Brand strategy – escape the customer insight trap

Why you shouldnt base your brand strategy on insight (alone)

Classical marketing is about understanding customers, spotting a group or segment who have a need that’s not being met, then designing a product or service that fills that need. Marketers have been taught this way for decades and it’s what I learnt on my CIM diploma 20 years ago. Working with clients like Carlsberg, Twinings and Boots recently has reminded me of the theory.

But there are a couple of problems.

The problem with insight

If you base your brand purely on customer insight, as I often see, you risk creating something that’s detached from the reality of your company’s culture. Why’s that a problem? Because people are more and more concerned about the companies behind the products they buy.

If you base your brand largely on insight, you end up with products and services that look much like those of your competitors.
And if you use customer insight to take your brand into tone of voice, you’ll end up with me-too communications.

Sounding like everyone else

Imagine if every thriller writer used the same tone – stories would become pretty dull. If every new smoothie or crisp brand targeted similar audiences using insight, they’d all sound the same. Oh, wait: they do.

So relying on customer insight can lead to boring products that all sound the same. And anyway, in the real world, all kinds of different voices successfully speak to similar groups of customers.

There is an answer, though. It’s your company culture.

Company culture is the answer

I believe brands need more than insight. They need a deep understanding of what’s true and real in your company culture. Without that understanding, brand strategy tends to be a great concept, but no more than that. Agencies and marketers can get excited about concepts, but I don’t often see them resonating successfully with operations or customer service teams.

What a company creates is the result of thousands of small efforts, by thousands of individual people, working in a culture that’s unique. It’s impossible for companies to have the same culture, even if they’re making the same stuff. They’re the product of years or decades of history – quirky, individual people, leaders and teams – coming together to make things.

Unique. Differentiated.

Every culture is unique, which is why brands built on culture are differentiated – they stand out more and are more relevant to customers.

That’s why I base brand strategy on culture, with just a splash of insight. If you’d like to hear how I do it, give me a ring on 0333 9000 245 and I’ll tell you.