Make Your Suppositions About the Target. Then Go Dig Deeper.

Rob Levine

by Rob Levine

Partner / VP of Account Strategy

“You’re trying to be very SF with that lunch.”

In the spring, I got the chance to have lunch with my oldest and dearest friend. It was a beautiful day—we were fresh off a great run and were overlooking Half Moon Bay near San Francisco, and I had just ordered a butter lettuce salad.

He meant his comment to be funny, but it gave me pause. In my professional life, I often find myself arguing that food is more than fuel—in fact, it is an expression of self. I then generally go on to recite the qualitative and quantitative evidence I have to support this theory. Except it wasn’t as much fun when I found myself on the other side of the proverbial two-way glass. Someone else had defined my intentions, and it did not feel good.

The data we have about why consumers choose different things is two-dimensional at best. It usually looks at attitudes and beliefs and moments of consumption. But it fails to take into account real-world drivers that can’t be articulated through a discussion guide or defined in a drop-down box.

Take my order for example—it fits with my healthy lifestyle, but it was more driven by the fact that I would be flying home to Baltimore and wanted something equal parts light and filling. There also was a bit of nostalgia wrapped up in it—my grandmother was a big fan of both butter lettuce and blue cheese (although not together), and the order made me smile. I hadn’t given my surroundings or a desire to fit in a second thought.

It reminded me of a warning that Shannon Gray, our Senior Research Analyst, often heeds prior to delivering results from primary research studies—“mind the gap.”

As marketers, we base our suppositions on so many things. Trends. Studies. Past behavior. Interviews. All are important, but none is a surefire predictor of behavior.

Digging. Asking why. These are all noble and important aspects of understanding your audience, but as marketers, we need to accept that we are building stories the same way a general contractor builds a house—with a strong foundation and solid plans. But we have to accept that even with the requisite planning and forethought, water will seep in. It isn’t a matter of if, but when.

And in order to be prepared for this, we have to keep observing. Keep asking questions. Keep watching behavior. And most importantly, keep taking steps to make it better.

Looking for someone to help you bridge the gap between you and your target? Our target-centric approach at Marriner can help.

view more