Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Tale of Two M&Ms

When I was little, I had specific tastes in candy: chocolate, chocolate and chocolate.  Anything that deviated from chocolate was strictly forbidden as I viewed any ingredient interlopers as damaging to the overall experience.  This was particularly true as my mother strictly (and wisely) regulated how much candy we had at home.  In my mind, if I was going to have it so rarely, it may as well be only chocolate.

This was particularly true of M&Ms.  If it happened that I were treated to that, it was always going to be the plain ones and I made them last as long as I could by pouring out the contents of the bag, sorting them by color and then eating them two at a time by color.  It was, at the time, a religious experience.  So much so that if I were offered peanut M&Ms, it was blasphemy to me and not unlike Kryptonite to Superman.

Fast forward to 2011.

I don't have to tell you that as we age (gracefully), our tastes change.  It turns out that these days, I don't enjoy chocolate so much as I enjoy chocolate with something else.  And, while I still do have a fondness for anything M&M (especially their Facebook page), it turns out that now I turn my back to plain M&Ms in favor of the peanut ones.

I started thinking about this yesterday in particular.  We were on the tail end of a 5+ mile walk and I really wanted some sugar (please don't tell Linden).  I popped into the drugstore and out of all of the M&M choices in front of me, plain was at the bottom of my list.  I walked out with the peanuts.

What was I thinking about?  Well, my brand affinity is clearly intact and the value I derive from the brand affinity is clearly intact.  What's changed is how both manifest themselves in the purchase decision I made yesterday.  I got to thinking how much we pay attention to these shifts in purchase within the product lines that live under the brand umbrella.

Nothing has changed.

Or has it?  I'm still buying M&Ms so it's not like they have to worry about the competition but what I'm buying and why I'm buying should matter to them.  And that's because it matters to me, the customer, even though it is just a bag of candy that I buy every so often.

And, more importantly, it matters to our customers when they shift how it is they give us their business.  I'm wondering at the level of care we have when these shifts happen besides the slicing and dicing of data we pay our CRM teams to do.  Other than saying customers have cross shopped, bought a different flavor or gizmo, how else have we been treating the shifts?  What were they buying before that is now Kryptonite to their Superman?

I wonder how effective we are at circling around and checking in with our customers.  I wonder how good we are at learning about how things are going all the while resisting the urge to pitch something new.  How often do we ask:

  • How are you?
  • How is business?
  • Are we helping you?
  • Have things changed for you and how can we change with these new circumstances?
  • What can we be doing better that would be helpful to you?
  • What things have been particularly helpful to you?  
  • And so on...

The Customer Zeitgeist

You've heard me say a before that our emotional drivers are at the core of our decisions and our rational minds justify those decisions.  By finding out what's going on in the zeitgeist, the environment or vibe allows us to better understand how our customers have shifted and, more importantly, how we can meet them at the new places to which they have shifted.

Why do this?  The point in which they see that we've adjusted with them is the point in which our customers view us less as indifferent and pushy vendors and more as someone as a stake in their success.

What's your take?  Please share with me and, if you've enjoyed this read, please share it with others.

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef
678 Partners

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