Monday, 31 July 2017

The Whisper - with Linda McGregor

With so much data at our fingertips, nowadays as marketers, our job is to translate inputs about our target audience into true insights about their behaviour. Why is this so important? Well, understanding consumer behaviour presents marketers with the magic key that enables us to build a bridge between consumer need and brand offer.

Image source: Can You Whisper Your Way To Brand Love? Linda McGregor.

Essentially, in the end, the goal is brand love. Great marketing is the craft of whispering to our audience, rather than shouting at them, to guide them along a journey of brand discovery and brand trust; by applying deeper understanding so that you can influence their behaviour and trigger a need. The Whisper is something that we all can understand, but more often than not, we are so focused on results that we forget that brand love takes time.

Throughout our studies, first in Geoff Fripp's Evaluating Marketing Performance (EMP), then with Pennie Frow in Internal Marketing, and finally with Teresa Davis in Contemporary Consumer Behaviour, we have been familiarised with the Customer Migration Pathway. But seeing it in theory and using it in practice are two completely different things. 

Source: Geoff Fripp, Evaluating Marketing Performance, Session 2, Semester 1, 2017.

Who is Linda McGregor and what have horse whisperers got to do with achieving brand love?

Linda has spent her career working all sides of the business: marketing, advertising, strategy and business development. She has over 30 years of experience working on both the client and agency sides in the UK, Asia and Australia, before finally founding her own insight consultancy, All About Eve, in 2003. With decades of expertise in distilling insight into behaviour-changing strategy, Linda is well versed in the art of fashioning bonds between audiences and brands. 

The University of Sydney is fortunate to have close ties with Linda. On many occasions she has given her time to help inspire the future marketing managers of Australia; most recently at the Orientation Welcome Evening. Now, she has agreed to share her lessons with Marketing Matters, for the benefit of those who couldn't make it to the event. 

Linda draws upon her two passions in life - audience insights and her love for horses to explore how Horse Whisperers, the masters of distilling insight, are able to change behaviour and create bonds of trust. 

Image source: All About Eve. Linda McGregor speaking at Battle of the Big Thinkers, Vivid Festival, Sydney, 2017. 

Understanding the four elements of the craft. 

The analogy of the horse whisperer and the training ring is a stunning paradigm of the strategic manoeuvres used by marketers that are needed to develop brand love. As marketers do when approaching a strategy, the whisperer enters the ring with a vast well of behavioural knowledge and past experience up his sleeve. This knowledge is accessed reflexively as the circumstances of his relationship changed depending on the cues from himself and the horse - or consumer. 

Image Source: Can You Whisper Your Way To Brand Love? Linda McGregor. 

If you missed Linda's talk, don't despair because lucky for us, Marketing Matters was able to sit down with Linda and get an inside look into her practice. 

MM: As a marketing consultant, sometimes it's really easy to get bogged down on all the data. How do you go about selecting relevant data and then translating it into true insights about consumer behaviour?

Linda: Relevant data is all about focus. A good start point is a tight brief so you’re crystal clear on the audience that you’re trying to understand – and WHAT you are trying to understand about them. Build a picture or portrait of them so that they come to life for you, so you can see them as real people.

Then you look to do what we at All About Eve call 'the unpack': get past behaviour to triggers and need drivers. Think about it as getting past the symptom to a root cause. This is when you get to the real insights that will allow you to influence, and even change, audience behaviours.

It’s all about getting past the conscious mind and behaviours to the subconscious mind, where neuroscientists will tell you 90% of all decision making action takes place.

MM: You've spoken in the past about fashioning bonds between audiences and brands to achieve brand love. In your opinion, what is the most important difference in approaches between 'the push' and 'the pull' in marketing and where does 'the whisper' fit in?

Linda: Both push and pull have a place in marketing campaigns. For me, however, pull is the stronger one because you tap into existing consumer needs and use them to connect and bond the brand to her (or him).  That seems to be a clearer route to Brand Love building, because it taps affinity. 

The Whisper is the approach to how you achieve that effective pull. How you whisper to the audience’s inner need, instead of just yelling at them. Fundamentally by understanding, giving them time to know the brand offer then choose to come to the brand, freely.  The Whisper offers the benefit of building a stronger, deeper bond between the audience and the brand. A strong but silken thread that binds.

MM: For some, especially those who didn't hear you speak last week, the metaphor of 'the whisper' might be a little abstract to understand. Could you briefly explain what's involved in the four stages of the whisper?

Linda: Well firstly, I would say we should arrange another talk then, lol!

For now, here are the 4 elements (rather than stages, which infers they have a linear order), in summary: 
  1. The Insight Watch
    Gathering Qual & Quant info, translating to insight and unpacking to a subconscious level to understand the true triggers to audience behaviour - and hence how to influence it
  2. The Patient Pause    
    Counter-intuitively, not rushing to pull the consumer into the decision to choose your brand. Instead giving them time & space to build trust with, and of, your brand.
  3. The Consistent Offer  
    Taking a relevant brand offer then consciously & consistently delivering that in a message in the audience’s language. Demo-ing that brand’s 'talk' and 'walk' match.
  4. The Choosing              
    The resulting benefit of the other 3 elements of the whispering approach. By talking with the audience, not at them, you build affinity – leading to them choosing to join the brand
According to Dr Terry Beed, Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, In the context of our Business School, this is where our knowledge of consumer behaviour, drawn from the literature and other sources including “experience” and Big Data comes to the fore. It builds towards responsive adaptation in challenging (maybe dangerous!) circumstances. 

At the University of Sydney, the professors take pride in preparing their students for the ring so that when they get in there, they can respond and get results in the dynamic setting of contemporary marketing. Linda McGregor’s metaphor leaves her audience with a vivid impression of a different yet powerful kind of marketing model to draw upon.

Alyce Brierley
Current student from the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School.

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