Customer insight is the key to successful brands
A view from Paul Frampton

Customer insight is the key to successful brands

Jill McDonald, the UK chief executive of McDonald’s, has outlined the key to the fast-food giant’s recent turnaround, and it made me think about successful brands. McDonald says a heavy investment in consumer insight has enabled the company to understand areas that make a meaningful difference to its customers and drive additional visits. She believes this investment has been the single most important factor behind the recent success. Is better customer understanding always key?

Is Amazon’s continued sales growth achieved by focusing on customer understanding through advanced data analytics, thus enabling it to deliver personalised prompts to purchase? Or is it the fact that, when I recently purchased a Kindle for my daughter, it came pre-programmed with my bank card details and password to make the e-book purchase experience simple – meaning its sales success is down to a seamless customer experience? The answer has to be both: Amazon delivers a meaningful experience for its customers throughout the purchase funnel, including relevant and timely prompts to repurchase.

And how have Aldi and Lidl grown so rapidly after years in the doldrums? They seemed to have tapped into the changing nature of the UK consumer’s relationship with supermarkets better than their home-grown competitors, delivering better value and great products. Importantly, they have spent not inconsiderable sums advertising this to widen its customer base. Their success is impressive – not only in delivering sales but also in creating a great experience for customers.

Aldi and Lidl's success is impressive - not only in delivering sales but also in creating a great experience

Likewise, does John Lewis’ record-breaking Christmas sales come from having better consumer insight than its competitors, which drives superior product choices, or is it from its ability to create a good experience for its customers – from staff to navigation around the store to its much-lauded business principles? Again, it must be both – an excellent brand experience that delivers in the marketplace and some cracking advertising to prompt a few more gifting visits.

At McDonald’s, the consumer insight that seems to have driven recent success is in finding an equilibrium between developing products that people want (healthier alternatives, better supply chain) and communicating this in a way that helps dispel negative perceptions about the company.

Successful and growing brands are able to deliver both a meaningful experience to customers and find ways of communicating with them throughout the purchase funnel. And this has to come from finding new and better ways of understanding customers, and then acting on those insights.

Paul Frampton is the chief executive of Havas Media