Attempts by one gender to understand the other have made for comical plot lines in TV, movies and literature for centuries, from Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” to the 2000 blockbuster “What Women Want,” starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.

And while we may get a good laugh watching a man suddenly given the ability to hear women’s thoughts use it to his own professional (and personal) advantage like Gibson does in the movie, learning more about what your customers want is critical to the success of your business, no matter the gender of your target audience. 

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One of the most valuable things you can do is listen. Focus groups, one-on-one interviews and surveys of target audiences can reveal a wealth of insights about the company’s perception and opportunities for improvement. 

Consumer expectations from the brands with which they do business have changed dramatically with the advent of digital and social media. Gone are the days of marketing monologues, when brands preached their message and assumed their market would accept it as gospel. In this tech-driven era of heightened social, environmental and ethical awareness, consumers want real time interaction with their favorite brands. For the first time, we have the technology and platforms to accomplish this.

So, what do consumers want? They want to engage in a meaningful dialog with the brands they favor — and that means companies must do more listening and less talking.

Consumers today know the real power lies with them, and they’re not shy about sharing their thoughts, preferences and demands with the brand with which they do business. Studies show that nearly nine of out ten consumers are looking for meaningful brand interactions.

Today’s branding is all about facilitating this dialog in order to get into the minds of your audience, act on what they say and then deliver what they really want — not what you think they should want.

So what should your brand be delivering? In a word, more. Ninety percent of consumers want more from brands — more authenticity, transparency, simplicity, integrity and honesty. What else do consumers expect, and how can you make your branding more effective? 

Cohn and Wolfe’s Authentic Brands 2014 Study identified seven anchors that consumers find important in a brand:  

  • Communicating honestly about products and services

  • Communicating honestly regarding environmental impact and sustainability measures.

  • Acting with integrity at all times (of crucial importance to 89 percent of consumers).

  • Being clear about and true to beliefs.

  • Being open and honest about partners and suppliers.

  • Standing for more than just making money.

  • Having a relevant and engaging story.

These qualities can serve to anchor your brand’s messages, but if you really want to connect with consumers, you’ll also do the following:

Help your audience achieve their goals:

Nine out of ten individuals want brands to help them reach their personal goals, and they want to be asked what they need to attain them — not be told how to do so.

Listen and respond thoughtfully:

40 percent of consumers want brands to pay better attention to what they’re saying and demonstrate this through thoughtful response.

Be transparent and honest in all that you do:

FastCompany says only 3 percent of consumers actually believe businesses are honest and transparent. So be upfront about your practices, own your mistakes and stand by your morals and values — no matter what.

Align your values with those of your target market:

An overwhelming number (92 percent) of people want to do business with organizations that share their beliefs. 

Share experiences, but make them about people:

82 percent of consumers want companies to share experiences focused on real people, not on the brand.

Let your audience shape your offerings:

If you really want to prove you’re listening to what your market wants, then you’ll give them a voice in your product creation, as 91 percent of consumers want to participate in product development.

Your brand should never remain static. If you truly want to give your consumers what they want, you’ll listen to and involve them in your company’s story as it continues to unfold and as your brand is elevated.

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