“What does our big data say about new product news?”

This familiar refrain is heard in marketing departments of quick-service and fast-casual restaurateurs across the land. And while there’s sound advice to be found here, the reliance on product development is all too often the only marketing lever to be pulled. As the name of the game is “more customers, more often,” restaurants need to find a way to fit their brand into the everyday routine of one of their strongest consumer spending segment—moms.

A shift in quick-service conventional wisdom would put moms out front, calling on marketers to fit their brand into her life, rather than fit her into the brand’s test kitchen. And in today’s tech-enabled world, the tendency is to turn to big data for answers. However, those answers only speak to “what” is happening and not “why.” To be, and stay, in touch with modern moms means adopting an agile insights solution that yields greater insight into her motivations and not just her purchase history. An agile insights engine, for example, can take the form of an online community of thousands of diverse and engaged moms. This always-on community allows companies to capture the voices, moods, behaviors, and needs of moms across the globe.

An agile insights approach should become a go-to resource for any number of quick-service, food, and packaged-goods companies as they pursue a real-time, on-going dialogue for input and feedback on brand experiences that appeal to an audience that controls 85 percent of all purchase decisions.

In the case of one particular quick-serve company, the brand had doubled down on their big data, with analytics that shed light on things like purchase frequency, price sensitivity, product selection, and loyalty. However, they remained in the dark when it came to why customers chose them and where the brand fit in their lives. So, instead of another trip to the test kitchen, the brand worked with an agile insights-oriented company that went into consumer kitchens for a more intimate look into mealtime needs and how the brand might solve them. The agile insights shed light on the “whys” and “what if’s” of meal planning that the brand’s big data just couldn’t touch.

In this scenario moms were invited to tell their stories about dinnertime needs and where quick/casual food fit in best. The headlines … new product formulations did not tap into her motivations and fell short of meeting her family’s needs. Modern moms are all about making memorable moments for their family, and she looks to food as a key ingredient in doing so.

She wants crowd-pleasing food that fits with “cultural” moments that happen in life, those big tent-pole events in her home where people gather around food, like the Super Bowl and seasonal holidays. Give her convenience for “everyday” moments where life happens on the spur of the moment, like movie night, school events and impromptu neighborhood gatherings. Give her quality food that lives up to “iconic” rites of passage that call for special attention, like graduation, weddings and the classic firsts in life.

With this feedback, the company’s marketing calendar was re-imagined to align the brand’s product appeal with family moments, creating reasons for the brand to fit into her life more authentically and more often. And as an added bonus, the test kitchen now had a guide for product innovation and menu curation.

Using big data to support new product development is an essential way for restaurants to surprise and delight their customers. On its own; however, the big data test kitchen can leave quick-service restaurant marketers with a limited view of their customer needs. By leveraging the power of an agile insights engine, new product news becomes a way for the brand to confidently and authentically fit into the lives of a powerful purchase segment, moms.

Skyler Mattson is the president of WONGDOODY, a human experience company, and founder of The Motherboard, a platform that helps brands reach moms in a more authentic way. The platform provides a complement to brands’ “big data” by accessing agile, qualitative insights about what mothers value most.
Outside Insights, Story