Tuesday, May 3, 2011

About new "customer consultation trend": Ask customers for the problem - not the solution

Lots of brands are trying to involve their consumers in the production as a way to engage and intrigue. In Sweden Kraft Foods let consumers vote for which piece o chocolate to kick out of the traditional box that everyone buys at Christmas (Aladdin), and people went crazy creating fan clubs for their favourites to make them stay.

This morning I read in trendcentral.com about Wrangler Next Blue Competition.

"With the help of Strutta, the heritage brand recently consulted their customers directly through a competition called Next Blue in which participants uploaded videos explaining the concept and name behind the denim design of their dreams. Five finalists were selected, based partly on the number of votes received from the community, to work with the Wrangler team in North Carolina to produce their designs. After a final week of voting, the winner received $5,000 and the prestige of having their design made available for purchase by the public."

I am not sure that people really know what they will want in the mysterious future... We are so driven by new products, services, technological changes, innovations and marketing messages we are like sheep on a farm. It may sound harsh but it´s true. Deep down we have a need of course, but it´s not for a specific pair of jeans. Which customer would have said "Hey, I would really like a page like Facebook where I can poke people" or "Next Winter I want a trillion versions of furry wests to choose from". Even if 50% of girls wear a furry west this season (yeah, me too) we didn´t all suddenly came up with the idea that we wanted this. As for me, I spotted the trend on the streets of trendy Bondi, found one at Vinnies before the trend really took off and felt very smart - but before seeing the cool model chicks wearing it I wouldn´t have known what to search for in the vintage stores. I´m a follower, I admit it. Most people are. Don´t ask us for what kind of jacket we WANT to wear. Fashion is about following - to reach status, love, coolness.

The brilliant Rob Campbell talked about this in his talk at Circus - festival for commercial thinking". He said we usually quote Henry Ford saying "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses", suggesting that msot of us don´t know what we want, because we don´t have the ability to know the possibilites. But, said Campbell, what people really was asking for was "a way to get from A to B faster". As I wrote yesterday, we don´t want the cause, but the effect.

Make sure your brand don´t ask for the solution, but the problem. You are the one who can wow the market with something unexpected and great. Don´t confuse us by asking us to know what we want; a brand strategist´s job is to figure out what we truly want, deep down.

Very few would like to go to an empty shop where the shop assistant ask "so, describe your dream dress and I´ll make it for you". Nobody would like to go to a restaurant and create their own menu. We want to see what  the brands have invented, and like happy little sheep we will follow :)

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