As someone who has built many, many brands over the years, I can tell you from experience that the most important job in the process is getting inside the consumer’s head to figure out what the heck they’re thinking. About your product, about competitor products, about the million other things they have to worry about in an average day.

This is important stuff. If you unearth a thought that triggers a consumer to think kindly about your product, you’re one step closer to selling it.

However, the process can also make you nuts. Especially when you slide into paralysis by analysis. Wondering (real story) if diet bar consumers are thinking of your bar when they’re in a positive mood about their impending wedding, or slightly pensive mood. How many thousands in research did we spend to come to that impasse? Too many.

At times like these, it pays to pull back a bit into the realm of common sense, and perhaps ponder what would make you buy your product. Obvious? Yes. Seldom done? Yes.

where do you suck? fix it!

I’ve always loved McDonald’s. When I was growing up, my family would go once a week. I still recall exactly what I ordered: a Big Mac, Filet O’ Fish, fries and chocolate sundae. Hey, I was a growing boy.

When I was assigned to work on the account, I was super stoked. I knew exactly how to sell these products to kids (and dads) like myself.

There was just…one…problem.

I was  a big fan of McDonald’s breakfasts. But the coffee? Seriously? It was axle grease remover.

My client at the time was a great guy. I had no problem talking about the bad coffee with him. Turns out, he hated the coffee too. In fact, he hated it so much that he was actively agitating with head office to get some game on the coffee front.

I imagine it was his input (as well as the input from many other McDonald’s decision makers) that led to the introduction of the awesome coffee that McDonald’s offers now.

A lesser client would’ve been offended at the frank critiques he received. He may have gotten defensive, or evasive, or passive aggressive. And the coffee would’ve remained terrible.

Hello Dairy Queen, Burger King, Wendys? Check your coffee pot.

are you missing a major market?

Marlboro cigarettes launched as a ladies’ brand. It’s true. And while I wasn’t sitting around the boardroom table as the tobacco execs were looking at their anemic sales, I can’t imagine the decision to change to a macho male brand came from researcher insights. The leap was simply too far.

I’d postulate that it was one of the execs thinking hard what he wanted in a cigarette. What he, a stressed out downtown Manhattan exec about to lose his job, would want in a cigarette. Hmmmm… perhaps a cigarette that would take him far, far away from his troubles. To Wyoming, say.

Are you working on a brand targeted at the opposite gender? Or a brand targeted at boomers, and you’re a millenial? Or at suburban dwellers, and you’re downtown? Have you ever thought what would make you want to buy that product?  What sort of tweaks would make your product truly useful to you? What would make it look like a breath of fresh air in your market?

eliminate the friction around your  product

You may love your product. But the ‘what would I like’ analysis shouldn’t end there.

Try to buy your product online. Call the help desk. Go to the online chat service on your website. I can virtually guarantee you’ll find points of friction, where your product has made itself hard to love. The best product in the world will gather dust on the shelf if there are points of friction in the purchase or service process.

ponder

The greatest enemy to this process is noise. Getting caught up in the process of marketing. Not taking a moment to simply sit and ponder.

If nothing else, putting your feet up on the table to reflect on what would make your product appeal to you will dust out the cobwebs, and perhaps get you thinking along a new path. Hey, it never hurts.

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