Superior insight provides the platform for competitive advantage. Companies with outstanding customer insight usually place a premium on asking – and answering -the right questions of consumers.

How insight impacts business decisions

Often, the clarity this provides leads to counterintuitive business decisions: Competitors head down one path, while the pro-file companies pursue another direction or chart a new course entirely.

During EquiBrand’s case study of several of the world’s top companies, we were able to identify several ways they use superior consumer insight to develop new consumer-centric products and marketing campaigns that are recognized around the globe.

Apple, the King of meeting customer needs

Since the launch of its first computer in the late 1970s, Apple has met customer needs like no other company. In the process, it defined and redefined entire industries.

Personal computers, digital music players, mobile phones, tablets, and home automation all existed before the Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, or HomePod. Did you ever stop to think that Apple didn’t invent most of the products it offers? What Apple did was simplify technology and deliver new things in new ways.

While consumers may say they want extra features, Apple knows that too many bells and whistles overcomplicate and can detract from higher-order benefits of ease and simplicity. Apple’s secret is satisfying needs customers don’t even know they have.

Steve Jobs explained Apple’s customer focus this way: “And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ‘What incredible benefits can we give to the customer? Where can we take the customer?’ Not starting with ‘Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how are we going to market that?’ And I think that’s the right path to take.”

Apple became successful by flipping the orientation of traditional, technology-driven industries to be consumer– rather than technology-driven.

How Walt Disney Uncovers Customer Insights

Walt Disney’s idea to build Disneyland occurred to him while sitting on a park bench watching his daughters ride a merry-go-round at a local amusement park. He felt disconnected from his daughters and wanted to participate in the experience.

Disney said, “What this country really needs is an amusement park that families can take their children to.” Walt’s insight: develop an amusement park that parents and children could enjoy together.

Over the next decade, Walt visited a dozen or so different parks for inspiration before launching Disneyland.

According to Disney animator Ollie Johnston “Walt was very thorough, and he really looked into this stuff.” Said Walt, “When we consider a new project, we really study it—not just the surface idea, but everything about it.”

Walt’s use of insight and creativity resulted in two new disciplines at Disney:

  • Guestology, for uncovering consumer insights
  • Imagineering, fusing imagination with engineering to create innovative experiences

These disciplines are still in practice today, allowing the company to stay close to consumers while creating the magical attractions Disney is so well-known for.

What Google’s business success is based on

Google was founded on technical insight into how website links underlie the importance of individual pages. Much of its business success is based on consumer insight. While competitors were creating portals to attract consumers and advertisers, Google resisted the temptation, keeping its now-iconic homepage clear and simple.

The insight? The more time users spent outside of its own site, the more money it made through pay-per-click ads. Former CEO Eric Schmidt said, “We focus on quality, and we have a very simple model. If we show fewer ads that are more targeted, those ads are worth more. So, we’re in this strange situation where we show a smaller number of ads and we make more money because we show better ads. And that’s the secret of Google.”

There is so much more to learn from EquiBrand’s case studies of 3 of the world’s top companies. Discover how our principles of upstream marketing were shaped by this groundbreaking research: read Chapter 2 of our book, Upstream Marketing, FREE.

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