July 7, 2014 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Consumer Insights for Effective Marketing
Our goal as a consumer insights company is to provide our clients with a better understanding of their consumer and to use consumer insights to ignite effective marketing.
resources of ConsumerDNA:
Highly experienced, dedicated team to guide effective fielding, study design and analysis/ reporting
Headquarters: Richardson, TX
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – July 7, 2014
CEOCFO: Mr. Kassab, what is the concept at ConsumerDNA?
Mr. Kassab: The concept at ConsumerDNA is to provide a better understanding of the consumer, specifically, informing marketers about what creates value and why consumers make the choices they do. We are about the underlying motivations that drive consumers to make the millions of choices they make between competing brands and products.
CEOCFO: Would you give us an example?
Mr. Kassab: Let me first preface this by talking about consumer choices.
When we look at the day-to-day decisions consumers make we realize it is an extraordinarily complex marketing world we live in.
Take for example the decision by a photography enthusiast not to purchase a higher-end Cannon or Nikon DSLR camera for $700 to $1,000… in favor of using her 5 mega pixel iPhone instead. These are the kind of choices that consumers are making – an iPhone versus a more expensive (which she could afford) DSLR camera. What are the tradeoffs she is making to arrive at this decision?
Or, why a young, single consumer buys three times the rate of Greek-style yogurts as others of equal demographics, or why people select different fashions and clothing styles for themselves. There are very interesting motivations behind the choices consumers make that can inform better brand positioning, product line optimization, communications and product R&D.
Why would someone buy a $500 European coffee maker versus a $50 US brand coffee maker and how can we optimize its packaging and communications to maximize sales?
How and why have some consumers developed intricate digital solutions to shopping and buying? What is the optimal retail and online strategy for one brand/product versus another?
These are the kinds of problems marketers face each day.
CEOCFO: What approach are you taking at Consumer DNA to solve the problem?
Mr. Kassab: ConsumerDNA offers a new integrated approach to consumer insights. We combine proprietary insights frameworks with new digital data collection methods to achieve a better understanding of the target consumer.
One of our proprietary frameworks focuses on understanding the new consumer value equation. This is really the heart of what we do and how we are different. Our research shows that consumers are driven by powerful underlying motivations that determine their category consumption as well as individual brand and product choice. These motivations come in three parts – the need for task accomplishment, personal advancement and “feeling good” – the emotional lift from consuming brands and products.
Consumers must accomplish certain tasks to both survive and thrive. ConsumerDNA has categorized 50 or so main tasks and we feather them out further by product category. Examples of tasks are – the need for nutrition, to transport myself or to communicate. The intensity, or importance, of each task is different for each individual. The point is however that any time marketers can make these life tasks quicker, easier or better, they are one big step closer to selling them their product or brand.
In terms of personal advancement, it is all about moving up Maslow’s hierarchy. These needs are very real for each of us, and powerful drivers of our consumer behavior. Social betterment, and the opportunity to improve capabilities, skills and knowledge, often drive our choices as consumers.
And, to a large degree, we make decisions based on how products make us feel. Human beings are truly challenged from just living on this earth and we work continuously to avoid emotional pain. We constantly strive, basically, to feel better and consuming is one important way we make ourselves feel better. Sometimes, just the look/design or color of the product makes us feel good.
CEOCFO: How are you putting it all together for your customers?
Mr. Kassab: We focus on understanding what creates real value for the consumer.
We start with understanding why consumers consume the category (using the three constructs I spoke of previously) then evaluate where our client’s brands and products stand out.
Having these frameworks in place enables us to guide development of new products or the promotion and communications of products based on the underlying motivations of consumers –a truly consumer centric strategy.
We have created a method (and set of questions) that can be used either qualitatively or quantitatively. So, in any category we can map out the consumer value equation – what consumers are looking for and how well brands and products are delivering.
We can also use these questions as base metrics for quantifying how valuable a new product is or why one product has been successful and another, unsuccessful.
CEOCFO: Who is using your services today?
Mr. Kassab: The good thing for us is that all marketers are challenged really with the same problem. In a free market economy, as you know, we are forced to innovate, to develop advantages over competition. If we do not innovate, we decline and we eventually go away. In order to innovate successfully, companies must understand consumer needs and motivations. To answer your question, the need for this cuts across all industries, and we work across many industries from financial services to consumer packaged goods, apparel and fashion, and new emerging digital shopping technologies.
CEOCFO: When you are speaking with a prospective client, is there an aha moment when they understand the depth of your offering and they realize the background and years that have gone into perfecting what you do?
