The Dimensions of Customer Insight

If the only customer insight framework we have makes the customer look like a banana, then we will start to see all problems as banana-shaped problems.

Are we approaching customer insight like the lamp-post analogy? We prefer to look for our keys underneath the street light, because this is where the lighting is good, and not outside the light cone, in the darkness, where we lost our keys.

By Helge Tennø

To me the current ‘light cone’ for customer insight (market research) is a one dimensional data set, designed and framed in the era before digital and before agile organizations. It’s high fidelity and tactile nature creates a lot of confidence. But, it also shapes our imagination. We start seeing every problem as a nail, because our only tool is a hammer.

“Our own intelligence has a very poor understanding of what intelligence is. We tend to think of intelligence as a single dimension. There are many types of intelligence. We have deductive reasoning, we have emotional intelligence, we have spatial intelligence; we have maybe 100 different types” — Kevin Kelly

Let’s use an analogy:
Market research is one dimensional. It was designed to create customer-advertising-fit (AIDA). For the sake of our analogy, let us say that it collects data into a framework that shapes the customer into a banana. Now there are different types of bananas; brands, shapes, sizes, colors, tastes. But fundamentally it is a banana.

What we seem to be doing with a lot of new insight tools is rely too much on the banana-framework set up by market research (because it’s tangible) and we keep understanding customer problems as if they are banana-shaped. The only thing we are doing with digital is adding more fidelity by adding more characteristic (like sustainability, due data, calories etc.).

banana, etc

But, let’s say this is a very one-dimensional set of data, that only helps us solve banana-shaped problems. What if our problems are more connected to key holes. Wouldn’t it help if we had access to data that makes the customer look like a set of keys (try unlocking a door with a banana).

Or if the problem is more connected to demonstrating affection. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have the customer insight that helps us understand the ‘customer’ as a type of flower.

My point is. We are relying too much on what is familiar to us, so we keep forcing our customers into marketing / advertising shaped buckets (bananas). Instead of looking for customer insight that is more fit to the progress we are trying to make (digital and agile being two important dimensions) — not where the lamp post is already standing.

This article first appeared in Medium/Everything New is Dangerous. Photo by Mike Dorner on Unsplash.

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