Understanding how customers really use products

I’ve seen the latest Volkswagen TV ad a few times now and for me it is a worthy successor to a long tradition of excellent advertising. It’s the one where the Dad is driving his baby around in the car to lull the child to sleep, but every time he pulls up at a set of traffic lights, the car’s fuel saving stop/start technology kicks in and turns off the engine, shortly followed by the screaming of the (now awake) baby.
The older readers may also remember the ‘squeaky earrings’ ad for the VW Golf (probably back in the 1980s) as another example of a quirky but effective way to tell a story about the car.
Apart from being a piece of excellent creative advertising, this commercial also highlights what we can easily overlook – what people really value about our products and services.
It’s easy to assume that everyone who buys and uses our brand does so in the way in which we intended, but in doing so, we may miss some vital insights.
If our customers have found an alternative use for our products this could indicate a new market opportunity, or at the very least it could (as in the VW ad) mean that when we introduce a ‘product improvement’ we inadvertently eliminate this alternative use. This may reduce customer satisfaction and even drive them to a competitive product, leaving us wondering how our ‘improvement’ lost us sales!
It all comes back to understanding the customer and consumer – when we really can see our products and services through their eyes, we can make better decisions about all our marketing ‘Ps’, with a much better likelihood of accurately predicting the consequences.
When we are surprised by how customers react to our changes it’s probably an indication that there are gaps in our understanding.