This happened to me.

In a Branding & Advertising module I took in college, we had to create a Christmas campaign for Gap. An executive from the local office came to class and presented the brief to us. The objective was to increase sales during the holidays and increase brand awareness. The class was split into groups, and the goal was to come in first.

It was an exciting project for someone like myself who was interested in the creative industry. I spent 13 weeks with my group mates, developing an ad campaign. It was the hardest I had worked, but one of the most fun I have had as well. We took a long time to think about what our target clients wanted. After weeks of brainstorming, we reckoned we had a come up with a brilliant core idea, and devised all our strategies around the big idea, while keeping in line with the brief.

Came presentation day, we pumped everything we could into the presentation. There was music, there was a skit, there were huge posters that we printed, there was even poetry reading! Our audience was engaged and we as a group had a good feeling about nailing the brief.

Hours later, the result was announced. Eventually it boiled down to us and another group with a much duller presentation. We were confident. Our group name came up next – we were second in place.

What? Why? 

Everyone was shocked.

How could we have lost? It was truly disappointing. Then we were told the group that came in first had done a survey with potential clients. They tried not to think up an idea from thin air, but used research to derive an insight, which they then built their campaign on. The client was impressed with the survey result because it lent authenticity to the campaign and therefore felt the strategy make sense.

Even though that was just a project, and we did come in second, the lesson learned was priceless. Second does not cut it in the real world. If this were a real pitch, we would have lost the business. The experience left me with such a deep impression that from then on, I would start every campaign with first getting insight and input from my target audience.


You do not chop a tree with scissors.

To be able to gain insight into what our customers want or think is so precious. The information could lead to the creation of the next big thing for a business. The insight would set a solid foundation for a campaign to stand firmly on. It can save you time, manpower and money wasted on features or campaigns that are irrelevant, unwanted  or ineffective.

Insight is not only important from a client’s perspective. Insight is also needed to help a brand get to the core of the issue – the problem that needs solving; and at the same time, get to the heart and soul of what you as a business stands for, and answer how you can solve the client’s problem.

A successful brand story would mean weaving both aspects together, creating an emotional connection with your audience.

Customers must always be involved when developing a marketing or branding strategy. Yet many companies forget that. They think they can do it in a vacuum without the input of customers. When you do not care about your customers’ opinions, you alienate them. To make a lasting impression in your customers in today’s overcrowded marketplace, you need a strong brand that can connect deeply with customers. You need to understand a customer’s need before you can even think about offering a solution.

how to build a brand with customer insight

Here is a chart to briefly illustrate some methods of gaining customer insights.

  1. Observe and listen.
  2. Talk it out.
  3. Understand your target audience.

You should always insist on listening to your target audience if you can, and talk to them to ask relevant questions. This is one of the more straight forward way of getting answers, or useful ideas that could help you solve you customers’ problem.

Observing your target audience could mean tagging along (with permission of course!) your customer, or going to venues where your target clients might frequent. Take note of what they do, their reactions, their emotions. Listen in if you can, on conversations, or approach some customers and ask them a few questions in exchange for a treat or a discount. If you prefer to do it online, send them questionnaires and offer them a gift or coupon code for next purchase. Single out your star clients and chat with them online via Facebook or initiate a Skype call. Forums are a great place to hear out opinions as well, if you know where to look.

What active observation and listening do is to help you identify the real issue bugging your clients, their specific needs and preferences, and then hopefully that can prompt you to develop a solution for them.

Coupling that with mapping out what an ideal client’s life is, from the moment she wakes up to the first thing she does; how she gets to work, and how her work day unfolds, what does she do after work, how does she spend her weekends, who does she spend her time with, where does she go…. the more detailed you can be, the more you can paint a picture of what a potential client’s life is like, and that positions you in a good place to understand her.

With insight, we can arrive at the truth of what our customers really want and need. With insight to our own business, we know what we are capable of, and what we are weak in. There is nothing wrong with being imperfect and admitting our weaknesses. Because that is the first step to motivating us to improve. By truly understanding ourselves, can we then serve our customers well.

Insights can be used to develop opportunities for a brand to reach out and connect with their target audience. Do not underestimate it, because that could likely be a differentiating factor between success and failure.


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