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Using Stories to understand the Human inside the Consumer.

For as long as we’ve been around (or so the assumption goes), human beings have used stories to convey information and shape their sense of belonging and understanding of the world. Stories are, to a large extent, part of the fabric of the human experience, and our ability to create and process stories is a uniquely human characteristic. And this hasn’t changed, despite the increasing automation and mechanisation of our world.

From a marketing perspective stories hold a particularly strong sway. After all, a large part of our time and energy goes into creating stories that communicate our brands’ meaning and reason for being to consumers. We use stories to get attention and share our message, and encode it in the memories of our target market. We use story-telling to connect with our consumers. My favourite brand stories are created at this time of the year – with the Christmas advertising season.

From a research perspective, stories matter. It is very clear that we seldom know why we do things, and the reasons we give when asked directly are often post-rationalised. As a result, the answers to the question why can be somewhat misleading.

But, by listening to and deconstructing people’s stories, the stories they tell about themselves and their experiences, we start to understand what is important to them. And by applying our own marketing expertise to this understanding, we develop brand insight.

Of course, there is a time and place for everything. This sort of research is not useful for determining marketing objectives or setting up marketing plans . Here, being scientific and quantitative in the approach is key. Understanding core marketing laws like double jeopardy and the concepts of mental and physical availability are vital to achieving a growth agenda. And sales problems and brand performance weaknesses are best identified through research tools like store scan data, analytics, big data and other quantifiable measures.

But, when we are looking to create brands, develop new products or find communication hooks that land with consumers, then it is essential to understand the human inside the consumer. Because, ultimately, we are still human beings making things for other human beings. And great brands connect with our human needs, as well as our consumption needs.

Sharlene Zeederberg - Leap Insight

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