Finding the why

As Bob Dylan so eloquently put it, “the times they are a changin’.” Fair enough, that was back in 1964 and he wasn’t talking about marketing. But in the name of tedious links and from someone who loves his music, I wanted to use Bob’s song title as a descriptor for planning and strategy in marketing today.

The sheer amount of data and information accessible to us from our keyboards has changed the way research is done and insights are found. Why do more work than you need to? Why spend time and money doing it again if someone’s already done it? And when you’ve got a point to prove, what better way to prove it than cold hard facts and numbers?

Given this, it seems like a pretty sound reason for sitting behind a desk and typing questions such as “why are biscuits important to Brits?” (and every possible iteration of!) into a search bar until you get the answer you’re after. But as wonderful as Google is (other search engines are available), what it can’t tell you is that here in Britain, the biscuit you give to a friend when they’ve popped round for a cuppa says more about you than the house you live in, the car you drive, or the clothes you wear. Yes, it’s true, biscuits are status symbols.

Simply put, this level of insight can only come from real people. Speaking to them, observing them, listening to what they say and don’t say, watching what they do and don’t do. The skill of a strong Planner is to make sense and add meaning to the things that others would see as incidental. The things that look like nothing, the things you might otherwise miss or ignore. The things you do and say yourself without even realising. Because, more often than not, that’s where the magic lies.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t use the internet, nor am I saying that you can’t find something interesting on it. There have been, and will continue to be, plenty of occasions where we might start with that lonely looking search bar. Forums, social media and blogs, to name a few, can all give you an idea of what people are thinking and how they’re feeling. But where it falls down is the ‘why’. It’s always the bloomin’ ‘why’.

The Planning team are intrinsic to the creative output at Home, because ultimately, it’s our role to find the ‘why’ behind the feelings, thoughts, actions and beliefs of consumers. Digging deeper and deeper, following Alice down various rabbit holes until you find your own Cheshire Cat who points you in the right direction.

Take for example, our recent ‘TRU Love’ project, where to really put our branding process to the test, we applied it to fellow Homie Miles. His ‘target audience’ was easy to define: female, 20 – 30, good taste in music, honest… You get the idea. The challenge here was to get to know his audience in detail. We did this by not only surveying 100 women who fit his criteria, but we went further and actually sat down with a few of them and conducted in depth interviews. What we found from this first hand ‘real life’ research went on to inform the rest of our campaign – which you can check out here. That deeper level of understanding in fact unlocked the whole thing for us and gave us that insight to go on and develop a relevant ‘brand’, i.e. romantic prospect for them.

Some of the greatest campaigns out there came from a pre-internet world. Whether that was in the 1960s when Don Draper-esque characters were knocking back the whiskeys, or the 1980s when John Hegarty and friends were starting what was soon to become one of the best agencies in the world. The lack of internet didn’t mean the briefs their Creative Directors were given had any less insight than ours do today. Far from it. They were created from nothing but primary research and social interaction, giving them a richness that any creative would die for. And now? The same applies.

The best campaigns – the campaigns we all talk about – come from an insight that no amount of Googling can help you find. The best briefs come from a Planner who isn’t afraid to get up and step into the world, not knowing where they might end up.

So… Bourbon or Custard Cream?