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Insight Led Consumer Closeness Programmes

(It’s about winning, not the taking part)

*(47 year old man makes meme – my apologies)

Consumer closeness projects aren’t just about watching or speaking to people on video. 

There, I said it. 

You may be surprised to hear that from me, as a founder of a video based market research company, but after running hundreds of research projects for our clients, we have learned that the truly successful consumer closeness projects are not simply a series of TV episodes that you watch and suddenly “get it”, that somehow you are miraculously closer. 

These videos need forethought and afterthought.  They need to be continuous. They need to be planned well. Executed with quality in mind. And have a  layer of thinking applied to what is recorded, by a system of analysis that provides a useful and usable purpose to what is delivered that has demonstrable positive impacts for your company. 

Do this, and you will have a successful Consumer Closeness programme (CCP). An Insight led Consumer Closeness programme.

Don’t, and you risk a floppy disc of a programme (remember them, just me?). One that has low impact, doesn’t carry much weight, brings limited ROI, that is less focused and eventually stops and is preferably forgotten. 

You should be using consumer closeness not as a ticked box, but as an impactful project with a high return for all your efforts. 

Basically you should be trying to win. It is not about simply taking part. 

If you want to win, read on. 

Good news first 

Every client has a board-level desire to improve consumer closeness. The demand is there. If it isn’t, save some time and don’t read on 😉

The bad news

It will never be achieved by data alone. 

  • Data is good at telling you the what, but not the why. 
  • Data doesn’t drive empathy, doesn’t show you how people use your products. 
  • Big data? It’s almost certain all your competitors have the same data
  • Big data means it is easy to miss the micro details that are at the heart of competitive advantage. 

You need to see people. You need to watch & listen to them. You must not simply review the transcribed videos on a spreadsheet. 

Generally, many CCP’s have a low ROI, are very time consuming, difficult to consolidate and, therefore, difficult to socialise any findings. 

Any successful program must have a high business impact, whilst having a low time impact. Currently many programmes have the opposite. How does that make sense?

Turning bad news into good news

A CCP can have many aims, for example you might want to: 

  • Challenge the prevailing opinion on something (audience, trend, category).  
  • Direct internal thinking. Avoid the unhelpful ‘opinion of one’ (the plural of anecdote is not data). 
  • Drive more successful innovation (across product, pack and comms)
  • Make people internally think with a more empathetic consumer lens. 
  • Prove something. As Tom Cruise says in A Few Good Men: ‘It doesn’t matter what I believe, it only matters what I can prove’.

To do this you need 3 core ingredients:

  1. The right method to allow the truth to appear
  2. The analysis to uncover & report the truth
  3. Key findings delivered in a creative, interesting way that can be communicated and digested effectively with minimal time impact for the individual. 

These 3 ingredients can deliver a winning Insight led CCP. So let’s look at each of those ingredients in more detail…

The right type of method which allows the truth to appear

Remember, our aim here should be empathy. To try and get under the skin of the consumer, to understand them better. 

There are now many methods available to speak to and get closer to consumers: webcams, one-to-one interviews, observing groups, video soundbites from consumers. But each has their pitfalls. 

For example, you may encounter a consumer who is actually just trying to please the company representative asking them questions; or you may have an employee who shouts loudest about a person they watched, thus dominating the agenda:

“This consumer said x, y, z so we should do this…” 

None of it is helpful. And, in fact, can be massively counter productive sending you down the wrong paths.

Nor, for example, is this;

“My boss would like to have the board sit in on some discussion groups, so that we can learn as much from them as possible.”

The danger is they are either learning the wrong thing or they don’t know what they’re learning or what they want to learn. There is also a primary risk that the method is drawing out the wrong information. 

Also, regarding sitting in on groups, it’s worth noting there is a big difference between observation and insight. Remember: 

Observation is what people do & Insight is why people do what they do. 

Thomas Mann once said:

“A harmful truth is better than a useful lie.”

So how do we avoid these useful lies, and instead go full CC and maximise the potential for truth?

  • Get people to show you things, not just talk about them. Where they do things normally, in the places they would normally be, with the people who would normally be there. If in doubt here, think about how you would behave if a stranger came to your home and watched you do things. 
  • Let people talk about what’s important to them, not you. And give them questions when needed, not asking just for the sake of it.
  • Webcam interviews should be used in conjunction with other methods – see what they do first, then interview them.
  • Don’t let the untrained or those-in-power loose on people. Both will be listening for the answers that confirm what they already believe. That is all they will hear. 

