By: Jennifer Dilley, Director of Research
Have you ever realized something so simple, but so true, you couldn’t believe you hadn’t thought of it before? I recently had a moment like that while reading Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.
The book’s main idea is this: we all want to be the hero of our own lives. This simple but profound insight is inspiring me to look differently at my work as a consumer researcher, and I believe it will be useful to others, too. Why? Because now when I look around, I see brands telling stories. When the consumer is the hero in those stories, the brand grows sales and builds a loyal following. But, when the brand makes itself the hero, it falls flat.
First, let’s put this “hero” idea to the test. If you’re like me, you’ve never consciously thought about being the hero of your own life. But think about it for a moment. Remember sitting around the dinner table last night, telling your family how your day went? If you’re like me, you had a great idea; saw the solution first; were cut off in traffic. But you would never say, “I wasn’t paying attention and almost caused an accident.”
It’s true, isn’t it? We all want to be the hero of our own lives. Now, for the part that many brands struggle with: If being the hero is a universal human desire, then your brand, product or service cannot be the hero. It needs to play a supporting role, which Miller describes as “the guide,” helping usher the consumer to solve a problem in their lives. But many brands portray themselves as the hero, and their products or services as “saving the day.”
Naturally, this got me thinking about brands I personally use that get this right. One example immediately comes to mind – Nordstrom. I am such a Nordstrom loyalist! There are numerous examples where they have allowed me to be the “hero” in my relationships. There was the time my sister called panicked because she needed a cocktail dress within 48 hours. I went to Nordstrom.com and ordered her three dresses that arrived the next day. There was the time my husband got a hole in his sportscoat (my favorite one) and swore it couldn’t be fixed. Nordstrom repaired the damage. And there was the time my mom was visiting after being ill, and my favorite Nordstrom’s make-up artist made her feel beautiful. Nordstrom made me the hero in all these stories. They allowed me to “save the day.”
This philosophy of making the consumer the hero is something any consumer researcher can reinforce. By its very nature, the work we do emphasizes the end user.
As a result of reading this book I am challenging myself to do even more to make those I serve the hero. For me, this means:
Looking for new ways to make our own clients shine. They’re not the consumer, but they are our customers. As experienced researchers, they can trust us to help solve their problems. Let’s be sure to make them the hero in our partnership.
Helping our clients stay focused on their consumers. Having worked on a brand team, I know we can fall in love with our own brands and be blinded by our affection. As consumer researchers, we owe it to our clients to gently reminding them of their brand’s role as guide if we see them moving down the path of making their brand, product or service the hero.
As Miller’s book attests, the brands that make their consumers the hero are the most successful, and isn’t that the ultimate point? Consumers are not looking for another hero; they are already the hero of their own story. They need a guide to challenge them and give them a plan to an obtainable future. Let’s partner with our clients to guide their consumers on that journey.
Jennifer is a seasoned, cross-functional researcher with 20 plus years in shopping and consumer insights, brand research and sales. Her previous client-side roles at General Mills, Inc. and Altria instilled a deep appreciation for the unique partnership role SIVO can play with clients in insights discovery and strategic application. As a researcher, Jennifer has a deep respect for traditional methods, but is most energized with business questions that require agility, a push to “think differently” and lean into the future (what could be.) Jennifer’s strong listening skills and intuition combine to effectively design customized research plans that help to answer complex and nuanced business questions.