Chapter 4

Understand the Consumer's Mind-set

Start with the Big Picture

When you or your team meets to plan strategy, one of the first questions asked is: What's going on out there in our industry, and how is it affecting people? The textbook response is to undertake a business environment review, identify trends, extend them, and consider their impacts. Of course, while that type of work is necessary, important, and valuable, it's essentially descriptive and backward-looking—even when the deck gets spiced-up with short-term projections. As when driving a car, business should be steered forward by looking straight ahead, while continually adapting to the traffic, twists and turns, and weather.

Some years ago, I conducted a mammoth study for a global CPG company that tracked trends driving the food business in Europe and Asia. The results included demographics and appliance details like the varying sizes of freezers, microwave penetration, and food categories. Taken together, this data did a very good job relating market conditions and the ability to freeze or zap food. It also led to an important conclusion: The infrastructure for microwaveable food was emerging, providing several of the CPG firm's frozen-food brands with new global potential.

The ability to convert potential results into insightful guidance requires consumer-centered strategies and programs that are grounded in perceptive, timely consumer research. The consumer research available to draw upon for this food trends ...

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