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Whether it’s a new social media site like Foursquare or Groupon, new smart phone apps like
Price Check by Amazon, or the introduction of pop-up retail locations, one thing is certain:
the world around us is changing at an accelerated rate and therefore reshaping consumer
behavior and lifestyles and how consumers interact with brands. Why then would marketing
practices remain conventional? It’s time for marketers to seriously consider leveraging the
power of intuitive marketing to keep their brands fresh, relevant and engaging or run the risk
of being left behind.
As a marketer, intuitive marketing will allow you to make
decisions more quickly, execute and change directions
more often, know when to test and when not to test, and
more fully and quickly deliver on market opportunities and
consumer needs.

why is this an imperative now? because marketing

is at an important inflection point.

First, the world in which we operate is moving faster

than ever. The marketplace, retailers, and consumers
don’t set their clock to marketers’ annual marketing
plan timelines. Brands today need to react more quickly
and be more flexible, which means decisions need to be
made more quickly. The marketplace and consumers
Intuitive Marketing is based on reward speed and change. According to “Brand Bubble,”
brands that demonstrate movement and energy have
having a deep understanding a higher market value and appreciation by consumers,
of your brand and a deep demonstrated in usage and preference growth. “The more
energy a brand has… establishes a direct link between
understanding of your consumer, brand momentum and creativity, financial earnings, and
stock performance.”1 Finally, partly in answer to today’s
all to facilitate speed of decision- marketplace environment, Forrester released a report in late
making and action. 2009 introducing the idea of “adaptive brand marketing,”
an approach to marketing management that is “nimbler
and more real-time oriented.”

Second, consumers can be heavily engaged with brands. It’s

no longer about command and control. Case in point - the
#3 Facebook page in 2009 was for the brand Nutella – only
behind President Obama and Coke in the number one and
two positions, respectively – and was created by a consumer
fan.2 The PR value of this alone is worth more than the
brand’s $300,000 media budget for the year – all generated
by a consumer. Pabst Blue Ribbon is another good example
– essentially a lost brand until a sub-culture of bike
messengers and others took over the brand and made it
their beer of choice.3 So, if consumers are going to drive your
brand, you better get close to them. It requires developing a
relationship, something that can’t be accomplished through
an Attitudes & Usage study.

Third, marketers are being asked to reach further with

the same or fewer dollars. We’ve never had more tools in
our toolbox to engage with our consumer. It’s hard to do
it all, so we must make effective choices. That requires
understanding your targets well and what apertures are
best to interact with them. And with mediums changing
quickly that allow for frequent learning, we need to be quick
and flexible in deploying our marketing strategies.


We need to get comfortable with making intuitive
decisions. We also need to understand that these
decisions are not based on feelings alone, but
rather these feelings are made up of deep, rational
Finally, the understanding of how we make decisions has brand. If you don’t love it, how do you expect consumers to?
grown to support the importance of the non-rational. It’s Ms. Lisa Bradner of Forrester Research calls for the creation
not uncommon to accept this in terms of how consumers of brand advocates who “really need to be in charge of the
make decisions, but we seem to resist this common heart and soul of what the brand stands for.”5 We agree
knowledge when it comes to the business world. This isn’t wholeheartedly. The closer you are to the brand and take in
to say that data analysis doesn’t have its place; it’s to say its meaning, the easier it will be to determine activities that
that making gut decisions has its place, too. Frankly, given are the right fit for the brand and its consumers.
the environment we operate in, we don’t have time to test
every decision we encounter. We need to get comfortable THIRD, UNDERSTAND YOUR CONSUMER, INTIMATELY. You
with making intuitive decisions. We also need to understand won’t become “intuitive” through research reports and
that these decisions are not based on feelings alone, data tables. To get intimate with a consumer, you have to
but rather these feelings are made up of deep, rational interact with them directly. Think about online dating. Most
understanding. As noted in How We Decide, “…feelings couples don’t decide to get married before they actually
aren’t simply reflections of hard-wired animal instincts…. meet face to face. As noted in an article in Psychology
Instead, human emotions are rooted in predictions of highly Today, “People never fall in love with categories…. because
flexible brain cells, which are constantly adjusting their only [a] real interpersonal process can create the feeling
connections to reflect reality. Every time you make a mistake of love. Love is created and maintained by the process of
or encounter something new, your brain cells are busy meaningful communications. Online dating cannot do so.”6
changing themselves. Our emotions are deeply empirical.”4 That means getting out of the safety of the office and
HOW DO You get started with intuitive marketing? interacting with consumers face to face. Conduct
ethnographies with your core consumers – go into their
FIRST, DEFINE THE BRAND. You must be clear on your homes, participate in their daily lives. Execute a sampling
brand’s mission, its true north. What problem are you event where you can directly talk to your consumers, hear
solving for the consumer? How are you distinctively about their lives, and get direct feedback on your product.
delivering against this need? What are your guiding Be in conversation with your consumers utilizing new
principles in doing so? What choice are you making in technologies such as Facebook and Twitter. Or, do what
what you will own and stand for in the hearts and minds of Wal-Mart did and create a consumer advocacy group – in
consumers? How will you authentically deliver against this Wal-Mart’s case called “elevenmoms” made up of mom
promise? bloggers – that helps them better understand their needs.7
Force yourself to play “a day in the life” of your consumer
SECOND, BECOME ONE WITH THE BRAND. If you’re not in – make it an adult “consumer field trip” of sorts. There
love with your brand, then you are working on the wrong are many ways of bringing your consumer to life – most


