Who needs one? A smack in the mouth is not only unpleasant but may also be damaging. Yet in business, as in war, it happens frequently, metaphorically at least. Military people say that the first casualty of battle is the plan, whilst that rather effective but brutal warrior Mike Tyson expressed it more graphically with ‘Everyone’s got a strategy until they get a smack in the mouth’.
Leaving aside the colourful language, those responsible for brands, know that the unexpected can wreck their best laid plans. This makes it vital for marketers to be agile and their agencies responsive but ahead of that, they must also prepare for the unexpected by drawing up contingency plans, particularly for clever moves from competitors. That said, it is often not your competitors who are the problem, it is your customers!
Generations of marketing people have voiced the same complaint. ‘Why don’t customers do what they say they will do?’ The answer is complex, but the fact remains that respondents in market research are much better at talking about what they’ve done than what they will do. Part of the reason for this is the role emotions play in decision making. Both neuroscientists and evolutionary biologists have highlighted the pivotal role of emotions in human activity. People therefore often don’t know why they do things but are quick to give reasons for having done them. Consequently, recording their post rationalisations is not going to help very much in predicting their future behaviour, so what to do?
The answer must be to get better at uncovering the deep emotional drivers that underlie decision making. If brands have clear and meaningful rational differences research can be reasonably straightforward but usually the situation is more complex. The functional differences between brands may be less important for the customer than we might like. The brand may not feel right, simply because it doesn’t chime with the customer’s underlying emotions. As a result, research may only scratch the surface and fail to provide the input that the strategy needs. A smack in the mouth is waiting to happen! To avoid it, we need to move beyond conventional research, we need something different. We need to change the game!
Watch this space.