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Why Playing Fast and Loose With Customers Is a Good Thing

April 19, 2012

Why Playing Fast and Loose With Customers Is a Good Thing

Mark Twain once said, "Never let formal education get in the way of your learning." I couldn't agree more, especially when it comes to customer strategy.

Look around at different campaigns out there trying to entice new customers or programs that reward existing customers. How long have they been in the market? Are they effective? Most of them, sadly, aren't. And here's why. Brace yourself people...this secret hits the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to messaging and product development:

There's an indisputable certainty about all customers - no matter where they live, how old they are or what language they speak. They change...constantly; their attitudes, desires, interests, opinions and so on. This is the beauty of being human - we evolve, though some do it more slowly than others.

Look back six months ago - do you like the same movies now? Music? Food? Pens? Cars? Colors? Books? TV shows? Campaigns aren't usually effective for very long because companies forget that people change.

When developing an acquisition campaign, loyalty program or a new product - forget everything you think you know and toss all preconceived ideas out the window. I'm sorry to say that the vast majority of it is irrelevant. Over the years I've helped launch hundreds of different card programs. In all of them, what was the one key to success to ensuring that the message hit the target? Customers told us exactly what they do and don't want. And it changes all the time.

Believe it or not, there is a science and an art to it. At the core of each of these is an understanding of how the human mind works from a marketing perspective. In a nutshell, we all have active interests and latent interests. What this means is that anyone can tell you right away that they like chocolate ice cream. However, it takes an external variable, or prompt, to allow that same person to bring to the active part of their brain the fact that they really like Belgian chocolate ice cream. It may seem like a very subtle difference, but these latent wants are the true drivers of acquisition and on-going loyalty.

Don't believe me? Here's an example. If I asked you what you look for when buying a car, you could probably list 10-15 aspects before you ran out of ideas. Now imagine that I present you with a list of 30, 40 or 50 aspects of a car. My guess is that there would be a bunch of them that interest you once you saw them. And that's what companies need to capture from consumers - the interests that they didn't realize they had. Think of the exercise as an iceberg -- one sees the obvious above the surface of the water, but the real mass is beneath.

Peppers & Rogers Group utilizes a number of sophisticated tools which harness deep consumer insights in a fast and meaningful way to pull the latent interests into the active part of the mind. More importantly however, the tools allow clients to refresh the insights frequently to keep up with shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviors. They include segmentation, predictive modeling, and customized research tools to understand the attributes of each company's unique customer base (more of which we'll detail in my next blog post). Many of these tools are created to solve changing customer and client needs. They don't fit into cookie-cutter molds, nor are they designed for a one-and-done approach to customer strategy.

When it comes time for you to craft messaging, rewards or products to your current or prospective customer base, don't forget to heed Mr. Twain's advice - forget what you learned in school!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for JONATHAN-MARCUS-for-bio.jpgAbout the author: Jonathan Marcus is a Peppers & Rogers Group subject matter expert in the area of financial services payments. Contact him at

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