Traditional segmentation studies just don’t cut the mustard these days. In a world of saturated markets, abundant consumer choice, endless information sources and evolving behaviours, to ‘do as we always have done’ is the route to decline. In the pursuit of growth, we need to be smarter to hunt the demand, upon which any brand’s life does indeed depend.
Consumers are now super-consumers: informed, opinionated and highly connected. They expect brands to be more ethical, accessible and more flexible than ever. In short, consumers are complex. And their ability to choose between brands has grown exponentially. Some brands have reacted to this well, finding ways to ‘live’ in everyday lives by creating irresistible experiences across multiple touch points – if your brand cannot multi-task it needs to learn, fast.
So where exactly does this growth nirvana lie? Navigating towards this goal has become so complex that achieving sustainable growth is hard. It is our role as insight marketers to simplify this complexity so strategic choices are easier to make. It is about identifying where demand lies in the total market, not just segments of it: knowing how different types of people satisfy different types of needs on different types of occasion – or put simply creating a ‘Demand Framework’. This is a clear view of your whole market, plotting where your brands sit and highlighting where the opportunities are for your business to grab hold of to grow and, importantly, how.
If you think about it, how many different times have you fancied a snack today before you started reading this? The guy sitting opposite you probably has too, only a different snack, at a different time. You may be grateful for breakfast biscuits in the morning dash, whilst he savours them mid-morning. If your brand portfolio is only targeting one need or the other it could be missing a trick. Similarly you could have brands competing for the same need. Step back and assess which parts of the portfolio require investment for growth, which may need to be culled, and where there’s an opportunity space for something new. It can be quite radical. The end goal has to be to win as much of the demand space as possible, but with as few brands as necessary.
Understanding how people, needs and occasions interact is definitely time well spent. Delivering a demand-led growth plan, backed up with insights that tell you the value and size of the demand spaces will inspire not just your CFO but engage the whole business to get behind it and make it succeed.
You will need it to be future-proofed: take a look through the lens of culture to see how these spaces will grow, evolve and shift to become more valuable in the future. A small demand space today could be a key source of growth in 3 years’ time. Just rewind to our breakfast example: The need for ‘healthy eating on the go’ has grown massively in the past decade – think about breakfast biscuits, Oats So Simple Oat bar or Innocent Smoothies. Understanding changing trends in work, lifestyles and health predicted this need was going to grow from something niche into something mainstream.
Lastly, you will need a rich nuanced view of the demand spaces through consumer and cultural understanding to know how you can win in them. You will need springboards for inspiration to bring these opportunities to life, and make the product or service reality. If your demand space is around “evening time together at home”, for example, you will need to uncover what this world is all about; its cultural meaning and expression, its associations and influences, and where you can draw inspiration from in order to build ideas and winning routes forward.
Today people have a holistic view of brands wrapped around their different needs and occasions. This needs to be unravelled to create growth plans that are clear and easy to execute.
In short, in order to realise growth today you need to feel confident with your simple (not simplistic) insight-led demand framework, know it is future proofed and be armed with a deep understanding of the cultural meaning of the opportunities you have. Growth may not be easy to find but start with transformational consumer, market & cultural insight that identifies true demand and it’s a lot simpler to supply the perfect solution.
By Nic Bulois