Ahoy marketers! You should be watching more murder mysteries!

The Locard’s principle in forensic science says that the perpetrator of a crime will bring something into the crime scene and leave with something from it, and both can be used as forensic evidence. In other words, every contact leaves a trace.

As marketers, there is a significant insight that can be taken from this principle. Before we go deeper into that, let's simplify the actual process of marketing. Marketing is the sum total of all the things you do, to make your target customer aware of your existence and attract them towards your brand. It is not an art. It is a perfectly scientific and analytical process, based on data, interpretation and creativity.

It always starts with data, which is nothing but in-depth information about the target customers and their buying decisions. Marketers collect data from many sources which include Market Research, Competitor Analysis, Google Analytics and so on. Needless to say, all of these involve a substantial cost. However, are we missing something here?

A consumer interacts with a brand at multiple points. For an online store, consumer interaction could start with a click on the banner, or a Facebook ad or maybe an interaction with a paid promotion. The final touchpoint could be the email requesting a rating or a feedback. For a physical outlet, the product windows, billing counter, interaction with the sales staff, the customer care department and so on, are the various touchpoints of the customer.

This is where the Locard’s principle comes into play. At each of these touchpoints, the consumer leaves behind a trace – which is nothing but a valuable insight into their buying behavior. Similarly, he/she also takes back a tiny element of the brand’s value from that touchpoint. This micro-exchange could be a huge resource of data for marketers. In order to tap this resource, we need to understand how it works both ways.

From Consumer to Brand

When a consumer interacts with a brand at each of these points, they reveal a lot of information about their buying priorities. But it often goes unnoticed. Let us look at a problem that Amit faced. Amit is the head of marketing for an upcoming retail brand in the city. Despite checking all the boxes in terms of product availability, stock keeping, customer service, a very popular loyalty scheme and competitive pricing, the business was still getting low ratings from customers in online reviews. There was an uptick in the revenue, but with dipping customer reviews, it was only a matter of time before the revenue took a hit.

Multiple research exercises proved futile, until Amit overheard one of the girls who worked at the billing counter casually mentioning to her co-workers - “we need an extra day’s break to digest the customer rants we get in a day!” This set the alarm bells ringing in his head and upon further investigation, the actual problem was revealed. Customers were very happy while shopping at their outlet, but since there were only 4 billing counters, the average wait time per customer was anywhere between 10-20 minutes. The extremely slow billing systems used by the staff added another 5-10 minutes to that, and by then the customers had lost their cool and they were annoyed, impatient and complaining about the long wait.

The entire problem was resolved in less than a week. An extra billing counter was set up and new computers were installed at the billing counters. The customers were pleasantly surprised and the reviews took a turn towards north within a month’s time.

The point to note from this case is the importance of observing the trace insights of customer behavior at all the various touchpoints. If the staff at the billing counter were trained to observe these small elements of customer feedback, this problem could have been handled before it even affected the business. Marketers have to be like that good detective who does not just see what is obvious at the crime scene, but also what is hidden from plain view. Amit’s company only observed the happy customers walking around and buying from their outlet, and going out with loaded shopping bags. They did not notice the disgruntled rants that occurred only at the billing counter.

For a marketer, these trace insights are a very valuable resource that can be tapped by being observant at all the customer touchpoints, and keeping a close watch on customer behavior.

From Brand to Consumer

Let us reverse the scales now.

Every consumer touchpoint is also an opportunity for the brand to communicate its values and add to the buying experience. In today’s high-noise market, attention is the currency. If the consumer is even checking out our brand, that is a box ticked. However, are we optimizing our strategy at each consumer touch point? If no, then NOW is the time to do it.

Rehana works for a training company in Tamil Nadu that teaches English speaking to students from tier-2 and tier-3 towns. They barely do mass media promotions or engage commission agents to get new admissions. Yet they have been growing at almost 80% y-o-y in terms of revenue at a healthy profitability. They do something very simple yet unique.

Their brand stands for being friendly, compassionate and competent. ‘Friendly’ always comes first. It is Rehana’s job to ensure that these brand attributes are reflected at every single consumer touch point. So, when a student comes with his/her parent, there is always a smiling friendly person at their office to help them fill the forms out. The trainers at their institute have been chosen carefully to ensure that they must have the right temperament along with the skills. Even after the program is over, someone from their institute calls up every 3 months to enquire how the student is doing. All in a casual fun tone.

This builds credibility and generates tremendous word-of-mouth referrals for the company. Rehana is like that investigator who understands that the perpetrator would always carry a trace from the crime scene on himself/herself. Similarly, a customer would always carry an impression about the brand from every touchpoint. She focuses on each of these touchpoints and ensures that the team is delivering the brand promise consistently.

God lies in the details

Marketing is based on data, interpretation and creativity, starting specifically in that order. This article is all about the data. Because without adequate and accurate data, there is no meaningful interpretation and without that, creativity is nothing but a shot in the dark. In order to apply the Locard’s principle to marketing, we need to have our ears to the ground and observe with intent. These observations have to be collected, collated and analyzed in the right framework. These are the real unfiltered consumer insights that should form the backbone of our marketing strategy.

As marketers, let’s tip our hat to Henry Locard and draw insights from ‘our own crime scenes’. There is a treasure trove of insights waiting to be discovered. It all depends on who goes the extra mile to unearth that. Happy Marketing!

About the Author

Vinay Pushpakaran is a Bootstrap Marketing Specialist, Business Strategist and Keynote Speaker. He helps entrepreneurs build a profitable and sustainable business by optimizing their marketing strategy. His strength lies in curating high-impact marketing interventions that build visibility and credibility for the brand.

Add a comment & Rating

View Comments