Extreme consumers – approach with care

I love the idea that marketers are researching their products on so-called ‘extreme consumers’ – people who are either obsessed with their brands or use them an awful lot.

Lucy Handley

So consider the man who has rigged up his house so he knows exactly what appliances his wife is using at any given time, when he is not there. Or the woman who is obsessed with cleaning and has become an expert on products and which ones do the best job.

The former is an example of someone that EDF has used to help with its research – as its head of insight Marcus Taylor points out, most people are not really engaged with who is providing their energy.

It must be brilliant to find the people who pretty much know more about your products than you do – because how many marketing or insight people are actually day-to-day customers of their brands? Or even the chief executive – I bet Bob Diamond doesn’t frequent a Barclays high street branch. But that is another topic altogether.

Finding these people has become easier than ever, due to forums and social media, which can be a vital resource for brands.

Mobile network Giffgaff has several extreme people in its community – one guy has read all the terms and conditions carefully and can answer questions for others, and another has gone to service stations down the M4 and noted what kind of signal he is getting at each one.

But using extreme consumers must be done carefully and, as Adam Margolin at Spar says, they add a layer of interest, rather than being the be-all and end-all.

Marketers told me they do get surprised about how people are using their products. Although people are human and all have quirks of personality or preference, the trick is to work out which of these is widespread versus the ones that just seem wacky.

Ultimately, consumers themselves will decide how they use what you provide to them and the challenge for research is to find out what people are actually doing – extreme or not.

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