Mr. Kassab: Our clients are generally driven by strongly communicated needs from upper management for shorter term, very tangible gains in their business positions. We hear things like - we want to develop our next generation of products, or we want to optimize our line of products. We are tasked with developing the next generation of this automobile model, or we are launching a new coffee maker into the US market. Our clients are driven by very real, tangible marketing needs, and when we talk about how we can optimize the product so it will have its greatest success, how we can best align the brand with the Consumer DNA, how we will develop communications or how will we help you draw the consumers through the pathway to purchase. When we talk in those terms, it makes sense to our buyers and we are far more likely to win projects because we are speaking about very real marketing needs. I would not call it one aha moment, I would call us a company that can help guide them through the complicated marketing process that we have today with meaningful consumers insights.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us one or two of the insights that you found about consumer behavior that might surprise people?
Mr. Kassab: The real reasons why people consume categories (such as TV, luxury automobiles or Greek yogurt) and the opportunities for marketers these insights reveal are fascinating.
Many people complain about too much TV, and I agree to an extent, but when we see the benefits to the consumer, I feel TV is quite impressive. The emergence of cable TV has been one of the biggest learning tools for the average person ever. The extraordinary depth and breadth of programming (different shows) enables learning and knowledge building like never before. The average person has been elevated in Maslow’s hierarchy toward more self-esteem and actualization by virtue of what they have learned from their favorite variety of TV shows – from food recipes; better ways to achieve health and fitness, and scientific discoveries to just about anything you would like to learn.
It is also interesting to see the role of pure emotion in consumer choice. We often buy things primarily because they make us “feel good” emotionally. Marketers hit this emotions mark in a variety of ways – design elements (the icons on a smart phone touch screen), the colors, flavors or ingredients of a new yogurt brand, or the expectations of alternative nutrition such as coconut nectar or red palm oil. We have determined many times that the rise in emotion (feeling good) can be the ultimate trigger for a purchase. There are times when a consumer sees and thinks about a product for the first time and they say to themselves – I’ve got to have that.
CEOCFO: How do you reach prospective clients?
Mr. Kassab: We are going to take a shot at the digital way of doing it. The old way was that we called people and had lunch with them. We still like to do that. I used to joke that I originally built my business from having lunch with people. That worked great, and it still does, but more and more people are not available because they are time pressed or they don’t even answer their phones. We have a digital/social media marketer (Pointer Advertising in Raleigh, NC) who has redesigned our website to be more about who we are and the advantages that we offer. We are going to run a content strategy about the Consumer DNA – why consumers do what they do and what this means for your marketing strategy and tactics. We are going to push this content out through social media channels and email. We use the website as the central point of our marketing where we will post our research findings, intellectual assets and consumer insights. We are very excited about this approach.
Equally importantly, we will pursue a more traditional approach of PR, though it is not traditional anymore because it too is digitally driven. We will use the PR Newswire channel for important messaging about us working with Incite Advertising in Plano. TX. We have had great success to date though this channel. Clients have seen the news, commented, and several consumer insights related magazines have picked up our story.
Mr. Kassab: Business is good. We have had a great reception thus far from our clients since our acquisition of Savitz research Solutions. Sales are up and we are feeling very good about the business.
I would mention that there is one other aspect of our consumer DNA that is driving our business success, the emerging digital insights methodologies that enable different and better ways of getting information from consumers.
I was head of innovation for GFK North America before this role. GFK is a large global marketing research firm. I was their first head of innovation and I spent about five years vetting and bringing into our business different digital insights methodologies. That experience was immensely helpful.
The new digital insights technologies allow us to get closer to the consumer and develop a deeper understanding of their needs and behaviors. As an example, the use of smartphones to capture consumer insights is growing and becoming more effective. In some cases, the insights we can get with a smartphone are better than the insights we can get online/PC based – the traditional method of collecting data – because a smartphone can capture consumer insight at the “point of experience” or the point of consuming or shopping. For example, if the consumer gave Best Buy feedback while they were shopping their TV department they would be much better at telling Best Buy what they like and what they suggest for improvement.
Or, you could be somewhere like Disney World, and if you were using your smartphone to give input while you were attending certain events, it would likely be much more relevant for you and for Disney.
Smartphones are one good way to get closer to the consumer. There are others.
CEOCFO: Why does ConsumerDNA standout?
We are a
bright, fresh face with a new approach. I would say it is kind of like the
latest software platforms. The latest software platforms work
extraordinarily well in mobile, PC and tablet environments, and if you are
caught with an old platform, you are likely not to be as competitive. I look
at us as a fresh, new platform with an open mind and with the resources that
are needed to get true insights and better insights that are required to be
successful in a very complicated marketing environment.
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