This is an ambush!  You’re getting consumer connected whether you like it or not! 

When we are discussing consumer connection activities with potential clients, one topic often comes up.  After unbridled positivity and excitement about what could be achieved with an engaging, effective programme of consumer connection, a fog suddenly descends over proceedings. The, up till then, positive senior manager turns to one of their colleagues and in a defeated way says something along the lines of; “This is all well and good but the chance of us getting the leadership team to make time for this is pretty slim. I can’t get them to sit through a one-hour research debrief, let alone getting them out of the office for a couple of hours to interact with real human beings”. 

At this point the thought that goes through our head is something along the lines of “For pity’s sake, I’ve just walked through your reception area plastered with meaningless motivational vision statements that usually include phrases like ‘We put consumers at the heart of our business’, ‘Customers are king’ or words to that effect. If your over-paid, self-centred dictators can’t even be bothered to get out of the office and walk the talk then why on earth do you work here”.

Fortunately, that thought tends to stay a in our heads and what we actually say is “Have you thought about a consumer AMBUSH?” This tends to pique interest (as well as a healthy amount of concern over what we are about to do). 

So what do we mean by an Ambush?

We get it, time is precious for us all and the further up the food chain you go (in my perception at least) that time becomes more and more scarce. The ambush approach to consumer connection appreciates this and seeks to get senior management involved in interacting with and observing consumers without them getting the chance to say no. Let’s give you a real-life example:

The Travel Ambush

The senior leadership team of a well-known drinks company was making a series of country visits.  Timings were tight, office-based business reviews dominated the agenda and there was certainly not enough time to squeeze in a home visit or on-trade consumer connection. 

So, what did the very clever local insight team do?  They ambushed the leadership team’s journey from the airport to the office. Without asking for permission they recruited a couple of consumers to join each car that picked the leaders up. As the visitors got into the car they were introduced to the consumers and invited to chat to them about anything they liked in the 30 minutes between airport and office.

It worked brilliantly – once over the initial shock the team really got into it. It was half-an-hour to get some unfiltered, human answers to their questions. What’s more, the local team (a couple of whom joined each ride) got a great heads up on the issues that were top of mind for the visiting team. They could then frame some of the information they shared during the formal reviews (be that business results, research findings etc) in the context of the conversations had in the car. Either building on some of the themes discussed or, in a couple of cases, highlighting that the opinions of the individual consumer in the car wasn’t necessarily true of the wider target audience! It was a win-win that put real consumer interaction firmly on the agenda and created an engaging, memorable experience for all involved.  So simple, yet so effective.

This is just one example of an ‘AMBUSH’

They don’t always need to be as extreme. The principle behind them remains getting senior leaders to engage directly with consumers without giving them the chance to say “I don’t have time for that”. The fact is, with a bit of creativity, they do have time for that.

Don’t let time be a barrier – get out and connect.