Some marketing problems make us feel like those codebreaking experts in the movies who stare at a wall full of numbers trying to pick out patterns that mean something. We expect the solution to pop out, but it rarely does. Because it’s not in the data, it’s in the questions we ask. And the more data we have or the more complex the problem, the more it helps to have a simple approach, to go back to the basics.
In marketing, the basic question is not what or how. It’s who. Who are we trying to reach? Approaching challenges or opportunities with the consumer foremost in our mind gives us the right perspective to make sense of data and find a workable solution.
Maybe your advertising campaign is not working or its ROI is not what you hoped for. You’ve tried A, you’ve tried B. You’ve tweaked it this way and that and can’t figure out what’s wrong. So go back to the basics. Ask yourself (or even better, ask your target consumer); who is this meant for? That will get you on the right track with the rest of the questions in the proper order: is it the right target? Is the underlying need correct? Is the insight accurate? Is the key message well expressed? Is the call to action clear and easy? Is it compelling? Is it reaching them (to misquote Yogi Berra) where they are?
No matter how many variables the marketing issue has, or how overwhelming the amount of data, going back to the basics –the consumer– helps.
Just for fun, let’s see how this approach would work for our codebreaking expert. Forget all those numbers on the wall. Who is the target? People. What do they want? To communicate using a language. What language do they know? One that is written with words and letters. Well, we know some letters are used more often than others, probably in a measurable proportion. So we can approach our codebreaking problem by asking which of the numbers on the wall appear in the same proportion as the letters in language. And it all started because we went back to the basics, to the simple question. Who.