We’ve seen the best results in research and consumer closeness by working tirelessly on an effective Do Guide (think a Discussion guide, but more focused on what people do, than what they say they do):

  • Seeing what people do; not just what they say they do, 
  • Only asking them questions when we need to, 
  • All filmed at the right time, right place and with the right people who would normally be there. 
  • No houses are tidied up before people make films.
  • No kids are packed off to the grandparents.
  • No dressing up.
  • No pretending to be someone else, or going to a place they’ve never been to before, to sit with strangers they’ve never met before.

The propensity for unintended lying plummets with this CCP approach.  Which means we’re seeing and hearing the truth. 

Phew. So we’ve got our inputs, but what now?

The right type of analysis to uncover the truth

Typical CCP’s don’t have analysis. They will often be quite individualistic. A video of a single consumer, a one to one interview etc. Watch this person, interview this person, and hope that the employee is now a Captain of Empathy and understands the consumer perfectly. 

It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately.

‘There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think’. 
– Martin Luther King

To uncover true insight, everything viewed has to be consolidated, and someone has to extract the key analysis, the actions, or what is needed to be communicated to the company. That’s what brings value. 

When we introduced this layer of strategic analysis from qual analysts on top of the videos we provided, we saw the value of our Insight led CCP’s exponentially grow for our clients (see the case study below for more on this). 

It’s worth remembering what Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said: 

“Research is to see what everyone else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”

This application of human-led strategic analysis has changed the game when it comes to CCPs. 

Key findings delivered properly

Knowing that your colleague’s time is a precious commodity, and that you want as many of them as possible to be able to digest the insights, you have to ensure that findings are communicated effectively, flexibly and quickly.

There will of course be different audiences internally that you want to target:

  • There will be a core team who could be involved in a workshop. 
  • Or the board who might just want a topline report. 
  • Or the C-suite who might want the report and supporting reels. 
  • Or the wider company who could view the highlight reels and drip feed out the footage layered with the insight over a longer period. 

All possible with the Insight led CCP approach.  

Just ensure your findings are creatively collated, interesting & easy to digest. 

So for example, if you’re sharing a short film that illustrates the analysis, make sure it’s well storyboarded, nicely labelled, with the right music and pace to drive people along and keep them watching. 

Point people to what you want them to digest. This will really help them and they will thank you for saving them time. Ensure all they have to do is click and play, it will mean more people participate because you are making it easy for them. 

And make what you want them to walk away with concise. Straight and to the point:

  • This is the key takeaway.
  • Here is (the brief) evidence to back it up.
  • Here is the key takeaway again. 

Something that takes 2-3 mins to absorb, but with the options for them to go deeper if they want to. 

Most people don’t care how you got there, they want to know what you found out. 

These Insight led CCPs can be something truly special. They can make a tremendous impact within a business if done correctly. Best of luck. Though luck really has nothing to do with it.

Should you want to talk more about this approach, the case studies below, or indeed a program you are considering setting up, let me know what you’re trying to achieve, and I can help you achieve it. 

Case studies: Insight led CCPs


The main aim of the Insight led CCP is to make sure the team are regularly observing and walking in the shoes of their users. It’s about taking a moment to observe, learn and then adapt on a regular basis, repeating the process and focussing on a different topic or part of the business every month.

A group of 100+ team members meet every month to watch what really matters… real people, really using their products and their competitors’ products. 

This then generates discussions based on real user behaviour, which then feeds directly into future product development. 

The result? A team inspired and motivated by the actions of their customers.

The beauty of this kind of Insight led CCP is the combination of constantly keeping an eye on user behaviour whilst having the flexibility to pivot each month and explore a different issue depending on the business need at that time. It provides the learnings of an ad hoc explorative piece of work, while ensuring an eye on users is always open.

James Weeks, Head of OTT Product Quality at Sky said: 

This project is giving us a fabulous opportunity to get our Product Management team a deep understanding of our members. It’s really important that we get candid feedback from a wide range of customers – and have this presented in a really easy-to-consume summary.

Ian Hare, Lead Researcher, Watch Me Think:

”I love presenting the key themes we have observed back to the team, and then hearing how that compares to what they have seen in the footage. Focusing on making it structured and easy to consume has ensured that more people participate, and that can only be a good thing.”