Customer in the Data Shadow



What do I look like to you, a guinea pig or a lab rat? Make your pick because I need to know. Scratch that, truth is, I don’t want to know. It’s just that your marketing strategies are beginning to make me feel like one of either option. Brands and marketers these days are doing the right thing by gathering as much data as possible to fuel their marketing campaigns but they are doing the wrong thing by ignoring the human element – we all want to be touched at some point. Brands make the mistake of trying to be masters at collecting data but ignore the ability to be human therefore treating people like lab rats – if this strategy fails, try the next one, that seems to be the new mantra.

Owing to the speed with which the consumer (not a lab rat or guinea pig) is changing, brands are adopting a more agile framework – design thinking – which helps them change at the same pace the consumer does. However they tend to keep the consumer in the data shadow, this means that brands tend to take the standpoint of addressing the consumer needs as they see it on paper and/or research reports. For example, the fact that there is usually an insane amount of terrible traffic condition in Nigeria doesn’t mean that if you sell a product to them they’ll purchase it but if you can connect to their emotions at that point, you are likely to record a higher amount of sales.


Therefore, what any brand should do is never to neglect the fact that the customer is first a human being and not a collection of data.

Consumer first (Consumer Centricity), that’s basically what design thinking is about. If you don’t believe me, you could ask Google, Amazon, Apple, and any other successful brand that has employed this strategy.

Changing the Nomenclature


I sat in a board meeting with a group of C-suite individuals and each one of them had fancy titles that made them eligible to sit at the meeting. Many of the titles with which they introduced themselves, I certainly had never heard before, for example, one had the title – Chief Responsibility Officer C.R.O. I was quite shook at the time as that sounded away from what I have been used to. After everyone was done introducing themselves, it occurred to me that the mental research I had been carrying out for months in many top flight organizations in Nigeria most especially was ready to become an article. At that meeting, no one introduced themselves as human resources (HR).


Organizations now have more fancy and encompassing names for the position such as talent manager, personality manager, and so on. This is in view to reflect the discipline’s broadened scope and strategic value.

The evolution is not limited to the office of the human resource alone. You must have noticed that the positions that used to be the best fit yesterday have all changed as organizations are making strategic efforts to future proof their businesses. For example software engineers used to be programmers, account managers used to be sales reps.


What is driving this?

Like every evolution it is catalyzed by certain reactions. In humans, it may be due to genetic mutation – thanks to Marvel’s X-men we no longer see this as impossible. In environment, it may be due to climate change or something less severe. Now in business, it is driven by the human centered design trend.

Everyone is creating products and services that meet daily human needs, so also, organizations have begun to see the relevance of putting internal activities in place to foster a great working experience for employees – we are human too.

Soon organizations with little or no focus on tending to their employees will phase out as they would find it extremely difficult to attract and acquire top talents. Soon mediocrity and mundanity would creep in and then we will no longer hear of that business – sad story.

The mantra now should be “future focused, human centered”. Your employees need to know you have their best interests at heart and they’ll put in everything necessary to take that business from where it is to the place where the strategic direction points.