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We know homeowners because we’ve been in their homes.

Article by
Kari O'Neill
Vice President, Strategy
Young & Laramore

To really talk to your audience, you’ve got to get to know them. The key? Get up-close and personal.

Placeholder Image? We Know Homeowners

As marketers, we all pretty much agree that the key to understanding a consumer’s wants and needs is to get inside their head.

But as it turns out, getting in somebody’s head is not an easy thing to do. And to make matters worse, the most common methods won’t get us what we truly want: an understanding of the non-rational and often unspoken motivations behind human behavior.

Many marketers, for example, rely on survey data to acquire insight. To be clear – there certainly are appropriate uses for surveys. They can capture basic behaviors, gather snapshots of brand health, and (when set up properly) test simple differences between creative approaches.

But while a large sample size sounds like an efficient way to talk to consumers, surveys are actually terrible at really capturing our customers’ innermost thoughts. Some users rush through a survey, which leads to artificial or inaccurate results. Plus, up to 50 percent of customers may lie in some form because of the anonymous nature of online surveys.

Polls can be useful for gathering information, too, but they don’t cover all the bases. In polls and surveys, people focus their answers around rational motivations. But when it comes to making purchase decisions, we’ve proven time and time again that logic doesn’t call the shots – emotions do.

There’s a reason surveys and polls can’t give us the full picture: they’re missing the point. Homeowners hide truths about their subconscious wants and needs in plain sight. But to access that truthful understanding, we have to visit them, one-on-one, in the place where they’re most comfortable: their homes. Because in their home lives, homeowners lay their thoughts and feelings bare. They fold opinions into conversations with spouses, chats with kids, and day-to-day routines.

We built our Unspoken™ brand strategy process to uncover those hidden truths through a rigorous ethnographic approach. Some might think ethnography is an exploratory endeavor, but our process is anything but. It’s driven by developing specific hypotheses about motivations that drive meaningful, focused, and (most importantly) honest conversations.

At Young & Laramore, we’ve talked to literally hundreds of homeowners in the space that’s most central to their lives. We’ve been in single-family and multi-generational homes, million-dollar and humble starter homes, homes lived in for a few months or a few decades. We’ve been to rural Indiana, the heart of Boston, and the coast of Carolina. And on the journey, we’ve seen our fair share of real lives: we’ve met children who crash interviews in Fisher-Price cars, couples who bicker over home decor, and older women who dress their teeny-tiny pets in teeny-tiny outfits.

After hundreds of hours of interviews, we’ve figured out that when speaking with homeowners, we learn a whole lot more from what they don’t say. Non-verbal behaviors can reveal the most interesting, sticky, and tension-filled motivations that words just can’t capture.

And we’ve seen those behaviors firsthand. Red faces teach us just how much “lawn shame” can embarrass. Tense looks between husband and wife reveal they can’t agree on how to hang a picture. The glee in a whiskey-lover’s voice when recommending a drink shows just how much pride he takes in his liquor cabinet.

It’s these unspoken but deeply felt motivations that present the richest opportunity to connect a homeowner to a brand in a meaningful way. We seek these truths in homes because, left to a survey or focus group, they might never be found.

So that’s what we do – we talk to people. We learn from them, and we learn about them. And by we, we mean all of us: it’s our philosophy that everyone at Y&L, from creative to strategy to media, participates in ethnographic research. Because it’s only when you’ve sat down and talked to your target that you can understand how to reach them effectively.

We know homeowners because we’ve been in their homes. Can you say the same?

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