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Getting Relevance Right
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Nothing is as important in marketing as relevance. If your products, services, communications and experiences are not relevant to the people you are trying to reach, you may as well pack up and go home.

Yellowwood recently published a white paper on the topic entitled 'How to Know More About your Market than Anyone Else - The Guide to Relevance', which explores what it takes for an organisation to be relevant in today's marketplace.

Achieving relevance is actually quite simple, as it's similar to how we develop and maintain relationships with each other. Essentially, to be relevant requires us to Listen, Learn and Connect.


Get out there! All too often, marketers become engrossed in 'business-as-usual' and forget how important it is to see and experience how consumers live and interact with their offering. Sometimes it only takes observing a few people to give you a great idea or insight, which often cannot be achieved with thousands of quantitative survey responses. Consider KFC's Sithi Salute Kleva, Koo's Jealous Down and Omo's Dirt is Good campaigns - all grounded on real customer insight, making them exceptionally successful in the local market. These brand managers have truly embraced the 'eco-systems' in which these brands operate - and by using their understanding and applying this knowledge, relevance has come naturally.

  • Live, think and act like a consumer: Understand why your customers think the way they do. Listen to their friends, families and key sources of information, and become a part of their world.
  • Listen to the right conversations: Technology has given us a plethora of channels, but we need to filter the noise and focus on what is relevant. Consider Google Alerts, RSS feeds, and following influencer and consumer conversations on social media.
  • Listen beyond your category: To create a relevant world for your consumers requires understanding their lives, loves and passions beyond how they interact with your category.
  • Remember, you are not the target market: Starting with "my experience is…" is one of the largest barriers to truly listening to and understanding your consumers.


Marketers understand the value of insight, but the statistical jargon, numbers and raw data behind the insight scares many and simply puts them off. Often research and customer insights teams are stuck in a dark back office with little interaction with the business and marketing teams. Brands cannot be relevant unless marketers make it a priority to build learning organisations.

  • Build collaboration into your organisation's structure: Make it easy for employees to share ideas, observations, experiences and lessons. Consider creating an 'internal insight bank', encourage weekly brainstorms, and flatten hierarchies so that every employee feels comfortable sharing his or her insight. For example, at Unilever, category teams sit together to form "hot-houses of good ideas" with the workplace strategically designed to encourage the sharing of knowledge.
  • Find ways to work with big teams: As marketing becomes more sophisticated, bigger teams of specialists are required. It's important not to let the creation of new disciplines lead to new silos in your organisation.
  • Take risks: Make sure you experiment with your marketing and learn from your mistakes. Digital tracking makes it easy to see what works and what does not work, so that you can adapt and tweak as you go.


New technology and the rise of social media have made the need for hyper relevance critical, yet marketers are still using 'off-the-shelf' consumer classification systems and demographic profiling. It poses the question: if marketing has changed so much, surely the way business and marketers view their consumers should follow suit?

It's essential that marketers connect with their consumers to truly bring customer understanding alive in their organisations:

  • Ditch the demographics: it's about having a multi-faceted view of your customer to build a profile of needs, lifestyles, attitudes, behaviours, mindsets, lifestage and psychographics for each consumer cluster, so that you get as close to individually relevant as possible.
  • Bring organisation-wide understanding of the customer alive: the primary reason why so few CEOs feel they get value from customer studies is not the clustering or statistical mechanics, but rather that too few organisations distribute and implement the insight. Insight needs to influence how your organisation behaves and markets. Name your market segments accordingly, paint a picture of each type of consumer and ensure that everyone from those at a leadership level to frontline staff understand what each type of customer is all about. For example, to bring their pan-African segmentation model alive, MTN has created various consumer segment collateral items such as table talkers, multimedia and visuals to distribute to the staff.

In conclusion,because so much importance has been placed on the subject of relevance, we have tended to over-complicate, over-engineer and over-think how to be relevant. Yellowwood's white paper demonstrates that being relevant to your consumers means reminding yourself that regardless of which segment of the market you are targeting, you are still targetingpeople- not numbers, foot traffic or income segments. It is only then that you'll know more about your market than anyone else; and it's only then that you will be getting relevance right. 


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