An interesting ‘reality show’ that has shown some success is Undercover Boss. The show is adapted from a UK series of the same name where a high level executive spends several weeks “completely immersed” in a position, many times low level positions, to develop a better understanding of their business. It sounds like an interesting concept. In each of the episodes the CEO seems surprised by their experiences and findings.  Should this be the case?  Is senior management really that out of touch with their employees and consumer?  In many cases I would say a resounding YES. 

What could we learn from this show? I hope the show helps develop a broader understanding, acceptance and usage of consumer experiential research. In other words, let’s expand our learning by observing or experiencing.

Too often researchers and marketers think in the framework of our personal experiences and forget that the world we live in is often times quite different from the ‘everyday consumer’.  To help put this into a little more context consider this, the median household income in the US is $ $53,0461. Comparatively, the median salary for a product/brand manager is $ $93,5322. (Note: the author recognizes this is not an apples to apples comparison, the data are being used for illustrative purposes) The question is do you feel you can understand and appreciate the actions of someone making 75% less than you?  Can you extrapolate your experiences into the actions of the average consumer?   While an A&U and/or a series of focus groups may help close this gap I submit we must go further – “get out from behind the desk and walk a mile in their shoes” – to truly uncover those unique nuggets that can lead to true insights.

As many companies enter the 2014 planning phase I wonder how many are conducting experiential research to connect with the consumer? My guess is not many. I submit you can gain a deeper understanding and better appreciation of your brand’s role in the consumer’s life if we would spend more time listening and looking.   So I ask you what are YOU going to do to develop a deeper understanding of your target’s experiences?

  1. 2014 U.S. Census Bureau: State and County QuickFacts
  2. data as of February 2014