Answers for Adam: Should marketers ignore what consumers want?

Answers For Adam This week Adam Ferrier asks whether marketers should take the success of Ikea as an example and be less focused on understanding the consumer in their quest to build great brands. 

Ikea is a worldwide success story, enjoyed my most, including myself. I have numerous Ikea items in my house – I’m guessing I always will.

By now most of us are aware of The Ikea Effect, that is if we co-construct something we value it much more than if we are given it fully made. It’s a large part of the reason we value Ikea furniture so much that we drag it with us from house to house even though it’s relatively cheap to replace. Many of us are also aware of the well-constructed floor layouts of an Ikea store. Apparently designed to keep us in a non-purchasing area for as long as possible before sending us into a buying frenzy in the ‘instant gratification’ zone.


The interesting thing about both of these extremely successful innovations is that neither is, hand on heart, consumer benefit led. Right?

The flat pack thing means that Ikea save on assembly and shipping costs, and we ironically value it even more for receiving it half finished. The store design is as perplexing as a casino shopfloor, and people love to complain about it – yet it encourages us to happily spend more than we intended.

Now it’s doubtful that a study on the consumer, or ‘a consumer journey’, or a ‘consumer triggers and barriers audit’, would have led to these two incredibly successful brand innovations of:

i) selling half-complete products;

ii) creating a maze-like shopping experience.

So how consumer focused are extremely successful brands? Even Apple’s founder Steve Jobs was famous for ignoring the consumer in his efforts to give them what they actually ‘want’.

My question is, is most marketing today significantly over-stating the role of understanding consumer wants and needs, to the point of blinding us to other opportunities, in its attempts to build great brands?

Adam Ferrier is CSO / Partner at independent creative and media agency, Cummins&Partners. Twitter @adamferrier


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