Newswise — In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Marcus Collins, clinical assistant professor of marketing, highlights the importance of utilizing unique sources of customer information to create effective marketing strategies

The article, based on an ethnographic study of McDonald’s customers conducted by Collins during his time as the chief strategy officer of the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, shows how an advanced understanding of consumer intimacy can improve brand-building, marketing campaigns, and more. 

Today’s marketers have mistaken information for intimacy. Information — think traffic, engagement on social networking platforms, purchases, and search queries — consists of the factual representations of events that have taken place,” wrote Collins. “This data can reveal quite a bit about a consumer’s interests, intentions, and desires, and we’ve seen an increasing demand for more data analytics in the marketing function over the past decade. But search behavior, purchase history, and site traffic are not who people are; they are merely byproducts of what people do because of who they are.

Collins emphasizes the importance of understanding consumers from their perspective for successful marketing, which requires setting aside personal biases. This approach fosters a deep connection with customers’ cultural connection to a brand beyond mere data and improves marketing effectiveness. 

Establishing intimacy with consumers requires more than just observing them and talking with them,” wrote Collins. “You must see the world through their lens. This requires setting aside our biases and ethnocentrisms, if only for a moment. We all have a set of beliefs and behaviors that might seem displeasing to some but feel just right to us. For you, the idea of combining multiple sandwiches into one might be unappealing, but to other people, it makes complete sense. Approaching the research with this level of cultural empathy for our consumers helps us see them as people and better understand them as the social actors that we all are.

Overall, the article suggests that combining brand intimacy research with extensive data can significantly enhance marketing outcomes, provided marketers have sufficient curiosity to gain a deeper understanding of their target audiences.

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