising crop will not know what it is like outside of a Rorum – in muddenahalli or thirupur…….one of the few people who did this was dhirubhai when he put the mobile into the hands of the chaiwallah and the garbage cleaner……every one desires to talk…and stay connected but then…..that is the way sorry to use the cliche the cookie crumbles…..the reason for the success of google is because it is person friendly…..so!

    • Forum I mean in Bangalore – typo error

      • I agree with you madam. Google got it right. They approach everything with simplicity. On the other hand we have Apple, who does inspire every one with their awesomeness :) So I believe its up to marketers on what the consumer want from their brand and put the consumers in the driver seat.

  3. Though as a marketer i believe the Holy Grail is in Google’s hands..

    As a consumer i find this is scary & creepy… what kind of a world are we moving into?

    A world where the consumer doesn’t have to ask what he wants…Understanding consumer needs is different and creeping into a person’s
    space to understand his psyche is different.

    There is every possibility that Our sons and daughters will ridicule us for having given away to a giant like google, for having given away
    to marketers, for having become slaves than consumers. For loosing the pride of being the elusive consumer.

    Imagine a spider that knows exactly the comment my friend made about my new hair style on face book, imagine a spider knowing that I’m looking for a job shift, imagine a spider knowing what all i’ve been
    looking for, where i live, what i do! God!

    The whole beauty and significance of the ‘Holy Grail’ is the mystery behind it and its ‘unknown’ nature. What joy in bringing it out in the

    • Lavanya,

      Consumer privacy is on top priority for any marketers. I believe mapping the consumer is only to add relevance to communication and to provide a great convenience to consumers.

      You are not thinking that a stranger exploit your privacy when you order a pizza, since you gave the permission. Same way, consumers will have power to control their privacy when it comes to technology. So you never need to worry that marketers are watching you! Its the consumers who can express who they are and what their preferences are!

      I believe ‘mystery’ should always end in the ‘truth’ :)

  4. Smart article, and I definitely agree on it.

    “Marketers” with good qualifications are not necessarily the marketers organizations should only look at these days. Education and experience is very important, but they come with time and effort, what people can’t get is creativity and mindset.

    At the end of the day, marketing is all based on common sense, but it’s not easy, the end goal is to provide true benefits with products/ services that consumers would value.

    Marketers should definitely think as a customer, as you said, “do marketing with the customers”, with the help of social media, many companies actually started to do that, it on one hand can tailor a product/ service for the targets, on the other hand saves resources from R&D.

    • Completely agree with you Tim.

      I really like your insight that companies can save a lot on R&D by getting closer to the consumer!

      How true!

  5. Good one da…..could not agree more…. as a consumer i trust on google the most.. but how far i would encourage google to come closer to me i sstill a matter of concern… i still get nightmares thinking that some one is reading my mails………..

    • Shanth,

      You dont need to worry about your security, since marketers will give more priority to consumer privacy. Please refer my comments to lavanya’s post!

      • saw you reply there… but there is a large difference between me giving a permission
        (your pizza stuff) and my mails being read with out my permission. there are many cases running against your holy grail….still there is no big improvement all they responded is “no one reads it but our software does it”.

        I agree with your grail for now… but SLA’s will come for him too… then let me see how it goes…….

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