When thinking about growth and innovation strategy for your brand, ask yourself, “Are we listening to the right consumers?”

We analyzed research conducted by other companies and found that most focus on recruiting consumer based upon behaviors; e.g. purchase transactions. Whether they focused on recruiting loyalists, switchers or heavy users, each time the decision to whom to listen was based solely upon what a consumer had bought. The problem isn’t which segment to target, but rather the fact that recruiting is based upon consumer transaction behavior. Looking at loyalty solely based upon behaviors, such as frequency of use or transaction history, doesn’t tell you very much. You must consider the attitudinal beliefs about brands and products to determine loyalty and identify high value targets. These are consumers who are not dedicated to the brand. Their purchase habits relative to loyalty or switching is not indicative of whether or not they will switch in the future. They may continue to use the brand out of convenience, complacency or because they are uninformed/unaware of better alternatives. These consumers are behaviorally loyal, but attitudinally switchers. We classify these targets as Grey Area Consumers.

If you are entering a new market, who better to understand than these consumers? The consumers we target are heavy users of products, want to be loyal, but are not satisfied with the offerings of the brand. The reason this type of consumer recruiting is important is that we do not know from their behaviors alone if they are buying the product out of convenience, complacency or true loyalty.

Similarly, for categories where your brand is already a significant competitor, who better to listen to than those behaviorally loyal consumers of yours who are heavy users, but we identify as having issues that you can solve to keep them loyal? The U.S. cable TV customer or a cell phone customer in just about any country is a good example of this. They can seem loyal because they are purchasing and have purchased for a period of time, but attitudinally would switch in a heartbeat. There are many products and brands that consumers stick with because they either don’t realize there could be something better or haven’t been given a reason to switch.

By differentiating consumers by their attitudes about loyalty and needs, you open up a whole new way to identify lucrative innovation opportunities whether your growth objective is to keep consumers, expand in your existing market or innovate in another. With the Grey Area Consumer recruiting model, you can identify brand improvements or new sub-segments to ensure that you are serving the highest value consumers.

Before you engage your next insight research or innovation project, ensure you get to a higher level conversation as to which consumers you should be recruiting.