Creating a Learning Culture
14 August 2013
Leading organisations centre everything they do on consumer insight. Most marketers understand the importance of real, deep, intuitive insight into their markets – it helps them create messaging that resonates and produce products and services that meet functional, emotional and social needs.
Understanding your market is the foundation of brand relevance.
But a sustained competitive advantage in any consumer-facing
industry requires that those outside of marketing understand the
consumer too. Insight needs to be embedded across the organisation
in order to stay on the pulse of consumer sentiment and remain
relevant. It's not possible to be a leading organisation without
first becoming a learning organisation.
The whole business needs to listen, learn and connect with their
consumers to remain relevant. Keeping consumer insight trapped in a
marketing department misses half the point of learning from
consumers in the first place. IT needs to understand the consumer.
NPD needs to understand them. The sales team needs to understand
So how do you do it? How do you ensure that you're building a
So much consumer research is presented as tables, stats and data.
Those figures are incredibly useful to plot trends and quantify
behaviour, but the real trick of consumer insight is to figure out
why consumers are doing something. What is the motivation for their
shopping behaviour? Keep asking "why" until you understand their
emotional needs and drivers.
Empower your employees:
Many of your employees will have an intuitive grasp of your
customer segments, and many may come from the target market.
Employees that interface with your consumers - such as social media
managers, front of house staff or call centre agents - may have
valuable nuggets of insight or great ideas of new ways to meet
emerging customer needs. It's important to make your employees feel
safe enough to share with others in the organisation. Build a
culture that encourages sharing and flatten your hierarchies.
Keep trying out new and different research methods to enrich your
customer insight - like neuroscience or ethnographic studies. Test
new product or communication ideas with different groups. Run
beta-testing. Incentivise innovation and be open to failure - it's
a necessary part of the learning curve to successful innovation.
Keep leaping and learning from mistakes; it's important not to just
stick with the safe option that has always been done.
Coordinate regular cross-functional team brainstorms.
Different teams will undoubtedly have different experiences and
insights about your target customers, and these points of view may
trigger new ideas for relevant marketing.
Make it engaging:
No matter how interesting you find the customer insight, it
probably needs to be made more user-friendly in order to spread
quickly through an organisation. People don't like reading long,
copy-heavy documents or sitting in on dull, lifeless presentations.
Find engaging ways to share customer insight across the
organisation - think infographics and soundbites, customer vox pop
videos, and workshops with people from the target segment
interacting with your teams. Make the sessions conversational and
ask for ideas - it helps make them memorable. And consider placing
reminders all over your business - from posters for each segment in
the lifts to screen savers and quiz nights.
Great marketing is built on solid customer insight, but this
insight does not need to be complex or scary. Some of the best
campaigns and products come from simple human truths. To ensure
your organisation is in touch with your customers' human truths,
build a culture that listens to your customers and learns from
their feedback - whether this is directed at you or about you (for
example, on social media). Turning insight into an asset that
drives business success requires you to use it across your
business. Use insight to build platforms to connect with your
Marketing has an important role to play in building these
platforms. It should plan for and execute the ideal customer
experience at every touch point, and this is made so much easier if
everyone in your business understands what you are trying to do.
Put in place the systems and people to ensure that customer
insight, based on constant learning and sharing is embedded across
your organisation - and you will be well equipped to deliver brand
experiences, products and services that resonate with your target
market, satisfy their physical and emotional needs and generate
What your customers will feel is a brand that 'gets me'. The
work that goes on in the background of that experience is building
a responsive, learning organisation.
If you would like to find out more about marketing effectiveness
through brand relevance, download Yellowwood's latest white paper,
How to Know More about Your Market than Anyone Else: The Guide to
Relevance, from www.ywood.co.za
This article first appeared in the July edition of Advantage