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posted by Alexandra Frazier Jul 29,2015 @ 04:09PM

notes from a wordmonger

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Note: these are not my hands.

Yesterday, I took a dip into the ether of my web browser history. It's a curious thing, to be curious about what you've been curious about. It's a more curious thing when you can evaluate the shape of your workday interests through the lens of Google search.

In addition to a daily perusal of news articles (I take my morning coffee with a side of current events) and a hundred client-related research queries, there's no shortage of fodder up for interpretation.

Highlights from the past week include atmospheric refraction, fiduciary responsibility, love and ketchup, Mr. Wonderful and the definition of nyctitropism. Predicate adjectives and the merits of "more proud" versus "prouder" make the list, as do balding medieval babies and an exploration into how hot chicken really happened.

Scroll a little farther down the page, and there, sandwiched between the oddities, you'll find no small number of visits to this idiom dictionary. Of all the revealing 500+ word procrastinations in my web history, the dictionary stands out and apart.

As we move into a more human era of branding, it feels only natural to seek out and take inspiration from everyday language's most suggestive turns of phrase. Just witness the longevity of Allstate's "You're in good hands," and you can begin to fathom why idiomatic expression might help bridge the messaging gap between what a brand wants to say and what an audience is willing to hear. And yet, leave it to Virginia Woolf—a woman who surely existed in that easier place before brands—to articulate the potential dangers of this approach.

In Woolf's superb 1937 essay, "Craftsmanship," she espouses that the moment we cherry-pick words from their natural habitats is the moment they lose their human realness and nuance. Worse, she writes, is that when the words become unreal, "we, too, become unreal — specialists, word mongers, phrase finders, not readers."

Phrase finders, not readers. Ouch. But what a perfect reminder that, long after we've tested the weight of a pen in our hands, someone else will have the choice to read or refuse what we've put to paper. All it takes is a trip through our own data-clouded wires to see Woolf's maxim reflected in our histories.

We are readers first.

posted by Julie Turner Jul 23,2015 @ 11:18AM

A Conversation About Market Research

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to question a handful of a client’s customers at length for a buyer persona research project. While every call was different, each one was a reminder of how many unique layers customers have.

I spoke to a handful of Happy Customers who were very satisfied with their experience and situation. They showered our client with well-earned appreciation and several offered suggestions for changes they’d like to see made by our client. I also reached out to Potential Customers, many of whom I found out viewed our client favorably but the timing for further interactions was not yet right.

I keep coming back to one market research call with a Potential Customer — one who may or may not become a customer in the long run. It turns out she’d had a handful of successful interactions over years with our client but just couldn’t seem to get across the threshold. As the interview went on I learned how she found out about our client, her impression of them and their service, and how she believed they could satisfy her future living needs. It was puzzling that after years this union had not come to fruition.

Then she explained why her interactions with our client had stalled. Her oldest child had been diagnosed with cancer and had battled the aggressive disease for the past two years. I could hear the pain in her voice as she told me the words no mother ever wants to say — that her child’s life had ended earlier in the spring.

Her words were a stark reminder to me about customers. With highly targeted CRM operations and our own well-defined advertising objectives and measures, it can be very easy to focus on the layer of a person’s life that directly involves us — or our message — so much so that we forget how much the other layers color the space we’re working in.

Taking the time to speak to not just customers, but people who have interacted maybe only once (or seemingly not at all) with your company can tell you so much about the market in which you’re working. It can also remind you of the many factors beyond competition that can come between you and potential customers.

 

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