Giving the consumer a seat at the table
During brand planning one of the first things you do is develop, and/or analyze the SWOT. You look at the company's strengths, its weakness, opportunities, and threats. It is all encompassing in the business landscape and the consumer landscape as it relates to the brand.
What is missing however, is the consumer landscape of opinions as it relates to your brand and your competition. The consumer's perception: the good, bad, and ugly. It’s getting easier to capture this information due to not only the traditional channels of satisfaction surveys, letters to the company, calls to customer service, etc. but also the web. From message boards and blogs to photo-sharing, video, and consumer reviews, the information is available.
Without accurately addressing what people are actually thinking you may miss a key insight. Adding in customer perceptions adds a depth to understanding what your true SWOT is. Call it a p-SWOT for simplicity.
The customer helps inform them all. Without understanding the perceptions in the marketplace it is difficult to accurately make assumptions about your core business, the type of targeting desired for a campaign, where your evangelists are and what they are saying, the gamut. You may miss an opportunity that you identified as a weakness because you’ve misdiagnosed the customer perception.
An easy example of this is a wireless carrier. They are launching a new product and see an opportunity in their exclusive deal with a phone manufacturer, which of course goes in the SWOT. The campaign planning moves forward and its decided they’ll focus on driving people to their website to purchase. Sounds good so far. Except what wasn’t taken into consideration is the majority of customer service calls relate to being unable to complete a purchase online. That information is logged and perhaps looked at by someone above the CSR Director infrequently. So customers either give up and go to a competitor, or, they call / email your customer service and impact your cost centre even further. However, doing a little digging further online, you find on a few forums that it is a problem for Firefox and Safari users and people are upset. Had you known that upfront you would have identified your website compatibility as a weakness and a threat and your launch as an opportunity to potentially reach out to dissatisfied customers. I imagine it would be a more fruitful one as well.
Using the p-SWOT can become a powerful way to continue to reinforce the need for customer collaboration and communication. It can help you be pro-active and innovative vs. reactive and outdated. It puts the customer in the seat next to you helping you navigate. I certainly am trying to put it into practice :)