Helping Clients Understand the Double-Edged Sword of Consumer Honesty

Published Aug 08, 2019

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I recently participated in a conference, and had the opportunity to introduce, and share the stage with Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and New York Times bestselling author. Ariely’s newest book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, is based on original experiments and research to help explain the contradictory forces that “drive us to cheat and keep us honest.” Drawing on his unique background, the speaker explained how “good people doing wrong things” (for example, consumers often want to think they do “good” things (for example “I always shop organic” when in actuality, they may behave differently). Interestingly, this can have a dramatic impact on our industry in particular, as our goal is to help brands better understand consumers and their preferences.

Consumers are complex humans. That means that, while they may try to follow the lead of the father of our country and “never tell a lie”, without the proper direction and support they can (often inadvertently) stray from the truth. While, on one hand they strive to offer honest responses to queries about their favorite brands, they may be led astray by confusing questions or the simple need to be heard by someone, somewhere. Whatever the motivation behind this dichotomy, it can make the lives of brand marketers a nightmare as they try to determine what consumers REALLY think and feel and how that will translate into action.

The Role of Consumer Insights Can be Deeper than the Questions Asked

The environment the speaker described is particularly hazardous for today’s brand marketers and product development teams, who are under constantly increasing pressure to launch products and marketing campaigns in record time. Especially in industries where unexpected competitors are causing market disruption, companies need a clear understanding of what consumers think about their products. Without that clarity, they can be led down unproductive rabbit holes, wasting invaluable time and money. How can they gain a REAL understanding of consumers in this culture of confusion?

That’s where consumer insights come in. With new, automated consumer insights platforms, companies have the resources at their disposal to gain consumer insights in real-time, with consumer insights expertise built-in. That means surveys will be designed to lead to truthful responses, and powerful analytics will sort out honest-from not-so-honest responses, giving marketers a clear view of consumer response to their products and marketing campaigns. And consumer forums, such as Toluna’s open forum, give consumers a place to express thoughts and opinions, so they can stick to the matter at-hand on surveys. (All too often, respondents can stray from the facts because they just need to be heard.)

In other cases, we see opportunities to deepen our consumer insights and couple actual behavior with self-reported behavior (this is where advanced digital tracking and other sources of data can create an even more complete view of consumers, helping to eliminate guesswork around some behaviors that consumers may have an even more difficult time sorting out. (For example, “How many times did you visit Facebook today, or Amazon within the last month? Both are questions I’d have a difficult time answering).

The Honest Truth About Consumers

In the end, consumers are human.  We want to portray ourselves in a positive light.  We buy organic, we exercise, we manage our money well and don’t overspend on going out for dinner.  But, with consumer insights technology and expertise on their side, companies can gain a deep view of where their products stand in the marketplace and get to the heart of consumer insights.

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