What #smashastrawb taught us about authentic customer-centricity
I don’t know about you, but I’ve eaten more strawberries in the last week than I have the whole year.
And if my social media feed is anything to go by, most of Australia has been doing the same. Nothing brings the community together to fight the good fight for our strawberry farmers like a clever hashtag – the brainchild of our friends at Meerkats.
What struck me as the strawberry tampering crisis broke though, were the reactions of some of Australia’s food retailers.
You can’t blame supermarkets for initially withdrawing strawberries from their shelves amidst concerns for customer safety, but while Woolworths subsequently made the bizarre decision to stop selling needles, it was the reaction of local Perth grocery chain Farmer Jack’s that caught many people’s attention.
Farmer Jack’s, a WA supermarket brand with eight stores across the state, announced last Wednesday that all profit from the sale of its strawberries would be returned to growers.
“These growers are local families who have put their heart and soul into their businesses,” the supermarket said in a statement.
“Here at Farmer Jack’s we know what that feels like and we want to support our growers through these tough times.”
The Facebook post announcing the move had been liked 1.6 thousand times at the time of writing, with more than four thousand shares. This is a far cry from the handful of likes the brand’s posts usually receive on social media.
The response was a great example of a brand putting the customer at the heart of its business – and recognising that the customer is more than just the person making the purchase; it’s the supplier, the prospective buyer, the influencer - anyone who can have an impact on your brand.
Authentically customer-centric businesses understand that goodwill is built not by the value created by each product sold, but by the value created by each customer. They’ve taken the time to understand customer needs, and buyer personas.
This, combined with brand authenticity, becomes a powerful combination – when brands not only act in the best interest of their customers, but also live their values, whether that be diversity and inclusion, or support for local farmers.
Understand your target market
There is no ‘right’ way to act in the face of a crisis, but the ability to make a move that is lauded, rather than criticised, has a lot to do with understanding your target market.
As market researchers, it’s amazing how often we get brought into the launch of a new brand campaign, product or service at the end of the process.
Sometimes, impending corporate deadlines lead to a decision to press on and refine later despite the potential consequences – other times, customer-side research hasn’t been factored into the budget, so it becomes a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to know’.
But there are a few key reasons why you’re much better off taking the time to understand the needs of your target market before you invest time and energy in a new strategic direction.
1. Validate a hypothesis, not a strategy
The risk in waiting too long to validate your idea is that you end up seeking confirmation of the direction you’ve taken, rather than exploring all possible routes. While it’s all well and good to test a hypothesis, undertaking market research once you’ve already charted a course runs the risk that when the research fails to validate that course, sunk cost mentality sees you move forward with that strategic direction regardless.
2. Allocate resources to the right areas
If you find out what is likely to resonate with your target market and what isn’t early on, you can direct your resources to the areas that are going to get the most bang for your buck. Is it the product design that they don’t like, or the way it’s being communicated? Are you targeting the right audience through the wrong channel? This is where the concept of minimum viable product comes in – by testing and refining, with the help of a subset of your customer base, you ensure you’re spending time and energy in the right places and maximise the chance of success when you go-to-market.
3. Protect your brand
While you can’t get it right all of the time, the digital world can be a cruel reminder to brands that when you get it wrong, people will hear about it.
Pepsi and Kendall Jenner, Aldi and its ‘Fill in the blank’ campaign – the internet is full of examples of companies that got it spectacularly wrong.
It’s no secret that an unhappy customer will tell far more people about their experience than a happy customer – so taking the time to curate the customer experience by understanding what is going to fly and what isn’t is, quite simply, good brand management.
Brand lift is priceless
The way brands react to external market forces says a lot about the extent to which they truly understand their target market, and the way they seek to optimise financial outcomes for their business.
While Farmer Jack’s may have forfeited some financial gain in deciding to return strawberry sale profits to growers, the brand lift undoubtedly gained in the process is priceless. Plus, there’s a good chance that the customers that flocked to buy strawberries from the store to show their support for growers bought something else while they were there, so in reality, it may not have cost them a cent.
Disclaimer: Farmer Jack’s is a client of CoreData WA
Kristen is a highly motivated and passionate researcher with eight years' experience in the market research industry. As Director of CoreData Western Australia, she is based in our Perth office and responsible for business development, client relationship management and project management across a diverse client base.
Kristen has a deep understanding of the financial services industry, strong client engagement skills and is a regular media commentator. Her Perth client base spans aged care, banks, super funds, not-for-profits and utilities.
Before relocating to Perth to establish the WA business, Kristen was Head of Financial Services in CoreData’s Sydney office. Prior to joining CoreData in 2009, she was a financial journalist for seven years.
Kristen is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, has a Master of Business Administration (Exec) from the Australian Graduate School of Management, a Bachelor of Arts, Journalism (with Distinction) from Curtin University of Technology and is a fully accredited member of the Australian Market and Social Research Society of Australia.