In all the discussion on blogs about the concept of markets as conversations, there is a great deal of focus on the speaking part of the conversation and far less consideration of listening. In order to truly be in conversation with your consumers, at some point you have to shut up and listen. I'm excited that I'm seeing more posts and articles that recognize the role listening to and understanding consumers plays in successful marketing and branding.
Currently the most e-mailed New York Times article is titled: What Do Women Want? Just Ask. Far too often, even when marketers try to consider what consumers want and how they think, marketers guess or rely only on insights offered by those consumers who take the initiative to offer their opinion, by pundits and tea leaf readers or by interpreting past consumer behavior. Worst of all is when marketers base their insight into consumer opinion based on focus groups or other research which is designed to give marketers the opinions that will validate their plans. The idea expressed in this article that listening to consumers and incorporating their feedback is a new concept and approach to marketing and branding is sad. And that this article is so popular possibly because it is such a revolutionary idea to many is equally sad. This is why focus groups and market research get a bad rap when it's often a Jessica Rabbit-like situation - research isn't bad, it's just designed that way.