Yesterday's research won't get you tomorrow's growth

Despite remarkable advances both in technology and our understanding of what drives our decisions, marketers continue to rely on the same research methodologies to 'understand' the consumer.

Fundamentally, these approaches land in two buckets - stated and behaved. On the stated side, we have surveys, focus groups and other post-rationalized and prompted responses. On the behaved side, there's purchase data, web analytics and other interactions with media. Somewhere between them lies buzz monitoring. The growing proliferation of digital channels - despite the belief that they're somehow different - fall into one of these buckets (indeed, digitization only serves to grow these buckets).

The best organizations have all of these data points warehoused and accessible by individuals across functions, who actively mine these for insights.

What they've quickly found out, however, is that the insights derived from these channels are limited. It turns out, no amount of pins, retweets and shares are going to deliver your next source of growth. To stay ahead, they evolve their data model. As new channels come online, they actively experiment with and integrate the data streams into their models.

The one they’re most excited about, however, is a paradigm shift entirely – that’s felt measurement. Felt measurement is, of course, all about measuring feelings.

Actual, physiological, neurological feelings. This is done by using bio-sensors and wearable technology to evaluate what’s happening at a level that our conscious minds aren’t equipped to access.

Why is this important?

First, a growing body of evidence reveals that our subconscious minds are the engines of much of our decision-making. Instead of the classic “think feel do”, it’s actually more like a “feel do think” loop of how we make choices. By implication, if we’re not measuring the ‘feelness’ of our marketing, how can we hope to improve it?

Secondly, emotion breaks through in today’s environment of information ubiquity. Look at virtually every Proctor and Gamble ad that’s been released in the last 4-5 years, from Old Spice, Always, and Tide to CoverGirl, Pantene and Duracell. These are purpose-built to elicit emotionally charged responses – from the ridiculousness of Old Spice, to the Trust Your Power resilience message of Duracell. And their ads have been shared and viewed hundreds of millions of times on Youtube.

Thirdly, emotion is a key component of brand building. So, in addition to breaking through in the short term, it also helps to wedge its way into our brains, into our System 1s, so that when the purchase trigger for that product or service comes, our brand is the cerebral ‘go-to’. It’s automatic. And this effect – provided the brand maintains its emotional appeal – is long-term and very difficult to dislodge.

Now, this isn’t to say you should rush off and put an anthemic piano melody into each of your ads, and show families weeping together over your product – that’s all getting a bit tired.

And besides, you need to be authentic with your brand – your customers are damn smart.

But finding that sweet spot, where your brand meets the cross-section of a societal need and an individual need – like with P&G’s latest consumer feminism play, where the needs of their consumer intersect with the needs of society to embrace change – is essential in today’s marketing. It’s not easy, and you may need to take your brand on a journey, but it has to happen to stay ahead.

And finally – and most importantly - it’s this type of insight that will bring you your next source of growth. Understanding what drives the emotions and subconscious motivations of your customers can help to better inform the markets you enter, and the products you develop. Understanding the key points of frustration in performing a job – which may not be immediately and consciously available to the user – can open up new market opportunities. And understanding what doesn’t work can ensure you focus on the stuff that does.

Relying on yesterday’s research for tomorrow’s growth won’t work. Marketers must evolve their data model to include felt measurement – to break through, build their brands, tap into consumer motivations, and capture new markets.