From Universal Human Truth To Comprehensive Consumer Profile

Consumer packaged goods companies routinely invest millions of dollars seeking to uncover and define universal human truths that will deeply connect consumers to their brands. 

CPG researchers often apply advanced techniques from ethnography, psychology and other disciplines in their efforts to forge tighter bonds with the humans who buy their paper towels, soft drinks and beauty products. Focus groups, brand panels, online surveys and other forums are just some of the means by which CPGs identify these personal aspirations and deep consumer motivations. Indeed, the universal human truth has become something of a holy grail for brands — the type of insight that has the potential to unlock equity value, freshen up a stale brand or boost market share.

While universal human truths may be a great way to create emotionally relevant brands, they are based on subjective, observational understanding of consumer wants and needs, rather than objective, fact-based knowledge of consumer actions and behaviors. As consumers undertake their own unique journeys in engaging with brands, CPG marketers must seek the data-driven equivalent of that universal human truth – the comprehensive consumer profile.



The idea of using consumer-driven information to craft brand, product and messaging decisions is especially important for those CPGs looking to get closer to consumers as individuals. The development and use of comprehensive consumer profile is critical for establishing more direct relationships with their customers or for CPGs to define more relevant consumer segments. Further, the next wave of innovation in CPG requires such advancements in data-driven insights. 

So how do CPGs create this comprehensive consumer profile?

  • Greater integration and analysis of current data holdings, including any known consumer first-party data, such as product registrations and loyalists, but more importantly anonymous consumer first party data such as site behavior and advertising/marketing activity history. 
  • More creative second-party data-sharing arrangements with retailers enabling visibility into product purchasers and loyalists, and more sophisticated use of third-party data sources driving more granular view of audience segments. 
  • Innovations in campaign design and media buying to move consumers outside of the “walled garden” ecosystems and into brand-driven experiences ensuring brands get access to more granular, first-party consumer-driven data.
  • Embracing data-driven branding – holistic brand messaging across platforms and geographies based on audience profiles and analytics.
  • Reorienting consumer relationships around loyalty and direct purchase/ecommerce experiences. Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club comes to mind is an example of such an effort, as are the development of content-rich communities, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Center.
  • Further advancements in smart packaging, interactive labels and intelligent ordering systems (for automatic replacement of specific products) are all areas where big data and analytics intersect with CPGs’ traditional strengths in innovation. 

To a large degree, such data-centric innovations are proxies for consumer-centric marketing innovation. Data should be a focus of investments in innovation. In fact, the collection of more and better data assets should be viewed as a foundation of innovation. Product and distribution-centric innovations must be evaluated in terms of their ability to generate more and better data that provides deeper and more actionable insights about consumers (who they are, how they behave, what they may buy in the future). And they reflect a shift away from only focusing on product-centric and channel-centric innovations.

The imperative in today’s environment is to get closer to the customer — and stay closer. Without the effective use of consumer data, CPG companies will struggle to increase consumer brand engagement and awareness in an increasingly saturated media landscape. 

The true power, of course, is in the combination of universal human truths (which help brands define and differentiate themselves) with advanced data-driven and analytical marketing firepower (that can help brands more effectively engage consumers and monetize that engagement). In the future, CPG marketers will find themselves balancing state-of-the-art branding techniques with data science.

2 comments about "From Universal Human Truth To Comprehensive Consumer Profile".
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  1. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, October 11, 2016 at 12:21 p.m.

    Ooops - you left out the most innovative and insights-rich new method for developing richer consumer profilers: applied listening.

    Implemented with sufficient rigour it puts traditional research, as well as much quant big-data analysis, to shame in its ability to reveal deep psychographic, attitudinal and cultural keys to what makes the human subject tick.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 11, 2016 at 2:23 p.m.

    Back to: None of your/their business.

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