Move Past the Voice of the Customer and Into the Mind of the Customer

Understand the truth behind actual behavior

Every marketer today knows how technology can capture the so-called voice of the customer, providing insights into their likes and dislikes, expectations and preferences. But that’s no longer enough. More than ever, brands need to connect with people on an emotional level. The need access to the mind of the customer.

Let’s call this customer truth. It gives you their true perspective on why they do what they do, how they think, how they feel and how they act. Because after all, if all purchase decisions were rational, consumers would always buy at the lowest price.

Customer truth connects your story with your customer’s story. That’s why many of the biggest and best brands are getting back to basics with a research strategy that brings richness, texture and depth of understanding to the most critical component of data: people.

Here are some examples:

Truth in cosmetics

In the dynamic Latin American market, Avon surveyed women to discover the type and number of products they carry in their personal beauty bag, which brands they used and overall brand perceptions. While the survey revealed how many lipsticks or eyeshadow products the respondent had, Avon didn’t understand the why—the emotional drivers.

“It was crucial for us to walk in consumers’ shoes in order to truly understand their relationship with make-up and collect meaningful qualitative data in friendly and inspiring ways,” explains Paola Toscano, senior insights and marketing intelligence manager at Avon. “We were able to capture very useful consumer insights, materials and perspectives, which informed multiple discussions and decisions within the Avon organization.”

Consumers used a mobile diary of their makeup activities over a one-week period. It included both image uploads and video testimonials, which helped Avon see how the women applied makeup, how they mixed and matched various products and the feelings experienced during and after makeup application. In the words of one user: “I need makeup to feel alive. It’s an essential part of my day-to-day.” Understanding the truth behind the women’s connection with their makeup enabled Avon to connect their brand story to their customer’s story.

Truth in snacks

Fresh Intelligence, a North American market research firm, did a study to understand the emotional motivation when buying snacks.

The study revealed the truth behind consumer snack behavior. It all begins at home, where most snacks fall into two categories: healthy and unhealthy. Consumers eat healthy snacks like fruits, nuts or nutrition bars as part of their daily routine or to “kill” cravings for unhealthy snacks. Unhealthy snacks such as potato chips or chocolate bars are used as comfort food, an occasional treat or to satisfy a craving.

The study also revealed in-store behavior: A consumer is either “hunting” (looking for a specific snack and going directly to a specific aisle to purchase it) or “browsing” (looking up and down many aisles in the store). Interestingly, browsing often took the form of “controlled browsing,” where the consumer looked up and down all the aisles but steered away from chip or cookie sections to avoid temptation. This valuable information helped brands understand the emotions and motivation behind snack buying to increase shopping frequency, basket size and loyalty, and in the end, convert more shoppers into buyers.

Truth about families

Shifting demographics have had a dramatic impact on the make-up of families, but how has that affected their buying habits—how they choose brands and how those brands should connect with them.

“When we set out to do this study, we wanted to provide entire families with the tools to tell us how they think, feel and act in the moment,” said George Carey, founder and CEO of The Family Room.

The survey combined with the video interviews allowed the researchers and marketers to discover, understand and communicate new insights into the realities of modern families. For example, the study found that today’s families have evolved from a top-down hierarchy, where the mom is the gatekeeper of all decisions, to a more complex web of collaborative decision-making among family members. In fact, the study found that 54 percent of millennial parents consider their child to be one of their best friends, making this familial group look more like peers than parental authority.

This truth made it clear that millennial families are going to change the way marketers work. From a marketing and branding standpoint, target messaging should align with the modern family’s new decision-making dynamics, not just mom.

Looking beyond the voice of the customer to understand their heart and mind gives brands a more holistic understanding of what’s happening and why. The brands that truly understand their customer truth will be able to create relentless consistency in their approach to all business decisions. It is the only way to become part of the customer’s story.

Dawn Colossi is a strategic marketing communications leader with over 20 years of experience in marketing, corporate communications and public relations. As CMO of FocusVision, she drives worldwide marketing strategy to build the FocusVision brand and create demand.