Different Strokes for Different Folks

In her first Thursday Night Insight of 2010, Caroline Harrison takes the opportunity to go back to basics.

I’m sure – at least I hope – he won’t mind my telling you this, but I had something of a hand in my colleague Oliver Truman’s last Thursday Night Insight. Whilst knowing that Oliver had “volunteered” to write (I guess some might say “been coerced into writing”!) an article for the B2B International blog, I was also aware, with just a couple of days to go, that other commitments meant he hadn’t yet got around to it. So, when I happened upon an article in the marketing press about the possible rebranding of Newcastle United’s beloved football ground, St. James’ Park, and knowing Oliver to be something of a sports aficionado, I forwarded him a link to the said article, wondering if it might inspire him.

Inspire him it did, and some two days later, Oliver treated us to his latest Thursday Night Insight, which I read with interest.

But, while Oliver did use the article I had sent him as the basis for his ‘Insight’, what struck me the most was the specific content of his piece. His blog talked in a broad sense about many of the lucrative tie-ins between a company’s brand and the world of sport – be it shirt sponsorship, providing half-time refreshments or prizes, ‘pure’ advertising at the stadia…and, of course, buying the naming rights to the venues themselves.

While I could not disagree with any of the points Oliver raised, these were not the issues that had first jumped into my mind when I read about the possible selling of the naming rights to St James’ Park. I immediately focused on, if you like, the more ‘emotional’ side of things – the likely reaction of the fans to any proposed rebranding of their stadium and the potential risks or rewards for any company brave enough/rich enough/stupid enough/inventive enough to take on such an opportunity. In a nutshell, Oliver and I, when given the same basic trigger, had very different thoughts and approaches to the issue.

And so, with this in mind, the message of my Thursday Night Insight today is really very simple. Nevertheless, it is absolutely critical.

We can never forget that people are all different. Their various upbringings, culture, language, values, education, interests, priorities, desires and much, much more all combine to affect how they think and how they will react to certain situations and stimuli.

For example, as we all know only too well, the product or service you provide is never going to meet the exact needs of everybody out there. That is why segmentation of a target audience is so crucial to deciding which markets you can serve successfully and profitably.

Equally, if you show a room full of prospective customers your latest product for launch, I guarantee they will all have differing views on it. You may think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread – but so what? That doesn’t necessarily mean any or many other people will agree!

Even with the customers you already serve – you can’t assume everything’s always hunkydory with them, nor that they will stay loyal for life. Their needs may change, their expectations will likely shift. That’s one of the things that makes your job and mine so difficult.

But that’s also why we turn to market research. While we can never presume to know what all people are thinking all of the time, the great thing is that we are usually able to ask at least some of them how they are feeling.

It’s not that difficult to grasp that people can be unpredictable. Fortunately, nor is it that difficult to use market research to make things more certain.

Incidentally – for anyone who is even remotely interested – as of November 2009 until the end of the current season, Newcastle’s stadium is temporarily known as Sportsdirect.com @ St James’ Park Stadium. Personally, I think that’s a bit odd – but that doesn’t mean everyone will agree with me, of course…!

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