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One of the most common mistakes I find our clients making is thinking that because they are a consumer, they are their consumer.  I’ve been in this position myself. As marketers and brand managers, most of us accept that we need to understand consumers in order to innovate.  However, we think that just because we like our product, we can model our innovation after what we think about the product. The truth is that we think we are mainstream consumers, when most of us really don’t fit that profile. The question that follows, of course, is, "Well then what is it like being a mainstream consumer?!" I'm so glad you asked! Take a look at the following list to get an idea:

The Top Five Reasons You Might Not Be Your Consumer:
  1. If you don't eat at McDonald’s 3 times a week, you may not be your consumer.
  2. If you haven't stepped into a WalMart in the last month (store checks don't count!), you may not be your consumer.
  3. If you actually had to look up what the top 1% makes to see if you fit into that category, you may not be your consumer. 
  4. If you have to pay bills on credit or turn to a cash-checking service to pay your bills at the end of the month, you may not be your consumer. 
  5. If you look for labels such as organic, non-genetically modified, cage-free, or hormone-free on your foods, you may not be your consumer.  

This leaves us with this picture of the average consumer:

  1. They eat at McDonald’s 12 times a month.
  2. 42% of consumers shop at WalMart once a month.
  3. The household income for the top 1% is $340,000. The top 5% is $153,000.
  4. 18% of American households—43 million people—are "underbanked," which means they occasionally use check-cashing companies, pawn shops, or other alternatives to cash checks, pay bills and borrow money.
  5. While it is definitely growing, less than 30% of consumers buy organic, and a much smaller percentage look for the other labels.

For me, this underscores the importance of talking to real consumers. In addition, I find that our clients have their own brand so top-of-mind, it can be hard to remember that consumers don't often look at the world in terms of  brands.  It is a humbling but honest realization, and we need to work harder to find products that meet real consumer needs, rather than just depend on the brand.  

Have I convinced you yet? If you are ready to hear what your consumers are thinking, feeling and doing, get in touch—we would love to connect you with our Creative Consumers® Associates. Or, find out more about our custom-designed Consumer Immersion Events.


Christine Haskins is an Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go. She facilitates customer-centered innovation for Fortune 500 companies across all market categories and industries.

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Emeritus Facilitator Christine Haskins

Christine Haskins is an Emeritus Facilitator and Former Vice President of Customer Experience at Ideas To Go. She worked with customer-centered innovation for Fortune 500 companies across all market categories and industries.