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Denise Lee Yohn - Brand as Business™ Brief

06.07.11 vol 037

Hello Friends and Colleagues!

If you’re like most business leaders, you understand the importance of customer intimacy but struggle to achieve it.

This brief is intended to inspire your thinking about customer intimacy.  It includes:
-  an introduction to two retailers that have designed their businesses to fill the full range of their customers’ needs
-  an overview of a few techniques that help you get closer to your customers

If you’d like to learn other tools and approaches for achieving customer intimacy, please let me know.


Filling Shopping Bags by Filling Needs

For the retail industry, the Great Recession has become the Great Malaise.  As Janet Hoffman, managing director of the retail practice at Accenture, says, "The cards are stacked against the consumer right now and retailers will have to work hard to bring them into stores."  I’m guessing that for most retailers, “work hard” will translate into aggressive promotion. 

But sales and price promotions are a short-term, reactionary approach that usually denigrates the brand, crushes profitability, and trains customers to only buy on sale.  The path out of the malaise and into sustainable brand health and business growth requires a far more customer-centered approach

To thrive in the long-term, retailers must remember they’re in the business of doing more than moving product out the door.  Retail experiences must fill customers’ rational, tangible, and emotional needs.   

Intimacy, a women’s intimate apparel chain with 15 stores, and Hot Mama, a 17-unit chain selling designer clothing for moms, provide excellent examples of retailers who are doing more than selling product – they’re filling customers’ needs and their shopping bags.

read full blogpost

Getting Closer to Customers

When it comes to understanding your customers, traditional market research methodologies and “listening” through social media will only get you so far.  Consider some more progressive approaches:

Projective techniques – In qualitative consumer research, projective techniques allow you to dig beneath the surface answers that people often offer in traditional focus groups.  Adapted from psychology, projective techniques use ambiguous stimuli, analogous frameworks, and multi-media/multi-dimensional exercises to uncover more deeply felt, frequently subconscious attitudes, needs, and values.

  • e.g., Thematic Apperception Test – People are exposed to an illustration of an expressionless consumer in a situation relevant to the topic of inquiry.  They are asked to fill in the thoughts and feelings that the person in the illustration is experiencing.  This allows respondents to express themselves in the third person, which in turn prompts them to disclose more than when they talk directly about themselves.
  • e.g., Obituaries – People are asked to write an obituary for a brand as if that brand had passed away.  They are instructed to write in the style of announcements for the death of a person found in newspapers.  This technique explores the consumer’s perception of and associations with the brand, especially its equities, health, and unique points of strength and weakness.

Cultural scan and semiotic analysis – A lot can be learned simply by auditing and analyzing the communications and experiences in your customers’ lives.  This desk research-based, anthropological approach involves:

  • auditing the verbal (words/phrases/messages) and visual (signs/symbols) vocabulary currently used by your customers and the people, organizations, and brands they encounter on a regular basis
  • conducting semiotic analysis – the study of the meaning, interpretations, and goals of the vocabulary -- to understand its significance
  • applying the learning to identify customer trends and trajectories and to generate new brand, product, design, communications, and creative concepts.

Service Spotlight:  Research

Customer and Consumer Research

If customer intimacy is your priority, I work with you to identify and/or clarify the desired learning and then develop a customized  research approach to deliver robust insights and implications. 

I select and creatively apply a full-range of anthropological, qualitative, and quantitative methodologies.

Download an overview and contact me to learn more.

Discover how my other “brand as business” services help all business leaders achieve their brand and business objectives. 

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Denise Lee Yohn has been inspiring and teaching companies how to operationalize their brands to grow their businesses for over 20 years. World-class brands including Sony, Frito-Lay, Burger King, and Nautica have called on Denise, an established speaker, author, and consulting partner. For more information, visit www.deniseleeyohn.com
Denise Lee Yohn

denise lee yohn, inc.
917-446-9325  |  @deniseleeyohn
mail@deniseleeyohn.com  |  www.deniseleeyohn.com