We experience disruption with new technology and industry changes. However, demographic and customer expectations are fundamental driving forces in challenging how things are done.
Demographic change is a good indicator of who your future customer could be. You can look at age composition, income, education. However, the ethnic composition of the future population is one factor that sometimes becomes an afterthought.
What makes demographic shifts so rewarding is that it brings innovation and growth opportunities that will impact society and the economy.
For instance, the US Census has projected that Latinos will reach 111 million by 2060, becoming 28% of the population. That means that soon it will be one in three people who could be a future customer. However, 70% of Latinos say brands don’t understand their culture, a 59% increase from a year ago, according to H Code.
Why does understanding their culture matter?
Because culture matters to tell authentic stories and to create remarkable experiences. People don’t care about you unless you care about them. They look at content through their personal lens of values, knowledge, experiences, attitudes, and beliefs. And if you cannot meet them where they are, cannot see their worldview, and provide a solution that fits them, you run the chance to become irrelevant.
The implication is that addressing a new population segment rarely fits the way you currently do things. It will require you to see things differently, look at your current capabilities, identify your key and future customers’ challenges, and deciding what you need to do to serve them.
Make your customers your story is the story of how you help them achieve their dreams and desires. We sometimes forget that their world view and experience are different from ours. We push for the outcome we want to see, get the flu vaccine, use a net to avoid malaria, and exercise or diet to mitigate diabetes risk.
The products provide a functional aspect of a job, but how about the emotional and social aspects of them.
In a way, the product, the vaccine, the net, the diet is a means to an end. And we might assume they want to do these for health reasons. However, when we look deeper and see with their eyes, health concerns might be on the priority list.
For instance, when working on the Zika virus campaign in Puerto Rico, preventing behaviors were the least of their concerns; moms were more concerned about stigma and economic issues. And in South Africa, many people were more concerned about sleeping well without bugs and that the net look good than preventing mosquito bites.
As marketers and innovators, we need to make our customers’ stories our stories. If we can help lower the stigma and design a beautiful net, making the people feel better and helping them achieve their goals would help us achieve our objectives?
Making your customer’s stories your story requires empathy to understand their aspirations and what jobs they want to get done, so we can design a strategy to help them solve those challenges.
We live in a crowded and noisy world. Daily social media, texts, apps, streaming media, traditional media, etc., calls our attention.
Getting attention is easy. You can buy eyes to get attention. And if you are not getting it, you can raise the volume and get loud enough for someone to turn and see you, but are you getting noticed?
On the other hand, getting noticed requires the ability to see and listen with your eyes to the worldview of the people you serve. Learning to see what they are hoping to do, what is stopping them from achieving it, and the story they are telling themselves.
And then design a cultural experience that solves that desire. Design products, services, or programs that speak to who they are, what they believe, what they value, social expectations, aspirations, and how that experience makes them feel.
To be able to see means going beyond demographics because demographic alone fails to discover intent.
If we look a the Latino population, we have first, second, third generation, and multigenerational households. Each of them brings a distinct set of experiences, knowledge, believes, desires, and barriers. Thus, confusing Latinos as one audience will guide you on a one-size-fits-none strategy.
That’s why you need to design and build with the people you want to serve in mind to get you noticed. Otherwise, you will end up with a great product, service, or marketing campaign that no one wants and noticed.
The other day I got frustrated with the process of an online conference with a new platform. It required many steps to access the online presentation. First, it required me to sign in to the conference platform. Then look for the room and topic I wanted to attend. After that, sign in again as an attendee to the presentation, go Zoom platform, sign in, and access the webinar. In all the processes, I have forgotten my password and email I have used to registered, which require me to ask for it, wait and start the process. So, it took an extra effort to access the already running presentation, which added to my frustration.
I’m sure the organizers were well-intended. And I assume part of the registration process focused on capturing the number of attendees to the conference and how many participants each topic attracted. All valid measures; however, they forgot the customer experience in their planning. And I wonder how many people quit based on time and frustration. By the time I listened to the speakers, my mood had changed from positive to negative.
