Consumers are more than just numbers and demographics. Even when you slice and dice data, you never quite get down to the reasons and emotions behind behaviors. The best way to know your customers, is to talk with them.

Yes, it may sound trite. But direct connection is what it's all about. Research is fine in the macro sense. But if you're looking to truly understand your customers, then macro trends won't get you far enough. A 2009 MarketingDaily article, highlighting a panel discussion at The Advertising Research Foundation conference, put it another way: "Research is useless." The article quotes anthropologist Dr. Robert Deutsch, who made the observation that, "'metrics are not life. How real people act flies in the face of most consumer models we have.'" The author cited Dr. Deutsch's speech further, "He says the distinction is not academic because marketers that spend millions on branding exercises are probably wasting their time if they superimpose an idealized notion of a consumer's self-image."

No, it's not rocket science. But sometimes it's easy to forget the simple truths. When it comes to examining the desires of a group, academic trends and models will only get your brand so far.  Staking your brand in your customer’s reality can break through idealized, academic paradigms and transform it into the Next Big Thing—whether it’s a new product, new positioning or a brand new claim.  There’s only one way to get there.  And it begins with actually talking to, connecting with, and developing a relationship with your consumer.

Liza Babcock is the Director of Operations at Ideas To Go, a company that develops customer-centered innovation for Fortune 500 companies. 

©2012 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Liza Babcock

Liza Babcock is a Creative and Marketing Writer at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.