A Memorable Experience

I once observed a focus group where a handful of spiritless strangers fumbled around a room of 200 packaging samples laid across the table.

The Task?

“Using the samples as inspiration, tell us what a premium package for XX brand looks like.”

The Goal?

Define an uber premium, limited edition package for a blue collar, rural consumer.

That was the day I learned the importance of asking the right questions…

“If I asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” While a polarizing statement in the research world, Henry Ford gives us a perspective to consider in how we ask consumers to drive our decisions as a business.

As humans, we only have our own experiences to draw from.

Our consumers’ experiences however, are the most powerful tool we have to utilize in innovation or creating a relevant brand experience. These experiences are vivid. They are stories. And they are rich with both emotion and insight if we give them the time to share.

A New Study

Yielding limited feedback in round one of the research referenced above, our team was asked to conduct another study with the same goal. Instead we had consumers tell us about experiences they’ve had that they considered to be “high-end.” “Premium,” for starters, is marketing jargon – just look at all the definitions.

We then dispersed another 200-item sample across the table. This time however, the stimulus was a breadth of printed images ranging from everyday objects to highly emotive photographs. We asked them to pull a few that felt “high-end” and share why they were chosen. Finally, we asked these brand loyalists to tell us about their brand.

We gave the consumers time to speak, be creative, and tell us about the things they love.

The Outcome: A Powerful Tool in Business

These guys left the room elated, visually sharper and more energized than when they walked in. They even exchanged numbers with the once-stranger who sat across the table.

It’s not the job of consumers to tell us what to do.

We utilize them as experts of their desires, a resource for inspirational experiences and a foundation for truth to take into our own work.

Our role is to listen intently and ask, “why?”.

That, is the most powerful tool in business.

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