Customer Insights: 4 Questions for Rob Malcolm

Customer Insights 4 Questions for Rob Malcom Austin AMA


Every company is looking for “insights” to grow their business. Why then do so few find insights that will truly transform and unlock tremendous company growth? We caught up with Rob Malcolm for a sneak preview of his session at Austin AMA’s December luncheon, “Marketing Insights from Dos Equis, Johnnie Walker & Folgers,” held Dec. 10 at Abel’s on the Lake. Register now! Attendees will learn an easy but dynamic framework, get new usable tools you can put to work tomorrow and learn how these tools work in multiple case study examples.

In the past, you’ve called this topic the “single most powerful motivation” driving growth for brands, more than digital marketing or even product innovation. Why is that so?

In every category, and in every business, there are two first steps to cracking the all-important challenge of accelerating growth. The first is identifying the highest value business opportunity—the most valuable and reachable segment. The second, and this is where our topic comes in—is to identify the most powerful motivation or insight that drives their choice of brand, business or service.

For every business, there may be many things at play, but in my experience, there is always one that is more powerful than the others. If you can find this and unlock it, you can build your entire business strategy around it and achieve growth that you would not have thought possible. The right target and single insight drives your strategy and every tactical element of it. Digital marketing and product innovations are tactics—but you can only do this well if you know your target and why they make the choices they do in your category. Think of them as arms and legs of the marketing body—without a powerful “head” providing clarity of direction, they flop around uselessly.

Our AMA session will reveal why this is the case, how you can find and harness it and illustrate it through numerous case studies. It will also give you a simple tool to use to take back to your business and use immediately.


Can that one true insight be found amidst the heaps of big data? Or does it take a different, more personalized approach to really understand consumer behavior?

Big data is a hot topic at the moment—everyone has more and more data today…indeed data is bigger than ever before. But few are able to answer the “so now what” question. In my experience, data can be great to identify “what is happening?” questions—like who is buying my product, where they are buying it and maybe how often and how much they are paying for it. But big data almost never answers the question “why are they buying or not buying it?” That is the key question to answer and it requires very deep understanding of motivations to buy—and this comes from deep and penetrating discovery work of largely qualitative digging.


What are some common mistakes that marketers make (or myths) about consumer behavior insights?

There are two common mistakes people make. First, they don’t know that there is always one insight into customer motivation that is far more important to all others. So they find lots of them and try to figure out how to use them. I gave a training a course at Procter & Gamble a couple of years ago and discovered that many brands kept “insight logs”—with as many as a dozen so-called insights in the list. Not surprisingly, they did not know what to do with them—use them all or pick some? Which ones? The second problem, and we will get into this in the session, is to avoid confusing observation with insight. There is a huge difference—but you will have to come to the session to learn the difference.


What’s one action that we could start doing right away to keep consumer behavior top-of-mind in our day-to-day roles?

Commit to find the one transformational insight for your business now and don’t sleep until you do.


Learn more about the secrets to unlocking customer insights from Rob at the Austin AMA’s next luncheon on Dec. 10: “Marketing Insights from Dos Equis, Johnnie Walker & Folgers.”



Robert MalcomIn a marketing and general management career spanning 40 years, Rob Malcolm has been a student, practitioner, consultant, and teacher – successfully applying all aspects of marketing in the US and internationally. Following completion of his bachelor’s and MBA in Marketing from the University of Southern California, Rob joined Procter and Gamble in Brand Management in 1975. In his 24 years with them, he held various positions in marketing and general management working on more than 75 brands in 40 countries.

Connect with Rob on LinkedIn