Steps to truly understand your customer

Nathalia Figueiredo has been leading insight work for some of the world’s biggest brands for the last 15 years, including Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Allergan. She spoke to the Mindlab Academy about how she approaches consumer research.

What motivates you in your insight work?

“In my first role, what resonated with me was the importance of having empathy with the consumer. What is the consumer need? And can we even anticipate their needs in our innovations? That’s what still drives me to this day: how can we improve people’s lives by bringing something new to market that attends to their needs and helps them live better.

“The way to do that is to put yourself in their shoes. It’s not easy but once you’re there, everything becomes clearer and it simplifies the whole process.”

How do you put yourself in the consumer’s shoes?

“The first step is to go and talk to people in your target audience in an environment where they feel comfortable and confident to talk about themselves – that could be online, or it could be in their home. Come from the humble position of: “I am here to learn from you”.

“Ask questions about their background to understand their motivations. Exhaust the “why” question! And then ask, “What else?”. This starts to go beyond getting a cortex-based response.”

If that’s the first step, how do you then uncover their untold, unmet needs – those that not even consumers are fully aware of? Can you give us an example from one of your insight projects?

“When I worked on a campaign for baby products, we sought to truly understand the needs of today’s mothers. Maternity is changing, families are changing, so we wanted to know how mums feel in that environment.

“First, we talked to mothers. Empathy takes us to the consumer but it doesn’t explain every behaviour. When we ask them direct questions, they will answer rationally – they can’t tell us their intuitive response.”

What was the result off that research?

“By being holistic, we got to a much deeper level of understanding with the consumer, one that interviewing alone wouldn’t achieve. It allowed marketing and the creatives to be brave and go beyond the status quo on the development of their campaigns, and do so with much greater confidence than before.”

What else made that project a success?

“Listening to our agencies – they are the experts! Getting them to respond to a laundry list won’t get the best answers. As clients, we need to allow them to bring their expertise to the table. Tell them the problem, give them the whole background and ask what they think is the best approach.”

What developments are you most excited about within the industry?

“The fact that technology is enabling us to take our empathy to new levels. For the next generation of consumers, probably the way to generate more empathy will be through online tools rather than face-to-face.

“But beyond that, tech also means we can bring the same empathy which once belonged to quals into quant studies as well – because we can undertake more in-depth studies faster and understand intuitive reactions more easily.”

Thanks for your time and advice, Nathalia!


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