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From Fear to Confidence: It’s Time to Think Differently About Consumer Learning

From Fear to Confidence: It’s Time to Think Differently About Consumer Learning

Kathryn Spitzberg Johnson

round mirror on ground reflecting sky

Understand the fundamentals of consumer group decision-making and overcome your anxiety

Branding and product development decisions can be costly, especially when you take a wrong step. It’s natural to feel some level of fear at this stage, especially if you are making a decision that can change the direction of your business, product or solution.

So, how do you eliminate this feeling of trepidation? We’ve found that a deep understanding of the needs of your target audience is the only way. Solid consumer insights can give you a look into what your audience is thinking and feeling (and buying!), as well as their fears that you can address head-on.

Getting to the heart of the information you need can take some work, but it’s worth every bit to give you the confidence you need to overcome any concerns and questions. When you have solid data on which to base decisions, you can use it as a roadmap for your internal teams including brand managers, marketers, research and development staff, and the C-suite.


Here are some things to keep in mind when moving from fear to confidence.

A Little Fear is Good

When you have the knowledge and information you need to make confident decisions, that’s a great thing. However, nothing big ever came out of being cautious. I saw a bumper sticker recently that read, “Take risks or die of boredom.” No one wants a boring brand! Throughout a process of pivoting or change, I encourage you to take the long view: Don’t let fear stop you, constantly improve based on feedback and focus on the journey. Do something.

Approach Consumer Learning Differently

Brand research for consumer insights has long involved gazing in the mirror. Instead of asking consumers about brands and their feelings about you, ask them about them. In our work with Hanesbrands, we used a combination of deep qualitative shopper research, including techniques such as girlfriend groups and shop-alongs, and research that uncovered how women shop and buy in this category. We wanted insights into both the needs and wants of this audience in order to make retail experiences more relevant to their target audience.

Uncover Consumer Fears

If you are taking a consumer-first approach, then you need to take their fears into account as well. Uncovering wants, desires and predicting next steps is the premise on which the consumer insights industry was built. However, when you add the layer of fear or lack of confidence, you can start to get to the heart of purchase decision-making. If fear is holding you back from making business decisions, fear might be holding your consumer back from making purchase decisions. It’s a good thing to explore so you can address these fears head-on and give your consumer the confidence needed to take action.

Change the Internal Conversation

Shift your conversations internally away from “Do we like this?” to “Is it fit for purpose for who we are and who we are trying to become?” This is easy when you have the foundation on which to make decisions—a foundation that is firmly grounded in a deep knowledge of your audience and how you want to serve them. Make sure that every stakeholder has access to this knowledge in its most useful form to serve their job function. This means every decision in your company will ladder up to a common goal.

How can you move forward with your business decisions with absolute confidence and certainty? You must start to think differently about today’s unique consumer groups, getting to the heart of how they are making decisions. Once you have this knowledge, you can change the way you move forward in your own company from the ground up.  When you are armed with the information and details you need to make smart decisions, you can fulfill the brand experience you are trying to create at every turn.

Image courtesy of Pexels.

Kathryn Spitzberg Johnson is a partner at Big Squirrel, a market research agency in Portland, Oregon.