People’s needs are not so complicated, but we tend to make simple things more complex. And the more complicated things are, the less likely they are to going to act. Make things simple.
Good enough can be scary. But quality is relative.
We strive to produce a great experience, a high-quality product, or service. These are ideal performance measures, and most likely, their definition is based on our own point of view. However, your opinion of performance rarely matches the people you serve view of performance. In fact, it is most likely that you overshoot when you project your own idea of performance.
Three basic performance lenses people use to choose between products or services.
Functional refers to performance and reliability. How does it work as I expected? Did it take me too long to sing in?
Emotional is about how people feel. What is the story they tell themselves about the product or service? I only buy the best. How does it make me feel? I got a good value.
Social focus on the tribe, how they perceive others feel about them, and their signals to the group. What will they tell others? She is environmentally conscious; this reflects who I am.
Simplicity is the key to brilliance.
What would happen if you intentionally lowered the performance in one area and increased to good enough in another in the name of simplicity?
Three ways to make the complex more simple:
Focus on the human experience. Understand which performance is more important to the people you serve and what tradeoff they are willing to make.
Eliminate the non-essential. Do less, but better. Focus on what matters most, and decrease performance where it does not.
Make the complex more simple.Look through the peoples’ eyes. Create experiences that require less time, physical or mental effort.
Trying to force people to consume when they don’t want to is not a good growth strategy. Instead, innovate to remove the barriers to action.
Be wary of the mantra: If we build it, they will come.
Have you ever felt pushed or trying to be influenced to do something, and the more they insist, the more you resist or entirely ignore it? Your reaction could be for many reasons. Maybe you are not interested because you had more pressing problems, you are solving the issue in another way, or because it is not that important to you. Are you being seen?
As marketers, strategies, and designers, we have to learn to see. Learning to see involves empathy and respect for the people we seek to serve. Learn to see their dreams, desires, and the culture they belong to or want to be part of.
Our job is to help them get where they want to go next.
In our eagerness to solve a problem and go to market, we tend to ignore two crucial assumptions and four barriers that can derail us from helping the people we seek to serve.
The first mistake is to assume that someone that does not consume wants to consume. Maybe the people you are serving are not interested, or your offer does apply to them in their current circumstances. It is a nice have but not a priority for them.
The second mistake is assuming that people that don’t consume our product are not consuming any products. Maybe they have found a way to work around what they want to get done. Have you ever used a knife as a screwdriver?
Innovate and Remove Four barriers to Action:
A third mistake is not understanding the barriers to consumption. If they are interested in the offer and are using a way to a surrogate to help them, then the question is, why are they not consuming?
Do they have the ability to do so?
Recently I was working with a non-profit organization that serves first-generation Latino parents. LEAF helps them understand how to navigate the US school system. Coaching and workshops were in-person meetings. And then, Covid changed everything. And we had to pivot to an online session. The interest was still there, but no one was signing up and showing up. Although parents knew how to use their smartphones, they didn’t know how to subscribe and access the online meeting platform. So, LEAF focused on educating parents on registering for workshops, seminars, and using the online meeting platform.
They have the desire, but is the product or service accessible?
In 1993, I was working in a startup marketing agency. Little Caesars Pizza was losing market share to its competitors. The franchisee group approached us to help them with the Hispanic consumer. Hispanics love to eat pizza, and first-generation Latinos ate pizza as a celebration and a get-together party. But the celebratory occasion needed to happen at a seating down restaurant. And Little Caesars has no chairs or tables. It is a food pick up parlor. We needed to help Latinos change their perspective that a celebration could take place anywhere, and Littel Ceasar could be with them.
Do people have the financial assets to be able to afford the services?
Part of Latino students learning to navigate the US school system is taking the SAT and ACT, but how can they do that when parents have limited resources and are concern about more pressing things? LEAF partnered with the SAT Board to provide vouchers to low-income Latino parents enabling young students to take the test.
