Earlier this year I read an interview with an executive from
Coca-Cola in which he talked quite seriously about his company’s mission
to ’increase its share of throat’. It’s a deplorable turn of phrase
which sounds like an out-take from the film Deep Throat but,
nevertheless, if you work in advertising or marketing, it is a shorthand
that is easily understood.
But what would a Coke drinker make of such language? I’m not suggesting
they’re so naive they don’t realise Coke’s after their money but to hear
themselves talked of this way would alienate them. The crudity of the
language revealed what Coke really thinks of them.
What this highlights is a basic paradox about marketing: for all the
talk about one-to-one marketing, understanding consumers and getting to
know them, many marketers are inept when it comes to matching action and
Take Jigsaw, the Unilever/Cadbury/Kimberly-Clark consortium where three
non-competing companies have got together to build and share more and
better information about their consumers.
The basic building block of Jigsaw is a massive consumer survey - the
kind that gives you a nosebleed and makes filling out a tax form look a
I use the word ’massive’ with feeling. The survey contains 176 questions
in tiny print over five sides of A4 paper. Actually, that’s being kind
to Jigsaw: one question offers a choice of up to 55 boxes to tick. There
are 24 questions alone on chocolate. How many bars/bags of children’s
chocolate do I/my partner/my children buy each week? I haven’t the
foggiest. Am I going to ask my partner?
They must be joking.
Still, if you think that’s bad, try the Kimberly-Clark section. Let’s
start with toilet tissue, as they call it. I am invited to agree,
neither agree/disagree or disagree with 11 statements along the lines of
’I would try a new toilet tissue if it was better at cleaning/leaves you
clean’. I shall leave you to figure out the tone of the questions about
panty-liners and so on.
So what then do we, the consumer, get in return for all the time and
effort involved in answering these ridiculously detailed and personal
questions which Jigsaw artfully bills as ’helping us to help you’
Well, there’s a customer magazine called Voila, which is a sort of
low-rent Bella, offers and coupons and - wait for it - the chance to win
one of 20 mobile phones in a prize draw. Not a fair exchange, I think,
considering the immense value of the information to the Jigsaw
By any standards this is a bold and innovative marketing project, a
fascinating attempt by three companies to adapt to a new era. But can
Jigsaw really expect people to respond and, if they do reply, are they
the right people?
If people knew exactly what the information was going to be used for,
would they be so happy to take part? Maybe. But push consumers too far
and they’ll turn on you. My guess is Jigsaw is pushing at the limits.