A couple of posts ago, ("Can this really be???" - July 26), I spouted off about how obvious the conclusions were of an article I had read (specifically, that more consumer insights can help develop better products). On second thought, maybe that conclusion isn't so obvious.
How many meetings regarding product development or even strategy development have you been in lately where you hear comments that start with "I think..." or "My wife thinks..." or "My kids think..."? How many of those people making those comments are actually the target consumer? On the flip side, how many of those folks are much more educated, make much more money and live much different lives than your target consumer? Shouldn't more of those comments start with "The consumer thinks..."?
The reality is that most brand management professionals are in the top 1-2% of the population in terms of education and income. Now, unless you work for Tiffany's, that doesn't do much to qualify you to determine what the average consumer really wants. The only answer - figure out a way to learn what the consumer wants.
Now, don't get me wrong. This is not a tirade espousing the benefits of focus groups. Most of the time we only hear what we want to hear (and eat a lot of M&Ms) at focus groups. But, however you do it, get out and listen to/interact with consumers. Go hang out in a store and watch people shop your category. Talk to people in line at the deli. Take the bus. Or, if you've got money, do some ethnography. Or even do focus groups if you can commit to using them correctly. But somehow you've got to put yourself in a position to accurately represent the consumer in these meetings. You are their advocate. Get it right and the masses will reward you. Get it wrong and the 1-2% of the population that thinks like you will reward you.
I'm guessing most of you would rather have the masses.