You are not behind your competitor. You are behind your consumer. In 2008 Mr.M took 140 airplane flights as he worked with a range of companies across a spectrum of industries in over a dozen countries that were grappling with change and the future. Every client, every nation, every company had their own unique opportunities and challenges. But one thing stood out in common everywhere.
A majority of companies were benchmarking themselves against internal or historical benchmarks and competitors only to find that despite “scoring” well on these criteria they seemed to be feeling less and less like they were winning or comprehending the world around them. They were innovating more than their competitors, investing more than their category averages in new forms of marketing, they were moving faster than they had ever in their history and their products’ and yet they were not seeing the results they had hoped for.
What had happened? They had fallen behind their consumer. Their consumers’ expectations and behaviors had moved to another level and nobody in their category were where they needed to be and thus doing better than the competitors or historic norms. We are spending five times more in new forms of marketing than two years ago. This really meant very little. It was like being one eyed in a land of the blind when consumers had begun expecting and receiving (often via self enabling solutions or from providers outside the category) fully sighted answers and services.
What therapy did we offer for such a malady? Again, while solutions tend to need to be custom to the company, the situation and the country, we ask our clients to undertake three simple exercises.
How do you behave at home when you are you and not some marketing or other big shot working in your company? How do you, your friends, your children get their information? Who do they look for the recommendations and how do they make recommendations? What do they expect? Now think of how you are doing your marketing at work. Are you aligned with your friends and families behavior at home?
In the United States people spend 21% of their time with digital media while marketers spend 5% of their budgets in digital media. This is just one of the grand disconnects as they benchmark spending against historic and competitive norms.
Another case of losing touch with the consumer is how Microsoft and Sony spent years in self love with their superb technology and their hallucinations of “dominating the living room” to create their super technologies of Sony PS3 and Microsoft X-Box 360, while Nintendo watched how consumers played games of all types and what they wanted and came out with something small and funny called Wii.
Would you have believed three years ago that Apple, Nokia, Nintendo and Nikon would be competitors? After all one of them was a computer company, the other a mobile phone pioneer the third the leading camera company in the world and the fourth a gaming company.
Well consider the Apple iPhone. It has a camera. It is a phone. It is a gaming platform and with the Application Store much more. Think about the Nintendo Dsi handheld which has two cameras, wireless connectivity, a music player and it plays games.
When things become digital the boundaries dissolve. New combinations, new economics and new models come to be. This is both a threat and an opportunity. The future does not fit in the containers of the past. Force yourself to brainstorm and benchmark consumer behavior and competitor outside your category. Usually looking at adjoining categories or how consumers are creating solutions by mixing and matching things is good places to start.
All companies and rightly so fixate on their heavy users and they collect data on category users. They are also increasingly paying attention to how influence works in categories and ever since Malcolm Gladwell published “The Tipping Point” influencer marketing has grown in importance. What we are finding is surprising.
There is little connection between heavy users and heavy influencers. This is because an influential person is defined as one with a network and charisma (propensity to communicate) versus a heavy user is defined by propensity to consume. As importantly a detractor, which is someone who speaks against your brand or service, is many more times likely to voice his or her opinion versus an advocate of your product. Thus in many ways the person who is most important to talk to is not the heavy user but the lapsed disgruntled user or prospect.
Ask yourself and your market research team whether you are listening to the full spectrum of voices (in and out of your category) or just your heavy users and prospects? Without this input much of your future marketing may miss the target.
The big mistake that people make is thinking that solving for change and the future is solving for digital when it really is about how to better understand that your consumer, your category, and the marketing landscape are being redefined.