Who Cares What Your Customers Think. It’s How They Feel That Matters.

With a larger percentage of marketing budgets being spent on analytics YOY, you likely know more about your customers’ behaviors than ever before. Yet according to Brandwatch, more than 50% of marketers in 2020 feel they don’t have access to the right data that can help them know their customers better. So what are you missing?

While data has provided valuable information into your customer’s perceptions and behaviors, it is falling short on providing a deep understanding into the way they feel. Why does this matter? Because how your customer feels has 1.5x greater impact on driving positive business outcomes than how they think. In short, emotional connection drives action.

It’s important to consider ways to connect meaningfully with the wants and needs of your customers. This is vital to generating marketing success in the year ahead – and beyond.

Creating Advertising that Leaves Them Saying, “They Really Get Me.”

Have you ever gotten goosebumps while watching an ad and thought, “Wow, they really get me”? I have. For me, it was when I first saw Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. While there were dozens of functional benefits Dove could have touted, the brand knew women were tired of living up to societal standards of beauty. They knew their customers wanted to feel free of upward comparison. At the time when most advertising was being rooted by the functional benefits of the product, this may have seemed risky. But this campaign continues to be used as a marketing case study that demonstrates the power of connecting with the heart of the consumer.

The brands standing out in today’s competitive marketplace are making deeper connections with their customers. Consider the lines at Popeye’s and In & Out to the cult following of White Claw and LaCroix. These are just a few brands in the F&B space having a different kind of conversation with their customer.

What Connection is Your Brand Nurturing With Your Customers?

Getting to the heart of how your customers feel requires quantitative data. But this is just a jumping off point. Data is a means to the insight but doesn’t produce the insight itself. To learn more about the consumer requires taking a real interest in them – in real people.

“Data is powerful, but it has no soul. It is necessary, but insufficient for good strategy and good products.” – Judd Antin, Director of Design at AirBnB

Take time to ask your target audience about their lives in a qualitative way so you can know them on a mind and heart level. Do you know what motivates them? What does a day in their life look like? What are their challenges? And how does your brand answer those pain points? This qualitative effort is often seen as too cumbersome for brands because it requires a lot of resources. But there are a variety of ways to get to this information without blowing your budget. The feedback you receive can bring light to the nuances. It will add color to data and turn facts and figures into real insights.

New Campaign from California Walnuts Understands “Life Isn’t Always Simple”

For several years California Walnuts’ creative marketing strategy was deeply rooted in the functionality of the product. This included its versatility as an ingredient, its simplicity of use and its long list of health benefits. While this strategy helped redefine walnuts as more than a simple baking ingredient, the brand needed to continue to evolve – with the marketplace and its target audience.

In early January of 2019, EHY set out to better understand the heart of the California Walnut consumer. The following is a peek into that 9-month journey, and the creative work that ensued.

Working to Uncover an Insight

Through an ethnographic-based research approach, we captured fresh perspective on the nuances of daily life. We especially focused on perceptions and priorities around food choices our consumers make for themselves and their families. Each person was asked to complete “homework” both prior and during a series of discussion groups in the form of creative assignments and surveys. One in particular was called, A Day in My Life. This resulted in a rich, colorful expression of what our audiences’ lives are truly like. Although each expression was unique, we were beginning to see commonalities surface.

In order to build on these early observations, EHY hosted subsequent discussions that included both males and females in the target demographic. With the intention of confirming and expanding our observations, it was important we intimately understood the motivations behind their attitudes and behaviors. We wanted a glimpse into their mindset about not only their food choices but also the health and wellness decisions they were making for their families. Ultimately, we wanted to know how they felt about the balance of these priorities in their lives.

California Walnuts Research EvansHardy+Young

A Day in the Life of one of our research participants

Although not a surprise, we were able to confirm healthy eating and living is still a priority for most people, but there is a much greater sense of flexibility and realistic expectations around the issue. To them, wellness is more about balance and moderation then rigidity and restriction. Their thoughts and actions around healthy eating and living is just one example of their attitude about their lives in general. These people are busy. They are juggling a variety of lifestyle changes and challenges. But they also enjoy overcoming these obstacles and the victories along the way. And that is where we found our insight. Whether they realize it or not, our audience is constantly seeking simple solutions to help them live a little easier and better. Simplicity was often the key to decision making. So we positioned California Walnuts as a simple way to check off a lot of their food priority boxes.

Building and Validating the Campaign

On an emotional level, this next campaign needed to engage our audience in a way that made them feel validated, empowered and celebrated. We wanted the campaign to capture an authentic, judgement-free understanding of their daily challenges. And we wanted to offer our support, reassurance and the confidence they needed to ease their load – even if only a little, because we knew every bit counted. We also wanted to celebrate the relentless effort and dedication they are putting in day-after-day and the small, everyday successes that result.

On a practical level, the need to engage our targets through functional priorities like simplicity, versatility and healthfulness remained consistent.

Three new consumer campaigns (TV and print) were tested in markets around the country. The “Life Isn’t Always Simple” campaign was the clear winner, over performing on every benchmark. It clearly communicated that California Walnuts offer a simple, healthy solution – even when life gets a little complicated. Compiled over thousands of tests, the campaign led the way in overall reaction, relatability, engagement, uniqueness and motivation to purchase.

A Campaign Designed to Evolve our Audience’s Perception of Walnuts

The new California Walnuts campaign, featuring six new commercials and dozens of print, digital and social executions, launched in mid-October. In the 4-months since our launch, we’ve been closely monitoring engagement across the brand’s channels. I’m happy to share that the campaign is on track to exceed the client’s KPI’s including increased site traffic, engagement and driving a shift in audience demographics.

At the end of the day, data is empowering food marketers like never before. But it is important to remember that it’s only one dimensional. The way your customers think and the way they feel are two different things. There is no doubt, if you build an emotional connection, it drives positive business outcomes. So it’s time to consider how your food brand is building a connection with your customers. Finding your unique answer to this could be an important jumping off point for your brand. Good luck!

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Jessica Stampe Account Executive EvansHardy+Young
Jessica Stampe, Sr. Account Executive

Jessica has developed a dynamic marketing skill set from her range of tech, non-profit, and teaching experience. She currently helps supervise the California Walnut business.