importantly, engage with them so you can truly know them. Orleans to do community service. “We reinvested in our
people, we reinvested in innovation, and we reinvested
FOURTH, MAKE IT REAL. For this all to work, it needs in the values for the company. Another CEO would have
to be supported with a change in culture and a change focused solely on cutting costs.”8 Starbucks likely would not
in procedure. Leaders need to give latitude for quick have rebounded as well as it has if it weren’t for Schulz’s
decisions, either allowing for quick check-ins or pushing knowledge of the brand and the company. His brand
down authority. Get clear on what decisions can be made knowledge was critical to the company moving quickly to
with “gut data.” A $20 million media plan may need more refocus and realign on priorities.
data and support vs. a $100,000 marketing test. Finally, set
aside a percentage of your budget to allow for experiments CONSUMER KNOWLEDGE, MOVE QUICKLY. Back in 2003,
as your organization gets more comfortable with intuitive General Mills conducted a test – they compared the decision
marketing. outcome of internal company consumer understanding
vs. more formal advertising market research. For an
here are two examples of brands that demonstrate advertising campaign that marketed to ten-year olds,
that these principles can be put to use. General Mills crafted hypotheses on the considered ad
executions based solely on internal insight of the target
and then went about conducting the formal market
surprising that when Starbuck’s needed to retrench and
research. The findings – their gut was right. The formal
Footnotes: redirect, the company fell back on the person who knew
research confirmed their intuitions, and according to Mark
1. The Brand Bubble: The the company best – Howard Schulz, the founder. With
Looming Crisis in Brand Value Addicks, General Mills’s Chief Marketing Officer, “The only
and How to Avoid It, by John his knowledge of the company and its original intent, the
difference was money and time.”9 It just goes to show that
Gerzema and Ed Lebar, San company made several quick decisions to put it on a path
Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008, p. an informed gut can allow companies to make decisions
35, 51, 54.
towards recovery. Mr. Schulz himself said, “I knew where
2. “Nutella: Web Giant,” by Todd
all the bones were buried, so I could move quickly” and
Wasserman, Brand Week, March “there were a number of things I did that perhaps a new
14, 2009.
CEO couldn’t have done because he wouldn’t have had the The future of marketing demands speed.
3. Brand Hijack, by Alex
Wipperfürth, New York: Penguine
license I had.” Schulz invested to remind employees about Why not utilize our own innate nature to help
what the company and the brand stood for, reinvesting in
Group, 2005, p. 22-23.
us succeed in this new world?
4. How We Decide, by Johah the culture. To remind store managers about the company’s
Lehrer, Boston: Houghton Mifflin character and values, Schulz took 10,000 of them to New
Harcourt, 2009, p. 39, 41.
5. “Why It’s Time to Do Away With
the Brand Manager,” by Jack
Neff, Ad Age, October 12, 2009.
6. “Why Online Dating is a Poor
Way to Find Love,” by Ken Sun,
Psychology Today, July 29, 2010.

Leaders need to give latitude for quick

7. “Moms Say Marketers Ignore
Their Needs” by Jessica Hogue,
Brand Week, May 5, 2009.
8. “We Had to Own the Mistakes,”
Adi Ignatius, Harvard Business
Review, July-August 2010.
9. “Big ‘G’ Identity,” The Hub
decisions, either allowing for quick
check-ins or pushing down authority.
Magazine, July/August 2009.


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to articulate, unify and manage brand impact. Anthem creates
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and executional talent worldwide with the business needs of
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By Kathy Oneto, Vice President, Brand Strategy trademarks are the property of their respective owners.