Who is your target audience? What do you know about those people? Most marketing efforts include consumer research, but too often that research provides a narrow, limited view of consumers, seeing them only as consumers rather than as three-dimensional human beings. By 'opening the aperture' and taking a broader view of the people you're trying to reach, with a fuller sense of who they are, you can transform the way you approach your marketing.
'So, tell me,' I begin, looking at the eight people gathered around the overpolished conference table, blinking in the fluorescent lights. The group has been selected because they all have something in common: They are all devoted users of my client's product. They've come here to share their insight, to give me the insider's view on-
'Cream cheese. Let's talk about cream cheese. Now, how exactly do you go about spreading cream cheese on your bagel? Let's start with this end of the table . . . '
Everyone knows that businesses are supposed to do consumer-led research, but in fact they look at people through a narrow perspective: How do they interact with My Product? We know these people only in terms of their behavior within a category: We know them as heavy users of cotton balls or car wax. This (naturally) provides you with only a tiny piece of who these people are-it doesn't give you enough juice to understand how to reinvent the whole brand.
When there is only narrow research and understanding, the brand itself appears narrow. You have to widen the aperture, to see the user in a broader context. Brands that do this take on a fuller dimension themselves. Take a look at Ben & Jerry's-it assumes that its consumers care about other things besides ice cream. The VW Bug has a sense of wit about it-it was designed to evoke a smile, not just mimic every other streamlined box on wheels.
How do you go about opening your aperture and seeing the consumer in a fuller way? First, you need to make the Copernican Shift in your point of view.