“Customer first Technology next” is the message from Yale Conference

The Yale Consumer Insights Conference  on “Marketing and Innovation in a Shrinking World” was  today. Dean Sharon Oster opened the conference with a reference to the momentous people’s  movement  in the Middle East and the enabling power of the Internet and social media which was echoed, in the marketing context, by several other speakers.

A consistent theme that emerged  was that it was imperative to first  understand customer needs  and  then think of technology. The focus of all speakers was not sophisticated surveys and advanced statistics  but rather a change  in the marketer and organization mindset to be willing to look at global consumers with a genuinely open and receptive mind. Here are some highlights:

  • Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup  explained how Campbell soup realized that baby boomers are getting to be sodium conscious and how the company was able to re-invent its products and happily win an award from the American Heart Association. From Russia to China and elsewhere there were examples of how Campbell Soup really goes in to understand the housewife,  in her kitchen, to formulate relevant healthy market offerings.
  • Beth Comstock of GE  also emphasized the need to first look at markets and needs and  discussed  the development of a neo-natal “Lullaby warmer” for Tier-3 Indian city hospitals when GE  understood that only the upper end hospitals in the Indian metros could afford  expensive western solutions.
  • Alfredo Gangotena of Mastercard talked about continuing the priceless campaign, now on the Internet with such innovations as Mastercard Marketplace.
  • Ravi Chaturvedi  formerly P&G explained the need for shampoo marketers to first understand hair wash frequency in each country/region  before putting in the technology. For eg. if you wash your hair every day, a light perfume  could really become  intolerably strong in  a week unless the perfume designers considered product use in formulation.
  • Keith Ferazzi   energized the audience by  talking about key personal relationships and the need to be generous and more open as individuals.Keith also signed copies of his book “Who’s got your back?”

It was interesting how top marketers from a diverse set of industries seem to put customer ahead of technology. Sort of like the Edison quote “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent it.”

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