Today’s CEO invites the CMO into the C-Suite with Operations, Finance and HR. The worry CEOs have, however, is whether their CMO can deliver against their commitments. Why is that? The most frequently given answer by CMOs is, “. . . marketing is not an exact science.” Translated, it means, “I’m not sure if my knowledge about my customer allows me to create actionable strategies and/or tactics that will stimulate purchase behavior to meet my sales goals.” So even if CMOs look at all the WHYs of customer purchasing with all available measurements, it doesn’t mean they can infer and then deploy the correct strategy or tactics to stimulate sales.
To resolve the dilemma and often short job tenure, CMOs naturally look at every piece of available data to get a more accurate picture of why consumers behave the way they do. With data being ubiquitous, easy to record, and inexpensive to store, the growing volume, velocity and variety of data create seemingly enormous opportunities for any CMO. And some businesses appear to have proof. Netflix, for example, has used its ginormous data volume to create an audience sensation with “House of Cards.” Others have optimized their online ordering navigation from 40 clicks down to five. And one car manufacturer is using big data to shoot for a perfect record: zero accidents, zero death and zero injuries in all of its cars by the year 2020.
The majority of CMOs, however, are overwhelmingly underprepared to truly interpret data.
Though big data creates an enormous opportunity, it also creates a seemingly insurmountable challenge of delivering true and actionable insights for most CMOs. Many believe the solution lies in the investment in new analytic tools and technologies that can better manage big data.
The answer to greater consumer insight may not come from new ways of looking at big data, but from a more complete way of looking at consumers.
Seeing consumers only through the big-data-lens ignores the motivations that drive purchasing decisions, steer their path to purchase, and are the reasons for demand. Big data represents past history. Purchase behavior has to occur before it can be measured. So for the same (or similar) marketing actions to occur in the future, big data assumes that the past predicts the future. Understanding the motivations for purchase allows the marketer to understand and use the triggers for purchasing in advance of the sale.
For these reasons, CMOs try to go “upstream” in the purchase process to understand how consumer purchase decisions are made. Unfortunately, most of the techniques used to accomplish this have not changed in more than 50 years. Surveys, focus groups, and ideation sessions have been around since the ’60s. Unfortunately, their track record of generating a clear and stable picture of the consumer purchase process has been poor. The reason for this poor performance may be that in most marketing research projects, consumers are treated like subjects in a psychology experiment; that is, they are solicited, recruited and paid to participate in a “study” conducted by people who specialize in “studying” consumers. Then the “experimenters” subject the “subjects” to a barrage of questions, stimuli, situations and environments. The result is often that the barrage of inputs to the purchase decision process overwhelming whatever insight consumers themselves could have provided.
What CMOs need is a process that surfaces all of the underlying reasons for purchase – cognitive, emotional, social, economic and psychological – and puts them together in the same way consumers use them to make decisions.
To accomplish this, CMOs must invite consumers to be an integral part of the discovery process, supporting them in describing how and why they buy things. When this happens, we learn the words consumers use to define the concepts underlying brand purchase decisions; how different consumers use different concepts; and how these different concepts describe stable purchase-decision habits.
Once these stable purchase-decision habits – the true WHYs that customers use – are uncovered, marketers can develop strategic and tactical programs to produce a predictable link to purchase. In this way, with an in-depth understanding of why the consumer buys and what triggers the purchase, CMOs can manage brand demand, keep their sales commitments, and be a worthy member of the C-Suite.
Tim Gohmann, Christian Goy, and Ron Mundy are Directors of the newly formed Behavioral Science Lab, a strategic partnership between Somerset Consulting Group and Sanders\Wingo Advertising. The Behavioral Science Lab has developed tools and techniques providing the next generation of consumer insight to clients worldwide. www.behavioralsciencelab.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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