Knowing Your Audience Is Critical To Growing Your Brand

You have to get under the skin of your customers and know them inside-out. By understanding their behaviours and habits, you will be able to identify opportunities to grow in a way that meets their evolving needs and ensures the future success of your business.  

In April, Ruth McGrath, Brand Manager of Nicholas and Harris joined Giant Peach at our High Growth Collective sessions to talk about how consumer insights are essential for success. She gave examples of businesses that have used the power of consumer insights to grow their brand. Ruth gave our attendees lots of brilliant tips and ideas for how to gain valuable knowledge about your consumers, without the need for a big budget. 

In case you missed it, we’ve highlighted some of the key points below. 

“Brands that found success by embracing the power of consumer insights…”


Dove’s research told them that women were fed up with traditional images used by the beauty industry that left them feeling unattractive, so they launched their campaign for real beauty featuring ‘real’ women of different ages, races and shapes in their advertising and communications. 

Magazine PR Week said that the impact of the campaign extended beyond the promotion of beauty equality in the industry. Sales jumped from $2.5billion to $4billion in the first ten years and Dove became Unilever’s number 1 brand. Dove continues to run the campaign today, adjusting their messaging based on their consumer research.

Real Beauty
Dove Real Beauty Campaign

This Girl Can

Based on the insight that many women and girls stop playing sport due to fear of judgement, the This Girl Can campaign aimed to normalise playing sport and empower women to get moving. The campaign resulted in a measurable uptake in women playing sports and exercising, and continued investment in research led to Sport England relaunching the campaign twice more to reach new audiences.

Don’t Buy Her Flowers

It’s not just big, global businesses that can use customer insights to grow. Ruth used the example of Don’t Buy Her Flowers to show how simply listening to your customers while carrying out your business can help you learn.

This brand was created when a new mum felt overwhelmed by tending to the many flowers she received after having a baby! She set up the business so people could send care packages to new mums, containing the things they needed for a bit of TLC. She packaged up gift boxes containing things like chocolate and magazines, along with handwritten notes, all from her spare room.

Through engaging with her audience on social media, she learned that people also wanted to be able to send care packages to anyone who needed them, not just mums. So she launched a series of new packages for birthdays, Mother’s Day and get-well-soon gifts. Business operations have now moved into a warehouse, sales have grown 68% and the business is set to turnover £1million. 

If your brand messaging or marketing doesn’t resonate with your customers, it can have a huge impact. 

You don’t need a big budget to learn about your customers

Most businesses don’t have a huge budget for consumer insight research, but luckily there are things you can do that are free or don’t cost much at all. Before you begin, there are some key questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Have you got a clear idea of what it is you want to answer?
  2. Is there a key performance challenge that you want to address? For example, are your comms not working or is your NPD failing?
  3. What is your hypothesis?
  4. What is it you want to achieve?
  5. Is there a particular consumer you want to target?

Don’t get distracted by younger generations

It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing your marketing on millennials and Gen Z; these generations are often seen as being more exciting and modern.

But older generations have more disposable income and are just as modern and as exciting as younger audiences. The lines have blurred and we now have ‘TikTok Grannies’ and young parents campaigning for flexible working on social media, alongside younger, ‘cooler’ audiences.

Where to find insights

  1.   Social media

Whatever age category your audience falls in, social media is a great place to learn more about them! Look at your social accounts to see what messages are resonating with your audience and look at how people are interacting with your competitors too. You can also search for hashtags that are specific to your industry/service/product and see what people are saying.

Events like a pandemic can cause big shifts, long and short-term, and social media is a great way to get real-world insights about what your audience is thinking and doing. For example, the recent boom in people baking sourdough bread at home could have a big impact on the bakery industry!

  1.   Step into your customers’ shoes

Go through your customers journey and write down every single thing they will experience when shopping for your product. If you sell in a supermarket, think about what they will see, hear and smell when they are in the store. How does your product look on the shelf? Follow this through to your online presence too. You might need to do this for different types of customers in different markets – people in the UK do more online shopping than the rest of Europe. 

  1.   Shopper data

Do you know what different groups of people want from your brand? It’s important to understand this and tailor your messaging to different groups. This is the key to building solid marketing campaigns and in practice, could mean that your in-store messaging may be different from your social media.

  1.   Consumer complaints

92% of British people research online before making a purchase, and it’s not just younger people. Online consumer reviews and complaints are key sources of insights – they highlight challenges, barriers to purchase, quality issues and potential opportunities for NPD. Don’t forget to read reviews about your competition’s products also!

  1.   Sales data

Your own internal sales data contains a wealth of information and should be your first port of call before buying any external data. You might be able to identify key trends, like the most common time of day for purchasing or what people buy at certain times. If people keep buying the same thing, you might have too many products. A decline in sales of a particular product can prompt more investigation. You might be able to pinpoint the reasons for a decline in sales for certain products.

  1.   Use your network

Using your network of colleagues, friends, family, and peers can help validate your thoughts on trends and behaviours. You can create a simple survey for free and send it to your network to help test any hypothesis you might have about your customers’ behaviour, and Ruth described how she did this to gain insights into how over half of parents’ sacrifice buying the bread they like to satisfy their children. 

  1.   Google

There’s lots of free information available online, including trend reports that are written and published annually. Make sure you look at what is relevant, factual, and always be aware of fake news.

If you DO have a budget

There are lots of things you can do to help you get more detailed insights into your audience, like Usage & Attitude studies, focus groups and accompanied shops. Ruth’s advice is to think carefully about the agency you work with and the methodology they use. Some agencies use methods that can help get more detailed information out of specific groups – for example, men can sometimes be less forthcoming in focus groups!

Key takeaways

  • Consumer insights don’t come from just one source and they don’t always follow a clear thread. 
  • There can be too much of a good thing. When you’re carrying out research, make sure you stay focused on answering your research question. You need to sort and sift through the data to pick out key trends and mark them in terms of importance.  
  • Get someone to validate your conclusions – ask your peers to help.
  • Think about the things you can change, what you can’t and realistically what you shouldn’t change (remember the Coca-Cola example!).
  • Finally, don’t stop listening. Consumer insight research isn’t a one-off, it’s something you should be doing all the time. As we know, things can change quickly!

 Watch The High Growth Collective Session with Ruth McGrath from Nicolas & Harris here. 

Newsletter Signup

More Updates Delivered!

"*" indicates required fields