Is it too cumbersome or time-consuming?
During the H1N1 crisis, we worked to increase vaccination among Latinos and African Americans. The population at risk was ambivalent about getting vaccinated and didn’t have the time to go to a determined place when they work two jobs and needed to take care of the family. Thus, we brought the vaccine to them. We set at a tent in a convenient community location and partnered with a pharmacy to provide the vaccines.
If the people you serve have a desire for your offering and are non-consuming, don’t try to persuade them. Work on removing the consumption barriers. Don’t force, innovate.
All marketing is cultural. People you want to serve belongs to a community and a tribe or tribes. A tribe that reflect who they are or aspire to be. The story they tell themselves.
Culture is what people do, what they believe, what they value, and how they conform to a peer’s group, which informs their worldview. And in turn influences the behavior they choose, the status they seek, and how their actions fit the tribe. What they do is influenced more by who they are than what you say. People like us do things like this.
People don’t know what you know, don’t care what you care for, and don’t seek what you seek. Their experiences are not your experiences. And that is ok because it is not about you, it is about them.
Can I have your attention is something I used to hear a lot growing up. My mother will say these words with a stern look. Her frustration was palpable and the tension so dense that a little more will make the room explode. I knew I was in trouble when she used my first and middle name.
Not paying attention made it worst. I would not hear her voice until the third or fourth time she called me, each time one or two notches louder.
Attention-deficit is the norm these days. People are easily distracted. They have more options to choose where to divide and spend their time on. Eight-seconds is all you get to pick interest before people move to another activity.
If you are like me, you would probably have to pay attention if something your mom said interested you. And it could have been with a whisper, not a megaphone. The same is true for the people you want to reach.
One way to call for attention is by using a megaphone, increasing the volume of ads. The idea is that the louder you speak, the more they will hear you. But, if the message does not resonate; it is not welcome. So, it doesn’t matter how loud you get. The message will become background noise and not heard.
Another way is to focus on earning attention. Earned attention builds on relationships and trust. It is welcome and gives you permission to engage.
Relationship and trust are based on your customers’ understanding. However, when the understanding is superficial, mundane, or based on limited experience, it will undermine the impact you want to have. Allow yourself to get insightful understanding and let go of preconceived assumptions. Customer insight is the bridge connects hears and minds. And since it is centered on human needs and desires, it leads to create value in people’s lives.
Show some brand love. Provide content and experiences that help reinforce who your customers are and reflected who they want to be. Especially if you are marketing to Hispanics and other multicultural audiences.
Appealing to their personal identity and motivations is more successful in creating impactful communications, experiences, and motivation that inspire action.
Engagement starts with the customer. But, sometimes companies lose focus assuming they know and understand their customers needs, wants, and desires. An assumption that can lead to failure.
I was reminded about this when my wife shared a story about a client she was coaching. My wife gave her client the tools and online application to help her son apply to the university. And then, nothing happened. The form was foreign to her and spoke a different language. The fear, the anxiety, and shame of not knowing had stopped the client on her tracks. It was assumed that she knew about FASFA.
Things change, customers’ needs change and expectations change.
People act in accordance to their personal narrative.
People look at things through their personal experiences, knowledge, values, beliefs, and motivations. And not everyone will have the same knowledge, experience, and beliefs.
What is the story they are telling themselves?
People take action if it reinforces the story they tell themselves. If it helps them fit in and do what is expected. To engage with them, you need to understand their culture, talk, and act in ways that align with who they are and want. Meet them where they are.
How are you helping them tell a story to themselves that they’re proud of?
Put differently, how are you furthering their purpose and goals? The dreams, the feelings, the emotions, and the status they seek. Put yourself into their shoes with the following three simple questions:
What will I tell myself?
What I will I tell my friends
Why will I tell them?
No generalizing required. Relevant experiences drive engagement.
