It is an age old question in marketing, and one that mostly every organization struggles with on a regular basis. The essence of marketing involves fulfilling perceived needs, which is true in both a B2B and B2C setting. One viewpoint could be that there are more tools than ever available to marketers to examine customer behaviors and interactions, yet it appears marketers aren’t fully optimizing how they are using tools. Big data is one part of how marketers are looking for insight to guide brand decisions, but big data to this point has not proven infallible. A MarketingCharts article indicated that most Americans feel that marketers don’t really understand them, and there was some data in the story that showed that this was more than just an American thing, as global data also supported this notion.
What marketers generally do a good job of is demographic segmentation. Marketers can often have a decent understanding of their target markets based on age, income, educational attainment, etc. Marketers are still encountering issues on the psychographic and behavioral side of the equation, understanding how mindset and lifestyle impact purchase decisions. Granted, some organizations have made amazing strides in this sort of analysis. In early 2012, Target received a lot of press for figuring out that a teen girl was pregnant before her father did. The example, albeit dramatic, underscores how data interactions, if used to their fullest capacity, can produce marketing that is really on target. In the specific Target example, they found patterns in early stage pregnancy purchasing behavior, which could make later advertising efforts more effective.
However, the most important insights that marketers can have are the leading edge insights. Often times, the best marketers lead the pack because they figured out a creative solution to a problem that hadn’t fully been considered before. The problems could be big or there could be a slight alteration in the product that could open up a competitive advantage. This is also not the easiest thing to accomplish, and the problem would intensify without a preponderance of data. The history of marketing is littered with examples of marketers who thought that they had found a niche in the marketplace that had yet to exploited, yet totally missed the mark because the niche that they had anticipated did not exist or only proved to be a fraction of the size originally anticipated, and that fraction wasn’t large enough to get to profitability. Nevertheless, the highest rewards come from this mindset, and companies would be remiss if they weren’t continually exploring new options for competitive advantage via innovation. The world is not static and a rapidly changing world provides a myriad of opportunities for brands to discover unmet needs and apply their expertise to these unmet needs.