NEW: Sean Adams

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Isn’t marketing about communication with consumers, with the real people out there? Some corporates still don’t get it.

Ivory towers

Sean Adams

I heard a story last week that I found hard to believe.

A fellow researcher had been commissioned for an important study into what consumers really think about a major Australian company.

Groups of respondents were carefully recruited, and once finalised details of the research venues were sent through to the client so they could attend and hear some real live consumers talk about their brand.

One problem. The groups were to be held in Parramatta in Sydney’s west, fully 30 minutes from the CBD.

Unfortunately, the client felt that this location was too inconvenient for busy people like them and should be cancelled and rearranged to take place in the city.

No matter that the bulk of Sydney’s population (and thus their customer base) lives and works well outside the CBD.

I find this level of arrogance and unwillingness to make an effort to listen to customers quite breathtaking. It’s enough to make you change telcos (… oops!).

I spend a good deal of my working life talking to consumers, understanding their lives and what makes them tick. And you know what? The more you get to know people, the better your chance of predicting their likely response to future scenarios. Which is what marketing is all about, isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, many companies are good at this, spending time getting closer to their customers. Really listening to them. Making sure that the company’s strategies are based on a current and informed understanding of their customers.

However, there are also many other companies, like our CBD friends mentioned before, who get so lost way up in their ivory towers that they can easily forget that it is the hard-earned dollars of their customers that put them there.

I believe that you can’t honestly expect to understand your customers sitting behind your desk, watching the odd “consumer insights” PowerPoint presentation.

You have to get out there. To observe consumers interacting with your brand, to ask them questions (yes, actually talk to them!) to invite them to give you feedback and to consider the implications of what they say.

In a highly competitive world where consumers are increasingly becoming empowered, what sort of company do you think they will turn to in future?

Will it be the company that takes the time to listen to them, their hopes and fears, their wants and needs?

Or will it be the company that remains aloof, never makes the effort to talk to them and just gives them “what they need” – take it or leave it, no room for debate?

I think I know which type of company I would be running. But then again, I know the route to Parramatta.


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