Helen Edwards wrote an article for MarketingWeek titled For a true view of the consumer, get them to talk like themselves (July 28, 2022). Edwards states that the most essential marketing podcast is not about marketing at all. It’s BBC’s Listening Project.

« It doesn’t feature any marketing gurus, heavyweights or even journeyman practitioners… The people you hear on it are consumers in the sense that, at some stage, everyone is. But they are not talking in that role – or at least, not much. They are there simply as people, so it’s a reminder to all of us that if we wish to ‘connect with consumers’ we must really connect with the person inside. »

« What makes the format work is that it is not an interview setup, which most podcasts are, and neither is it moderated… The Listening Project is grounding, and we need grounding, doing what we do. »

« Because as marketers we spend an inordinate amount of time listening to what consumers have to say about our brands and our categories – but usually only after we’ve cajoled or bribed them into doing so. That’s efficient in one way – we do need to know what they think – but misleading in another, since we miss out on context, and get no feel for everyday priorities. We also fail to hear and absorb the patterns of unfettered speech, which can put distance between us and them when it comes to communicating our brand messages. At the heart of it, the problem we have created as marketers is that we suffer from an excess of moderation. »

« Unfiltered, unfettered conversations among real people reveal their values and priorities, so make your focus groups more spontaneous and less controlled… One way to achieve it is to ask the group simply to introduce themselves and talk among themselves for the first 15 minutes, perhaps offering them a starter topic loosely related to the sector… The moderator will withdraw. You get what you get. And you’ll be surprised at what it can reveal. »

« I’ve sometimes gone further and asked groups to moderate themselves throughout. You give them a list of subtopics to cover if they can, and leave them to it. It can get random, they can wander, priorities can emerge that are not aligned with your own. But it is richer material in the end. What you lose in control you gain in veracity. »

« There is another habit worth getting into when you’re away from the research setting and there are no consumers in sight. When marketing teams come together for routine sessions, either at the office or online, start each meeting with a revelation of a real, overheard conversation. Rotate it, so everyone gets a chance to share an exchange they’ve happened to hear. Maybe something on the train, or in a shop, or at the gym. It could be about anything; it doesn’t matter. The team member simply relates it, reports it with as much accuracy as possible… You don’t have to infer ‘learnings’. Nobody needs to analyse. It isn’t necessary to use that most overdone word ‘insight’… Think of it simply as a brief moment of tuning in. »

See also Asking For Trouble: Understanding What People Think When You Can’t Trust What They Say by Jon Cohen.

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