Taking ones head, out of ones arse.

It’s a valuable lesson I learnt early in my career.

The journey to ParaStudio and my role as founder has been a long one. There have been some interesting lessons learnt along this road, and many have shaped how I run my business and approach brand building. One particular lesson came in the form of…

The Toothless Guy Drinking Stella

Many moons ago when I was a new business exec at Starcom, I found myself sitting in a pub in Devon. We had gone down to pitch for a large new strategy account and were having a debrief in the pub before heading back to London. There was a collective feeling that we hadn’t won having seen our rivals rollerblade into their meeting.

There we were, feeling a bit despondent when, our CEO Mark Cramner, pointed out a fella on the other side of the bar. This chap had no teeth, wearing overalls and judging by his thick leathery hands, was some kind of manual labourer. It was about 12.30 in the afternoon and he had a pint of Stella in his hand.

One of the other accounts Starcom were working on at the time was Stella Artois. The customer persona we had built out of the ideal Stella drinker was a far cry from this toothless guy in the pub. Mark nodded toward him and announced:

“We need to get out of our own arses. We sit in our ivory tower, we’re in this metropolis that is London and everybody tells each other the same thing, but that bloke there” he pointed at the labourer sipping Stella through his gums, “That is reality, that guy drinking Stella. I don’t think we captured him in a workshop!”

It was true, we hadn’t. Mark, never one to mince his words, had this brilliant way of simplifying and distilling.

As a Founder, you may think your demographic is XYZ but you’ll have people that don’t necessarily buy for any of the reasons you put together in your persona profile. The guy in the pub was buying Stella, in all probability, simply because it was the strongest lager, not for the associated “prestige” of how we had positioned the brand.

And we hadn’t considered him.

It was a truly valuable lesson, and one I’ve always with carried me and have ensured rolls over when we’re building brands to scale in the startup world.

It’s not always an emotional heartstring that will make your customers reach for their wallets, sometimes people buy for very simple reasons.

Next time you’re identifying your ideal customer, remember, have you thought about the toothless guy drinking Stella?

By doing so, getting out of ones proverbial can prove to be reassuringly effective.

By Dan Cushing

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