Wed, 24 Mar 2021 08:22:06 GMT
Think of something you love. Anything. Then try and think why. It’s difficult because you can probably articulate some of the reasons why you like it, or even why you should like it. But love? That’s something else entirely. It’s intangible – you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you can feel it. You know when it’s there and when it’s not.
The thing about love is that it’s transcendent. It trades in loyalty, something more than a calculation of pros and cons. It’s created by an intangible value, far more powerful than rational external factors like pandemics and recessions. It’s a relationship – not a transaction.
In the same way we feel love for people, we feel it towards other things. Our favourite band, a specific takeaway, our local pub but also particular brands. In Cupid-esque fashion, the job of a good advertising planning strategist is to help brands find love.
As they dust themselves down from the immense personal and professional challenges of the pandemic, many businesses across Northern Ireland will be looking to the future and asking what’s next. Some businesses will have had to change almost beyond recognition and the chronic uncertainty in our economy has made forward-planning somewhere between impossible and pointless.
However, existential moments, such as the one we’re living through just now, also present an opportunity to take a step back and think about first principles. It’s a chance to refocus on the core proposition of what it is a business wants to offer its consumers. Like any relationship, this starts with listening.
Consumers, as well as businesses, have faced a huge amount of upheaval. Many people in Northern Ireland will have been working long hours whilst trying to balance home schooling, many will have lost their jobs or been furloughed and some will have their own businesses which have faced challenges.
As the economy begins to recover, the temptation for local businesses will be to rush out of the blocks to talk to customers. However, the lesson from the last global financial crisis, from the brands that emerged strongly on the far side, suggests stopping first to listen. This means investing time in finding out what your customers want from you and what you can give them. It’s not just a case of trying to understand where they are now in isolation, but also how they got there and, more importantly, where they might be going.
The plus side is that we don’t have to do all the asking ourselves – although developing a personal and detailed understanding of a customer is enormously beneficial, it isn’t always scalable. Thankfully, we live in a new age of data, and data is king. The level of insight and understanding we can develop about how and what people are buying, what they are doing, what exercise machines they use in the gym, what orange juice they prefer, what charities they are donating to, how they access information, is growing exponentially. And whilst there is no doubt that, as a society, there is an important and mature discussion to be had about our data and how it’s used in the future, as a tool for listening and understanding the needs of consumers, it is profoundly a force for good.
A good planning strategist will do this as a matter of course, but it’s particularly important during difficult or uncertain times. Understanding the consumer thought process and putting yourself in their shoes is what allows a business to find its brand truth.
Over the last number of years, Ardmore has been significantly expanding our planning function to account for the ever-growing availability of consumer data. Having access to this level of insight from around the world, as part of a global network of independent agencies, has enabled us to support our clients here in Northern Ireland and beyond through the uncertainty of the pandemic.
The evidence shows that the businesses and brands that invest in a longer-term mindset are the ones that find the brand love that not only sees them through difficult moments when they arise but positions them to reap the rewards of more market share on the far side.
We all have reasons to be hopeful and optimistic in the coming months but take the time to stop and listen. Love is patient, after all.
This article was previously published in the Business Eye March 2021 edition.
Author: Ed Henderson
Published: Business Eye