Leading-edge consumers can upend consumer insights strategies for brands looking to achieve cultural relevancy, avoiding the “tunnel vision” effect that can result from solely focusing on core consumer insights.

According to Emma Gage, managing director of Crowd DNA Singapore, cultural relevance is “the most important brand health metric” brands should really aspire to. Cultural understanding can allow companies to gain a “culturally charged commercial advantage” over the competition.

Consumer insights can help with providing direction for business challenges such as slow growth and saturated markets, she believes, but consumer research focused squarely on core consumers, whether to examine their purchase journeys or understand their behaviour, can also lead to “tunnel vision”.

So finding the right people – a curated set of individuals who represent certain perspectives or lifestyles of interest to the objectives of the work – and getting them on board, rather than mainstream consumers, is crucial to creating a forward-thinking brand.

Speaking at the QUAL360 APAC market research conference in Singapore, Gage advised looking for people with “skin in the game”.

“These people are relative to the category, to the brand and to what you are trying to do as a brand and your ambition,” she said, adding that participants tend to be “creatively-minded” and have bridging capital. (For more, read WARC’s report: Rethinking consumer insights for cultural relevancy.)

“They are not completely extreme, and random, and on the fringes – they have bridging platforms to the mainstream, or someone who is consuming the product or the category,” she explained.

While the notion of leading-edge work may conjure images of “cool-hunting with young hipsters at the bleeding edge of street culture”, Gage stressed that “it is not always about youth”, but about “carefully crafted engagement with people” beyond mere fashion aesthetics.

Keeping in mind that participants are driven by different motivations – such as curiosity about the category or a desire for an insider’s access to the brand – there is a need in turn for the company to cater to these needs with the work. Leading-edge consumers feel a sense of ownership and contribution to the wider brand picture.

“For us, the focus is on trying to get to the more interesting people and find out their perspective,” Gage said.

Sourced from WARC