Understanding your consumers worldview will help you design relevant experiences that drive engagement and your customers feel more connected to your brand.
Just because you place an ad doesn’t mean it will ignite behavior change. There is an assumption that if brands can get audience attention, give a piece of information, and associate the brand with emotions, marketers will inspire behavior change.
If marketers only focus on persuading to change an audience beliefs and preferences, how easy do you think it will be for them to change?
How can you ensure your marketing inspires people to change behavior?
Instead of trying to persuade your audience to change their believes or values, you meet them where they are by addressing knowledge gaps, social norms, and environment, you might have a change to ignite behavior change.
Think about that for a second. Audiences look at content through their own lens of personal experiences, knowledge, values, attitudes, beliefs, and motivations. And not everyone will be using a product for the same reasons. We need to think how a product, message, and the behavior change you are promoting fits into their lives.
Storytelling with cultural insight, not generalization, leads to influencing behavior and better experience. It’s the difference between designing a relevant marketing campaign and a generic one.
Telling stories that resonate and personalize your message for your audience is important, but how do you do this? Here are three elements that might help.
Does your audience know about the behavior, do they understand, and do they think it is relevant to them? You might be presenting a solution to a problem; however, your audience might not be there with you. She might have a basic knowledge and understanding or none at all of the issue and risk you are presenting. A mistake is to assume, that your audience knows what you know, and wants what you want. Different audiences might have different knowledge base and if they don’t see a need or how it fits into their lives, they will not perceive your message relevant.
To optimize your goals, meet your audience where they are. Think that different behavior objectives might be necessary for different groups of people.
Match the creative and message to your customer needs and understand your audience’s intent. Marketers need to understand exactly how people feel about an issue, use a product, what values, habits, aspirations or motivations will drive change.
Will doing this new behavior be acceptable? Will it fit with their actual or aspirational self-image? Does it fit with how they relate to others or want to?
Behavior change is a function of social context. People want to live up to what is expected of them. Culture, family, community, and peer influence are powerful forces in behavior.
To build a story that creates cultural tension, make the new behavior desirable. You can take your consumers down a different path of resistance by stringing together the audience value and aspiration with the intended behavior. The objective is to make the new behavior acceptable and visible if possible.
Once people have made a change, what can we do to help them keep doing it?
People want to be part of something. Create an environment where your audience feels supported, can get and provide feedback, and is reminded to make the new behavior a habit. A simple way of doing this is creating a social medial group on Facebook, WhatsApp, or any other social media platform where they feel comfortable sharing and engaging.
Marketers can be powerful agents for change when they understand people’s knowledge gaps, their audience social context, and the intent of why they use products or do what they what they do. They can even be more powerful and more helpful when they can reach diverse groups of people with stories that are relevant to each audience group.
Today’s communications landscape calls for an omnichannel media strategy and a social media campaign is often a component of this strategy. A successful social media campaign is more than publishing content on Twitter and Instagram. It requires a detailed strategy and clear goals that align with business objectives.
To achieve social media campaign goals, you should consider the following five main components of a communications campaign:
Who is the target audience?
What key points are important? What information will move the audience to action?
Channel. What are the appropriate social media platforms for the audience?
Develop original, branded content to establish thought leadership, visibility, and impact (social media content, blog posts, photos, videos). Curated content:Share relevant, informative content from external sources to showcase industry authority.
Performance. Continuously monitor campaign performance with data analytics. Use dashboards to manage content and analytics for real-time adjustments.
In addition to these five facets of a communications campaign, conducting market research and using the appropriate social media tools can help you enhance productivity and effectiveness.
Be thoughtful and strategic—avoid falling into the trap of trying to reach everyone with multiple messages, using numerous social media platforms.
This article was written by Dr. Selena A. Ramkeesoon. Selena is a communications strategist in the Washington, DC metro area. Ⓒ 2019, Selena A. Ramkeesoon. All Rights Reserved.