I think it was Stephen Hawking who observed that the opposite of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge. That – in the case of marketing – thinking you know your consumer, while in fact they are someone very different – is more dangerous than not knowing them at all. Genuinely informed instinct is a different thing altogether: those entrepreneurs who do apparently rely on gut of course often aren’t in reality really doing so at all – they are personally spending time with their consumers or in their retail environments developing a strong visceral understanding of who buys their brand and why. The fact that they do relatively little conventional research hides the fact that they have a very highly tuned and current sense of what matters to the people that consider and might choose them.
Yet while really knowing your consumer would seem to be the level of intimacy we should aspire to as brand owners, there is a higher and still more powerful level than knowledge alone that one sometimes see brand owners possessing, particularly early in their lives. And that’s when they not only know their consumers, but like them.
Liking the people who buy your brand closes the emotional distance you and them. One no longer describes them dispassionately, as sources of revenue and growth, but instead as warm, engaging people whom you would like to spend more time with – and therefore make an effort to do so. Liking the people who buy your brand means you fight a little harder for difficult innovation, because you know how much they are going to appreciate the difference it makes to them. It means you are more likely to really push to get the small details right, because you knows how much pleasure it will give to find them. And, of course, it completely changes one’s relationship with customer service, and the people you recruit to deliver that, for you and them. It puts a completely different kind of energy into what you do, and why you do it.
Follow Adam on twitter @eatbigfish
This article first appeared in Campaign Asia Pacific