Brand Sherlock Holmes
Global brand consultant and author Martin Lindstrom startled big company CEOs obsessed with big data when he urged them not to ignore the small details as the key for successful brand building could be discovered there. His conviction that small data is rich data drives him, with permission of course, to look inside the refrigerators or nosing in cupboards in households as he dwells into the minds of consumers who make purchase decisions. He does this as a forensic investigator of small data looking for emotional DNA of the consumer in order to gain insights into the mind and spirit of the consumer. It’s not surprising that CEOs and corporate leaders describe him as ‘Sherlock Holmes of brand consultants’
When Martin Lindstrom studies brands, he dwells deep into even small and scattered data in search of insightful secrets that contribute to building of powerful brands. With patience and perseverance, he examines even the very small data as he draws up brand strategies for companies worldwide.
Almost three billion people access Google and 70 per cent of online shoppers visit Facebook pages daily. There are 300 hours of videos uploaded every minute on YouTube. All these generate about 90 per cent of all the world’s data over the last two years. Despite these mountains of data, information about consumer behaviours is miniscule. But it is in the small data that the building blocks of brands that people fall for are lying buried.
Consumers judge practically everything in seconds, or minutes at most. They seek instant gratification especially when on online. Learning about their behaviour is difficult because their true self cannot be gauged from social media. This is the paradox of online behaviour.
Lindstrom says online, what we leave behind is largely strategic, whereas the insides of our refrigerators and dresser drawers are not. The integration of online and offline data – that is to say, the marriage of big data and small data – is a crucial ingredient of marketing survival and success in the 21st century. Here comes Lindstrom as Sherlock Holmes looking for the key insights from the small data.
When asked why CEOs and corporate leaders describe him as ‘Sherlock Holmes of brand consultants’, he offered these nuggets of information in an interview to Tyre Asia: “The fact that I spend the majority of my time in private consumers’ homes across some 70 countries yearly picking up seemingly insignificant clues about trends, brands and consumer desire may indeed be one of the key reasons why I’ve been labelled with this description.”
He reminds that everything can be copied in a matter of hours these days – leading to a situation where brands rarely holds a true point of differentiation – and his role is to identify that seemingly insignificant consumer insight which can help a brand discover its true emotional point of differentiation and thus the reason why the brand will continue staying in business in an increasingly competitive world.
When asked about the key elements that are necessary for developing a powerful brand strategy, be it in Europe or Asia, Lindstrom said his search for ‘balances’ help him evolve brand strategies.
“We’re all out of balance – it might be that I feel too old, too overweight, it might be that I feel I have no friends or desperately need a person to share my life with. These out of balances represent the very foundation for the creation of a new brand – or strengthening an existing brand. My role is constantly to seek and identify out of balances in our lives; once I’ve identified these the foundation for a brand has been created,” he explained.
It is a challenge for Lindstrom to help companies from Siberia to Mumbai to develop brands for a diversified market. “There’s an old saying stating that ‘if you’re too close to the forest, you can’t see the trees’. The closer you are to a culture the harder it is to pick what sticks out – and subsequently what the very foundation of the brand should be,” he says.
“I always have a haircut at the local hairdresser as I commence my work in a new region,” he explains his style of consultancy work. “This is the best way to get an immediate sense of what’s buzzing in the local community. Subsequently, I catch up with church leaders, football coaches or local opinion leaders – all whom help shape a strong first hand impression of the community you’re about to dive into.”
The next step is moving in with consumers, spending time in their homes, living their lives – and subsequently identifying their “balance scorecards”. All this leads to ideation sessions with the consumers where Lindstrom identifies new propositions and brand offerings – key components which finally create the very foundation for the strategic perspectives.
Commenting on the strategies that he develops in improving public perceptions about specific products that he is tasked to create as a consultant, Lindstrom said: “Everything from how the banking industry is perceived to how to change the perception of wool. My job is really to change perception of everything; products, services, people or countries.”
Lindstrom is considered a brand evangelist who recognises the connection between consumer emotion and product linkages. He has his own analysis of how do people’s emotions get intertwined with brands. “Aspiration is one of the most vital factors helping to create powerful brands – it might be that ‘Brand X’ makes me feel sexier, more popular, faster, more intelligent or just happier.”
If a brand is not able to create such emotional feelings this brand mission is not completed – as the very essence of powerful brand building is to “wrap” the brand in an emotional layer – in return helping to create a true point of differentiation at the same time as deviating the focus from price to how one “feels” when consuming, using or interacting with the brand, Lindstrom said. The Sherlock Holmes in him unwraps the mystery of the brand. He harnesses the power of ‘small data’ in his quest to discover the next big thing.