Throughout my career, whether developing products at P&G or helping clients gather insights about their target audiences, understanding what the consumer believes would be the ideal experience has been crucial for business success.
Begin by identifying and understanding the context in which your product or service is used.
In what context is your product used? For example, with facial tissue, the appropriate context is when a user is suffering from a cold, flu or allergy. At these times, consumer needs and demands on the product are the highest. Within a given context, it is important to determine what aspirations the product or service helps the individual to achieve. Using a product is usually not the end, but the means for achieving some other purpose.
All too often, projects begin with too shallow an understanding of what the consumer believes would be ideal. In the rush to get products to market, the focus can be reduced to providing an incremental improvement to just one attribute. Even worse, the insight upon which the product is designed may be incomplete, resulting in an initiative that makes a small impact in the marketplace.
An in-depth understanding of the situation will allow you to write concepts with meaningful benefits that address important consumer needs. This holistic approach is more likely to result in breakthrough products. Since the ideal and current experience do not change rapidly, the effort spent on gaining this understanding can set the direction for a brand or product for years to come.
My favorite approaches to helping my clients determine the ideal experience include:
A picture is worth a thousand words. Storytelling and metaphor elicitation exercises rely on the use of visuals / pictures to understand people's thoughts, attitudes and emotions about a subject. Observational research is an excellent tool for understanding the current experience. If you need to learn more about your target audience, consider these approaches to define their ideal and current experience.