Step into your average CEO brand review meeting and invariably you’ll find something missing. Amid the talk of new products to launch, new advertising campaigns to broadcast, product packaging to revise or the P&L for the business, one hears little mention of the engine that should be driving any consumer goods brand plan: consumers.
It’s rare for CEOs to be presented with consumer insights—the hard evidence that should be supporting any brand or product decision. And when brand managers mention consumer data in brand review meetings, it’s most likely in the context of surveys that do a better job of describing consumers’ claimed aspirations, or justifying product launches, than their actual behavior in the stores or their usage at home.
It is ironic. Consumer products companies have become too product focused and not consumer focused. R&D churns out new products, and Marketing tries to figure out how to market these products to consumers.
Why is a focus on consumers so important? As we explain in “The biggest contributor to brand growth,” to keep a brand moving forward companies need to continuously invest to increase the number of buyers, not focus on boosting purchase frequency. The trouble is, too many executives fail to investigate the consumer insights that will show them—in hard numbers—how there’s far more room to grow penetration than they ever imagined.
Want to glimpse the upside potential for any brand? Next time you have a brand strategy meeting, throw out the projected P&L, the product launch plans and the price increase analysis. Instead, ask how consumers shop, what they are actually doing with your products and what you can do to increase household penetration. As a CEO or general manager, you will send the signal about what matters.