The Holy Grail in marketing is the ability to identify, match, and attract customers to your product or service. For decades, marketers guessed at who their customers were. They conducted surveys and focus groups to segment audiences into big stereotype-focused pools, hoping the cohorts would be large enough, and meaningful enough to generate big business for the company. It was more art than science.
But now, with the ability to capture and analyze large amounts of data, we’ve turned the tables and are able to market using much more “science” than ever thought possible.
Of course, we have a name for this category of deep, analyzable information—we call it “Big Data.” At first it was a scary Abominable Snowman of a concept — delivery of way too much information to deliver actionable information to marketers. But now, with the help of some great analytics tools, and the rise of the “data scientist” within corporations, marketers have begun to tame the savage data beast.
So now it is time we marketers start using this data to a meaningful strategic advantage. Go on — you can do it. And, I’m going to give you the secret to success.
The single, most strategic advantage you have over your competition, is the ability to fit in to your customer’s lives. Don’t take your product and find a customer for it, listen to your customers, and make products they can use, relate to, and want to feel connected to. And, with all that Big Data hanging around, there’s no reason not to.
You see, your customers are the single most differentiated thing your brand has to offer. Your greatest fans — and their behaviors, will help you unlock your differentiated greatness. Think about the customers who lean toward Mac over PC, Southwest over Delta, and Sprint over AT&T. All these companies deliver quality goods and services, but it is the customer associations that separate these brands. It is their strategic advantage to know who their customers are, how they behave, and how they create strong bonds with brands.
It used to be that consumers aspired to be like brands. Marketers had huge sway over consumer behavior. Wearing a Polo shirt, using the toothpaste “4-out-of-5 Dentists Approve” or the chance to “Be Like Mike” was a way consumers could “fit in” to society. Consumers changed their behavior to join the in-crowd, based on what marketers told them to do. But now (blame it on the Internet, Gen Y, or “User Generated Content”) the tide has changed. Consumers are looking to brands that are just like them. They are not looking to brands to define who they are. The current generation is looking to associate itself with brands that reflect their personal brand, rather than the other way around.
So dive into all of that Big Data you have, and come out with an understanding of the other brands your consumers associate with, and why. Associated brands are one of the most powerful tools to understand how you might fit into your customers’ lives. Do they prefer Virgin or British Airways, Oracle vs. Salesforce, Mac vs. PC, Whole Foods vs Krogers, Sprint vs AT&T. And, who are you? With this data, you are on your way to finding a strategic advantage over the competition.