How Comprehensive Customer Knowledge Helps Dominant Organizations Win

The reason that Apple and other industry-dominating organizations, like Harley-Davidson and IKEA, consistently beat out their competition is that they have a deep, comprehensive understanding of who their best customers are.

Truly knowing your customers requires moving beyond demographic data into the nuanced realm of human nature, a zone where imagery, color, and emotional tone are more powerful than logic or price. Up to 90 percent of all customer behavior is unconscious.  We come hard-wired with deep seated wants, needs, and desires that play a critical role in every decision we make—whether or not we’re aware of them.

It is by delving into the unconscious motivators that guide an organization’s best customer’s decision making process that a dominant organization can realize an unbeatable competitive advantage: predictability.  When you understand what causes your customers to act the way they do, you can predict, with a high degree of certainty, how they’ll react to any change in the customer-brand relationship. That could mean a new product, a new marketing message, or the way you set up your physical retail space or website. Knowing customer reactions ahead of time allows you to pick the most profitable endeavors and side-step the mistakes—before you make them.

What does this look like in the real world? Here are four ways dominant organizations have leveraged their superior customer understanding:

#1 – Wendy’s Is Winning

Once upon a time, Burger King had the #2 position in the fast food market sewn up tight.  Lately, however, it’s not so good to be the king.  An inability to correctly identify, understand, and connect with their target market has resulted in lackluster performance at home and overseas, while an ill-advised marketing campaign featuring a creepy, cartoonish King alienated more customers than it attracted. Meanwhile, Wendy’s is winning by honing in on the profitable upscale end of the fast food marketplace and determining, in great detail, what those customers want and continually evolving their menu to delight those customers.  The recipe works: today Wendy’s is very close to capturing the #2 position.

#2 – Volkswagen’s Victory

It is no coincidence that Volkswagen is highlighting their car’s safety record at the exact point when the majority of their most loyal customers are starting their families.  We all come equipped (standard issue!) with the need to nurture; this is one of those biologically drivers humanity relies upon to ensure the continuation of the species. There is no point at which this drive is stronger than when one is in the presence of a small infant. The marketing campaign for the Jetta is aimed directly at the unconscious, with strong, nurturing men—at times holding actual babies—discussing the safety and security the brand offers.  Sales of the Jetta have been record breaking.

#3 – Snickers Gets Satisfaction

Snickers was struggling to find their place in a crowded market. One big problem was they were attempting to sell candy bars to people who didn’t particularly want candy bars. The company analyzed their sales patterns, hoping to discern who was buying their candy. This research revealed that peak purchasing times happened mid-afternoon; construction workers on break and kids on their way to basketball practice valued the role Snicker’s plentiful peanuts played in quieting rumbling stomachs. This was a pivotal insight. Snicker rebranded itself not as another type of candy, but as a hunger buster. The tag line, “Hungry? Why wait?” helped emphasize the primary value that was already causing people to choose Snickers, an approach that was so effective that today, Snickers is the world’s leading candy bar.

#4 – Rolls Royce Wins Big

As the Chinese marketplace continues to evolve, dominant organizations are already taking steps to establish their presence efficiently and effectively.  Rolls Royce delved deeply into the culture of China, immersing itself in the country’s metaphorical language and powerful symbology before designing their Special Edition Year of the Dragon Phantom.

The maroon car, which comes with custom embroidery and gold painted dragons, does an admirable job embodying luxury for consider a consumer base that has been raised with markedly different experiences, iconography, cultural narratives, values, and mores than that of the maker.  Each one cost $1.2 million.  The entire production run sold out in less than 2 months.

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