Why brands don’t understand their audiences

How do you understand the world around you?

How do you find your customers and understand what they need?

What helps you think strategically, creatively or innovatively?

The answer for most people is “we ask questions”.

Sounds sensible.

Most organisations understand the world by using surveys and focus groups.

Great tools.

Just skewed. A product of history.

But, here’s the thing: do you know what happens when you ask all the questions?

You get answers to what you want to know.

What about what people want to tell you?

The truth is that people don’t talk to researchers the way they talk to each other.

Which means that if you’re asking all the questions, your ability to understand the world around you is flawed.

There’s something else.

When we ask questions, we’re always too late. The moment we cared about has passed.

What we’re doing through our questions is asking people to remember, to deliberate, to come up with an answer.

We’re capturing post-hoc rationalisation.

I’m not saying that we should ditch our surveys and focus groups.

I just think we need to rebalance how we understand the world.

We need to be able to observe consumer awareness and intent as it happens.

This is where data from social media needs to play a more central role.

But not in the way it’s currently happening.

To date, most organisations use social in the same way they ask questions – as a tool to understand their impact on the world.

This is missing the biggest opportunity.

Social data is the way to capture consumer awareness and intent as it happens.

The focus of our work on social shouldn’t be holding a mirror to our own endeavours.

It should be a way to open our eyes to the stories of those around us.

It’s a way to understand what’s happening to them, how they feel, what they’re experiencing and how they make sense of the world and those around them.

The logic is inescapable.

If you want to make the best strategic, creative and innovative decisions, you need a rounded view of the world.

A view of the world as your customers see it, not just how you do.

We’d be delighted to be your guide along the way.

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