The Credible Marketer (I): The Traitors & Consumer Understanding

Swapping tea for lemon water. Skipping breakfast to restrict eating windows. Cutting out booze. 

You don’t need me to tell you that your customers are consciously changing their habits and behaviours right now. But you might need me to remind you that the new year is the most important strategic moment to focus on consumer understanding to ensure you stay close to your customers amidst the upheaval. 

And if you need another reminder, thankfully the hottest show on primetime TV right now is a brilliant case study in the importance of consumer understanding. 

Let’s get everyone on the same page about the show – without any spoilers…

Tell us about The Traitors 

The Traitors is essentially a murder mystery. The contestants are there to win a big cash prize. Everyday they complete a team task to contribute to the prize pot. Whoever is still in the show come the final night shares the pot. But here’s the catch. Some of the contestants are ‘Traitors’. Their job is to stay under the radar and ‘Murder’ a contestant each night. If any traitors remain in the show come the final night, the entire pot is shared out between the traitors only. Every night all contestants, including the traitors, meet to have an important discussion. Who do they think is a traitor? They talk. They debate. They accuse. They defend themselves. They deflect. And then they vote. The contestant with the most votes is banished, leaving the show. But did they banish a traitor or a ‘Faithful’? Then, later that night, the traitors decide who to murder. And the contestant numbers dwindle every night until we have the winners.

What does The Traitors remind us about consumer understanding?

Consumers have a diverse set of needs and motivation. We get to see lots of different people, from different backgrounds and with different personalities. We see them interact with one another. We see them perform tasks together. We hear their personal reflections. We see them try to work out who the traitors are. And if they’re a traitor themselves, we see just what they are capable of. This serves as a good reminder that our target audiences and the wider population are not a homogeneous group who all behave the same way, predictably. They all have different needs and motivations. And those needs and motivations change depending on the situation and the circumstances.

Consumers mostly make emotionally-driven and uninformed decisions. The contestants don’t have any hard data on who might be a traitor. They grasp at straws and base their decisions on who they like or dislike. Who is introvert or gregarious? Who is quiet and observant and could be plotting like a traitor? Who is friendly and can’t possibly be a traitor? Who has annoyed or helped them? Even when they have the opportunity to make some more logical deductions, or to listen to other contestants who might have a more concrete theory, emotion takes over and clouds their judgement. At the time of writing, this foundation-less decision-making is clearly failing them. They’ve evicted 8 faithful and only identified 1 traitor.

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Sign up to The Credible Marketer, our monthly newsletter. As part of our mission to give marketing a more credible voice in business, we translate our favourite pop culture story into an entertaining lesson in marketing and leadership theory and share it with you each month. From consumer understanding to delivering great briefs, from managing conflict to telling great stories, each edition covers the module from our marketing & leadership training courses that will be most useful to where marketers are in the brand planning cycle. As part of our mission to give marketing a more credible voice in business.

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