Marketing Foresight: Adapting To Consumers Evolving Needs


We all know the 4 P’s of Marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotion), which continue to play a significant role in driving corporate marketing and product management practices. As a brand marketer, you know that a marketing strategy lives and dies through how effectively your company navigates and harnesses the power of the 4 P’s.

The 4 P’s are nothing without 1 C: Consumers.

Connecting to consumers is the name of the game. Marketing and product managers need to accurately decipher just what their consumers want, how and where they want it, as well as the appropriate messages to drive home why they should buy their products and actually motivate them to purchase.

Modern marketing does not exist as a monologue. With the advent of new technologies (apps, social media, geo-localization software…), consumers have become increasingly smarter and informed. As a result, they demand dialogue with brands.

What does that mean for you? Consumers can review your products and services thoroughly before deciding to buy (through friends, blogs, forums, etc.). Information is power, and consumers have it.

Within this environment of increased information and scrutiny, brands are also facing intense competition for market share, especially in more mature product categories where growth can be difficult to achieve on a regular basis. In addition, complex processes in manufacturing, distribution and sales can hinder larger companies from being as flexible and adaptable to changing trends as the market would dictate.

How can brands adjust to this trifecta of empowered consumers, intensified competition and bureaucratic processes that can impair large companies?

This is where ‘Marketing Foresight’ comes in.

As a marketing pro, you need to be able to anticipate and make informed decisions that will have lasting impact on your business. To do this, you should become Foresight advocates.

What Is Marketing Foresight?

It is the understanding that strategy and planning must occur with predictive and future developments in mind , and with the knowledge of how much lead time is necessary in order to hit the sweet spot of consumer demand.

What Does This Look Like, Concretely?

In order for a company to develop and plan a highly successful marketing strategy, it must do so with various lead times, depending on what they want to alter:

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Answers to the above questions are rapidly changing, and what may help a company win today, may be outdated by tomorrow. So, how can a company effectively get to these answers in a structured, scientific, and reliable manner?

Let’s use ‘Future Customer’ and ‘Customer Need’ as our examples here.

To evaluate a future customer target, you need to determine what the future consumer landscape will resemble, and how consumers’ fundamental needs will change over time.

In other words, focus on the ‘Need State’, the intersection of what a consumer wants with how they want it delivered. To succeed where other brands have failed, you need to understand how this ‘Need State’ will evolve. This will give you a competitive advantage.

You can follow this simple 3-step process to guide you:

1.  Identify And Quantify Consumers And Need States Today

You need to analyze the current state of the market from a comprehensive, overarching approach. This goes beyond sales and consumer demographics.

This involves segmenting the market based on meaningful and practical criteria, and making sure to put a number on the impact of consumer needs and drivers of choice. We may find through research that within a product category, a specific consumer segment (based on demographics, attitudes, behaviors) makes their product choices in the following ways:

  • 60% based on taste
  • 30% based on convenience
  • 10% based on “health concerns”

With this information, we can actually quantify the ‘size’ of taste as a preference driver of choice in this product category – and then compare it to other, more traditional consumer segmentation criteria.

2.  Identify And Assess The Impact Of Future Growth Drivers

To determine future outcomes in the marketplace, it is essential to focus on trends and drivers that go beyond a particular product category. These should accurately portray how consumers are changing their ways of thinking and behaving.

How can you go about doing this? You should analyze trends related to demographic, social, cultural, lifestyle and economic factors, and then zero in and identify metrics that aptly capture these trends with concrete data. Examples could include GDP growth, % of consumers who own smartphones and similar quantifiable metrics. This will feed into step 3 of this evaluation process for marketing foresight.

3.  Align The Product Category To Trends – Then Look Forward

What does this all give us? You can use the advanced statistical analysis to connect trends to a particular product category, project growth within a category, and quantify the impact of this growth as a function of changes in consumer needs.

This exercise will give your executive leadership the intelligence and capacity to make better decisions that are more impactful on customer focus in the future. This can have an effect as well on future product messaging, brand positioning and innovation.

It’s a win-win situation: You will win by spearheading foresight for your brand, and your colleagues will win by listening to you.

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Companies need to know more about their increasingly connected and informed consumers. The changes we have witnessed over the past decade will only continue at even greater speed. To anticipate evolutions in trends and behavior thus, brands should adopt and practice the discipline of ‘Marketing Foresight’ to benefit from future growth opportunities.