Uncovering Growth

02 Aug 2013|Nic Bulois

There’s a lot for agencies and marketers to appreciate in Mad Men: the glamour, the style, let’s be honest, the simplicity of selling stuff to consumers.

It used to be the case that if your product was a habitual purchase you simply triggered trial by telling consumers that yours satisfied their need better than others on the shelf. So, detergent got clothes whiter; toilet roll became softer and mints mintier. And segmentation of the market involved looking at the needs for each occasion, irrespective of who you were talking to. So soft drinks were segmented based on refreshment, hydration or energy; chewing gum on freshness, flavour hit or boredom relief.

Similarly, if your product had a higher price tag, the trick was to tell consumers what it would say about them, how it would make them better people, or at least appear better people.  An Amex card oozed wealth and prestige, an Apple Mac shouted creativity, and rolling up in a Mini Cooper was only for the positively zany. Segmentation was used to delve deeper into the lives of your audience looking at their attitudes, or life-stage, or any other key proxy for who they were and understand how what they bought needed to reinforce, change or improve who they were.

Then there was ‘Life before Digital’. Restricted media choices meant people watched the same four or five TV channels, listened to the same commercial radio stations and read the same newspapers. Media buying was a simpler art, although arguably more cluttered: the next big thing from Mattell hooked kids on Saturday mornings in between their TV programmes. Carling ads tempted guys in between live football matches whilst girls hummed the Bodyform tune in between segments of Blind Date.

Of course, consumers were never actually this one dimensional; they were just restricted to the traditional shopping and media channels that were available to them.

Reliance on stereotypes, knowing either your audience attitudes and life stage or their needs, in isolation, is not enough.  Today, consumers are super-consumers: informed, opinionated and connected through social media. They expect brands to be more ethical than ever, more accessible than ever, and more flexible than ever.

Leading global businesses are responding with products to meet these demands: vitamin water, lacto free milk, electric cars, mobile check-in, even electric cigarettes.  But one man’s indulgence is another man’s health. And sometimes, it’s the same man.  In fact, getting to the nub of how to find where growth lies and achieve your brands’ or business’s growth ambitions relies on knowing how different types of people satisfy different types of needs on different types of occasions – or put simply a demand space that clearly defines your market and shows the opportunities for your business to harness and grow as well as how.

Marrying people with needs is what happens in the real world.  Segmentation studies which don’t do this make the world simpler.  But they don’t help you plan YOUR world beyond the obvious and, ultimately, do not help you manage the complex world you are faced with.  Here’s why – and more importantly, here’s what you can do about it. Let’s take beer as an example.

Beer is a category where a person’s needs can change several times in one day depending on who they are and what they are doing. A ‘wind-down’ occasion for a group of students may well be higher energy experience than a ‘wind-up’ occasion for a mature couple.  So, if your brand portfolio is only targeting one need or the other it could be missing a trick. You should take the opportunity to assess which parts of the portfolio require investment for growth, and which may need to be culled.

Indeed, taking the time to truly understand how people and needs interact will deliver a demand-led growth plan that has more chance to inspire and to succeed.  And to achieve this, creating a map of future-proofed demand spaces will help you identify the easiest wins and how to capitalise on them. After all, uncovering the insights that tell you both the value and size of relevant demand-spaces is what is expected of today’s marketer. It’s an approach that will enable you to establish intuitive and simple (but not simplistic) consumer-led demand frameworks, which get you under the skin of today’s complex super-consumers, to help your brands grow effectively and sustainably.

So ask yourself these questions: “who doesn’t buy us today who might in the near future?” and “what if we became indispensable for those times when people buy us or need us most?” because understanding the demand spaces in your market will enable you to uncover growth and get ahead of the game.



Article written by Nic Bulois, Director, UK

An adaptation of this article was published in Marketing – Greater Insight Essays – August 2013.


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