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November 21, 2011 / Steve Hennigs

Data is great, but there must be context

Capturing and Delivering the Voice of the Consumer is the title of the presentation I attended at General Mills last Friday and the presenter was Jeff Hagen who is the Director of Consumer Services at General Mills.

Jeff shared a number of funny stories based on his experience interacting with consumers over the years which made the presentation quite entertaining but he also had a number of informative insights that I thought should be shared.  I decided to live tweet from the presentation and if you would like to view that stream please go to and search for #socapvoc.

Of all the things Jeff shared I thought the most interesting thing was his insistence on focusing on verbatim quotes from the consumer.  Jeff and his team have worked very hard to develop technologies and processes (the social media tracking tool was particularly awesome) to mine data and gather insights from the consumers.  Based on the data they can then share insights with marketing, sales, product development and the executive team but the data can only do so much.  The greatest impact and what really leads to change is when Jeff has these verbatim quotes (this can be from phone, social media, or any other type of consumer interaction) that provide real clarity to that data.

It is one thing to report that overall trends say that Honey Nut Cheerios taste good.  It is quite another to report that Sally Smith said “I love the sweet flavor of Honey Nut Cheerios and appreciate that it is still healthy for my kids!”.  Providing that quote and others like it to relevant departments can help guide decisions.  Why not build a marketing campaign around the “Sweet and healthy cereal for kids” or pat the product development team on the back for providing a great product.

I wish that more companies made the effort to understand what people are really feeling and using the voice of the consumer to drive business decisions.  Kudos to Jeff and the entire General Mills organization for taking this approach.  How does your organization act on consumer thoughts in your everyday operations?  What can you do better?  All thoughts are welcome!

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