Learning to groom on the internet. How we turned social commentary into customer insight for Braun

A tricky audience

When it comes to talking about how they feel, the male audience can be tricky. We’re not talking about getting in touch with your inner child or which films make you cry; even discussions around blokey topics, like beards and shaving, can be elusive. And if you’re a brand targeting men, getting customer insight from this audience can be a pain in the neck.

So when we worked with global consumer products company Braun, we were determined to get under the skin of their customers. By giving Braun a deeper understanding of the audience’s experience, we could help them focus their customer strategy and increase connections.

Being a very clever bunch of people, Braun were determined to squeeze more out of their marketing and customer research. And with diminishing returns from traditional methods they knew they needed something different.

Customer analysis: how to do different, not do more

Sometimes when you start working with a client, you wonder what you can offer. Braun was used to conducting market and customer research. They were schooled in the art of customer journey analysis, behavioural economics and brand tracking. They were tracking more stuff than a Wyoming survivalist and flowing it all into dashboards full of beautiful insight.

But their social media analysis had potential. They were listening to online communities but weren’t getting what they needed to connect the brand with their consumers, beyond the traditional loyalty points.

And being a world leader, this wasn’t good enough. And this is where Listen & Learn’s social understanding comes in very useful.

Customer insight starts with asking the right question

Traditional methods of market research fall into distinct categories:

  • broad and shallow, or
  • narrow and deep.

Quantitative (including traditional social listening) gives you tons of surface level data meaning you have to guess how your audience think and feel. Qualitative data means you get to know all about the motivations and experiences of a few people, which you then have to extrapolate out to the rest of your audience.

Up until now, the best of both worlds has been too expensive and laborious to be done regularly. So if you want a solid customer strategy based on solid customer insight, you have to think differently.

Learning from online communities

There are now more online communities than there are Pokemon Go traffic accidents and through search engine trend analysis, you can get loads of insight into customer experience, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. But is it meaningful? Can you do anything with it? At the end of the day, you’re only as good as your methodology. And that’s what makes us different.

Search engine trend analysis

Any online research into audiences and customers has to start with analysing the search engines. Most agencies just use this to find out what people are talking about, maybe certain words and phrases that are trending. Not us, that’s way too simple. What people are talking about (social listening) is the invitation, how people are talking about it is where the party’s at.

Social listening isn’t enough

Social listening is fine if you want to passively consume. Scraping the internet for comments and then using an algorithm to try and gain real meaning is inherently flawed; it’s like expecting a combine harvester to know the marketing strategy for your 5-grain sourdough loaf.

Social listening + human understanding = social learning

If you’re going to understand humans, you need to use humans.  So that’s what we do. We find the most read and influential sites and use specialist researchers to read every single social comment from the chosen sample. This allows us to find natural themes and structure the results.

This means the data will be interpreted with a level of understanding that an automated process literally cannot achieve. We are able to determine the value and meaning of each social mention and use them to find solutions to our client’s problems.

It’s this unique framework of search engine trend analysis, social understanding and human insight that gives our clients trusted, current and real customer insight.

To beard or not to beard: how is your brand community talking?

Braun had an idea and a vernacular. They wanted to tap into the online discussion about ‘male grooming’, a.k.a. shaving or growing/having a beard. They wanted to understand more about how their customers used their products, what shaving or ‘beard management’ techniques they had, what male grooming meant to them and their lives.

Trouble is, it didn’t mean anything to them. No-one talked about male grooming and it was rare people talked about management, products or techniques.

What we found was way more interesting. When you know what you’re looking for, men can get pretty deep.

Facial hair is emotion

There were two distinct operations going on;

  • discussion around facial hair or the lack of it, and
  • research into products and brands.

The research came way later than expected because, before that, the men talked openly about what beards, moustaches and shaving meant to them.

There were huge cultural phenomena happening. The ability to grow a beard, then look after it and watch it flourish, was a definition of masculinity. Men got attached to their facial hair and discussed it as if it were a friend, partner or loyal pet.

By knowing what to look for, we can see what topics are shaping online discussions throughout the customer journey. Men were discussing whether they should shave or not shave and what the pros and cons were of both.

Behavioural change for the brand

The conversation was way more esoteric than we expected.

  • What will it mean if I shave/don’t shave?
  • How will it position me as a man?
  • How do you feel about the opportunity of growing a beard or the excitement of having a shave?
  • How do you feel about the factors that dictate your facial regime?

We discovered distinct steps in the journey of growing a beard, from the itchiness of stubble to the shaping and maintenance of the full beard. And whatever the practicalities of the conversation, the need to share was paramount.

Men wanted to discuss their experiences, opinions and expectations with those they could guide, celebrate or commiserate with (“I have to shave off my beard for work”) or learn from.

A new research perspective

Our pioneering methodology gave Braun a brand new perspective. We were able to provide a different context that can move Braun into a different space. They have the insight they need to say the right thing at the right time and be part of the natural conversation customers are having and want to have.

This has implications for everything from product range, comms strategy and tone of voice to defining their points of difference. It’s this extra learning from social listening that can give Braun the edge.

If you liked this, you might also like to see how we helped a top hotel chain use social to get their customers to love them again.