Russell Parsons: Don’t make the mistake of assuming customers behave like you

Marketers are earlier adopters of most new technology than the consumers they serve, so it’s dangerous to make media plans on the basis that your personal habits are universal.


You are not the same as your target market. In attitudes and behaviour, values and political beliefs, it’s unlikely you mirror those who buy your products and services.

The shock felt by the vast majority of those in the marketing and creative industries when the British public voted to leave the European Union underlined this.

Elsewhere, research unveiled last week by Ipsos Connect and Thinkbox shows that those who are responsible for choosing where advertising budgets are spent are more advanced in their social media use, on-demand viewing and always-on connectivity than Joe or Josephine Public.

READ MORE: Advertisers missing a trick by underestimating TV viewing

With regard to technology adoption, brands also appear to be ahead of their audience. A report last week by Verint and IDC found 79% of people would prefer real-life human interaction over a digital or machine-based one. Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other sexy new toys may capture the imagination of the forward-thinking marketer but do they add value for the majority of consumers?

Don’t get me wrong, being ahead of the adoption curve is an admirable thing. Not sharing the same world view or media consumption habits as your customers is not a problem as long as you do not forget this golden rule when setting marketing strategy: don’t assume your customers are as you are, or are fired up by what you are. You know nothing about your customer until you bother to find out.

That doesn’t mean marketers shouldn’t be looking at new ways to reach customers, meet their needs, anticipate changes and use the tools available to them. However, chasing the future at the expense of the present is not the answer. Make media, technology and service choices on the basis of actual behaviour and not how you think people behave.

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