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Understanding the Ideal Experience

An understanding of the ideal experience can set the direction for future marketing and product development efforts.

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.

Ask yourself:

  • Where is your user coming from?
  • Where are they going?
  • What are frustrations with the current experience?
  • What product or service benefits will enable the ideal experience?
  • What attributes are required to deliver the desired benefits?

Can you state in 1-2 sentences:

  • What experience does your target audience desire from using your product or service?
  • What life aspirations does your product or service enable them to achieve?

Why is understanding the context important?

  • Provides assurance that your initiative is grounded in consumer understanding
  • Results in appealing concepts and product designs
  • Sets the direction for future initiatives

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.

Identifying the ideal and current experience allows marketers and product developers to "set their sights high."

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.

How can qualitative research methods help to identify the ideal experience?

My favorite approaches to helping my clients determine the ideal experience include:

  • Storytelling
  • Techniques to elicit metaphors
  • Observational / ethnographic research

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.

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