3 ways to better understand your consumers

To convince people to change their minds, you should get into their brains as much as possible for two good reasons. The first is to understand how they think and what state of mind they are in, and the second is to discover the triggers you need to pull to get them to act in a predetermined way.

In my induction into advertising I was instructed to get into people’s minds as a matter of habit and it was then that I understood why the industry is viewed with so much suspicion. I like to think that what we do is in the field of ‘persuasion’. The haters on the other hand will call it deception, manipulation, trickery and even sorcery.

In truth, every advertising agency worth its salt has its secret sauce, the special ingredient to delivering spectacular results for their clients. Personally, I prefer to shy away from the ivory tower, the one where many creative minds ascend to congregate and indulge in academic or intellectual matters that are highly cerebral.

If you are unfamiliar with the ivory tower, I would love to give you the grand tour. The ivory tower is housed in many boardrooms where communication specialists converge to isolate themselves from the maddening crowd. In it they conjure advertising and promotion initiatives for the very target audiences they intend to influence even though the view of the world from the tower is usually obscure.

The downside of the ivory tower is that most of the brilliant ideas devised therein will never resonate with the intended group for obvious reasons.

It’s a wonder why so many creatives still visit the ivory tower with all its faults but perhaps with the incessant client pressure it may be the only place that offers solace for the imaginative mind. The alternative though, requires a grounded approach that takes more time and sharpens instincts.

We usually start by roaming the streets with our eyes wide open. The Holy Book says that Wisdom stands at the city gates distributing insights for all to see and hear, but most people treat her like those merchandisers that distribute flyers in the traffic – they roll up their windows.

Everyday, consumers are making thousands of decisions about where to go, what to buy and other ways of spending their money, and we’ve made it a habit to observe them when they do so in public. In the supermarkets, in the restaurants, at the petrol station and in the stadiums, we watch and listen for identifiable patterns that inform our campaign planning and helps to develop wining strategies.

The second thing we do is to regularly connect with men and women from every walk of life. To do this you must truly be interested in people so that you can find common ground and hold lengthy conversations. It is in this interaction, with a bias to listening, that you will derive powerful insights about them and their lives.

Finally, to get a glimpse into people’s minds, you must increase your tolerance for a variety of content. Yes, you must watch those Latino telenovelas, the violent World Wrestling Entertainment, or the bible thumping gospel hour, however disposed you are to that type of viewing. By watching the type of content that your target audience regularly enjoys you may get to understand how those brain neurons fire up when they are entertained.

Therefore, in order to generate the kind of insight that feeds advertising initiatives and makes cash registers ring around the clock, consider roaming the streets with your eyes open, connecting with people from every walk of life and increasing your content tolerance.


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