Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Absent from blogosphere

At times life can be really hectic. So absolutely no time to blog, even worse, no time to read what others are writing. You get so little time to do so much more and you sit back wondering 'why with me?' Anyway. Been traveling like crazy. Consumer contact program at Chennai one day, Cochin the next day to understand retailer's grievance and so it goes ... Rich experience though.

Meeting people from all over south India to find out what makes them choose, select, buy and buy again a particular product or brand is indeed an enriching experience. They have so much to tell you. You have so much to learn from them. Now I realize why it's not an easy job being a planner. Sure research agencies does their best to enlighten us but meeting people in-person and figuring out how they use a product in real life, the preparation, the process and what the brand actually mean in their lives, honestly, I don't think any research agency actually captures that in-depth. It business for them, not passion (if you know what I mean.) And let me assure you, you'll never find any real depth in a research ppt unless you do it and see it for yourself. The sheer amount of knowledge and learning is mind boggling. Plus you get to try out all the authentic south Indian dishes at their houses. It's like Consumer Couch Surfing. I mean it is fashionable and up-to-date to say Consumer Couch Surfing rather than saying you're doing an anthropology study or an ethnographic study. Isn't it?

This is no bollocks. I think every advertising professional in our industry, be it a creative, planning or servicing - must do a stint in Consumer Couch Surfing. It should be a part of their KRA's. The only reason why am saying this, it will save lot of time and energy of our often worthless endless hours of closed door 'brainstorming session' in the conference room. We honestly don't know a shot about our consumers. The results actually reflects that. Anyway. Just my poor way of thinking. But something inside me tells me, it is a smarter way to work.

So what is Consumer Couch Surfing: To put is very badly, it is surfing the couch of your consumers and spending time with them at their place and living their lives for some days.

How to be an effective Consumer Couch Surfer:
- Understand the requirement of your brand. Why you want to do a study? What you want to study, observe, learn and gain from the exercise? This is the first stepping stone, so be clear in your head.
- Identify a strong market and weak market for your brand. You need to do your study at both this places and compare the same to generate your own hypotheses, theories, deductions etc.
- Understand your audience, demo, psycho and emographics.
- Based on your understanding of your audience and which market (strong or weak), you need to identify a person or family you want to stay with. The most important point to note here is, the person or family has to be a complete stranger. Someone whom you never knew and be living with them for the first time
- Find out a way to communicate with them in case you don't speak their language
- Never bug them with questions, it is a slow process not a rapid fire FGD
- Follow and obey the rules they have in their house
- Be an active part and contribute to their lives each day
- Make sure you win their respect and trust

I think that's what I am doing at the moment. And it is helping me in more ways than I ever thought was possible. This will continue till end of March. Will write another post on my first experience with Consumer Couch Surfing. Hopefully, I'll be able to share my learnings with you in a months time.


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