krow X

How a 360° understanding
of your audience

insight into impact

Eliot Sykes, Managing Partner and Head of Consultancy at krow, explains the importance of a human, holistic approach to customer research and audience understanding.

Discover the inner workings of krow’s customer intelligence model, 360i® – and how to apply these learnings to overcome three major marketing barriers and unearth your own game-changing insights.

The context: customer demands are evolving

Customer preferences are evolving at an unprecedented pace, and most businesses recognise they must adopt a proactive approach to stay ahead of the curve. They need to understand what their audience demands, how to meet and exceed those expectations, and how to adapt across media, channels and their entire organisation (because customer-centricity doesn’t sit within the insight team – it should apply to everyone).

In short, truly understanding customers is how brands stay relevant.

It’s never been more important to place the customer at the heart of your organisation. And while customer insight is well-established as the key to driving businesses and brands forward, too often terms such as ‘customer-centricity’, ’customer-led’ and ‘customer-obsessed’ simply serve as buzzwords, failing to deliver the tangible actions that generate better business outcomes.

But where to start?

We believe it should always be with the customer – the audience your business is serving. Customer behaviours and attitudes are dynamic and influenced by ever-changing societal, technological and economic factors. This is why businesses need to go beyond surface-level research and embrace a holistic approach to understanding their audiences. At krow, we recognise that meaningful and actionable insights stem from knowing the intricacies that shape and influence customer opinions, motivations and choices.

If you don’t know what these intricacies are, how can you gain an advantage by meeting customer needs? How can you understand what life is like for your customers if your viewpoint is always from inside your business? We believe the only way is for companies to get in their customers’ shoes, look through their eyes, and get outside and experience their brand in the real world.

And what are the barriers?

With all the methodologies, techniques, technologies and data points that promise to unearth insights, there are three problems for marketers:

  • Picking the right methods to deploy
  • Managing these methods in a coherent and efficient way
  • Assembling, consolidating and integrating all sources to provide a joined-up, intelligent view of the customer (from which bigger opportunities will arise than from any individual source standing alone)

In this article, I'm excited to share the unique model our agency has created to understand customers deeply while overcoming these barriers. This includes sharing our expertise – and some real-world examples – of unlocking insights to propel brands towards success.

…when you can change perspective and see the world from the outside in, you start to see all the ways you can be useful to customers, and what gets in the way.

John Sills, What a full English teaches us about customer-led innovation

How to use this report

We’ll explore the importance of customer understanding and delve into the different methodologies you can use. We’ll also share with you our comprehensive 360i® customer intelligence model, which seeks to provide insights in the most efficient, cost-effective, valuable and actionable ways.

We aim to arm you with the knowledge and tools to take forward into your own organisation – so we also provide a handy checklist to help summarise and implement these learnings.

Part one

Why is customer research so essential?

To understand the real importance of insights, you need to be clear on what they are. We’ll often be asked ‘can you provide insights on X brand or Y sector?’ when what the client is really asking for is information.

Insights take time, analysis and interpretation, whereas information is comprised of observations. And while information can be powerful, insights tell us why something is happening, getting underneath the surface and enabling us to connect with customers in more meaningful, distinctive and relevant ways.

The following examples help demonstrate the power of insight when used by brands in the right way.

Understanding how customers really feel about the January health kick

The brand
Surreal: New Year, New You, No Way

The insight
‘New Year, New You’ is not capturing the national mood when people are suffering from shared fatigue following years of remote working, digital interaction and home schooling. Starting back at work in 2024 just feels exhausting.

The impact
A campaign that speaks to people’s real feelings – a welcome truth and a moment of stand-out in a slew of motivational January campaigns.

Identifying a gender gap – and how to close it

The brand
Nurofen: See My Pain

The insight
Surveying 5,000 women and men showed that men’s and women’s medical experiences around pain are different – with women much more likely to have their pain dismissed.

The impact
An online tool that enables people to track their pain and symptoms, leading to more proactive and constructive conversations with healthcare providers.

Turning an eye roll into a meaningful moment of connection

The brand
Play-Doh: Parenting is Messy

The insight
Parents are surrounded by examples of things they ‘should’ be doing to support their children's development and creativity. But 73% of homes have two working parents, so they don’t even have time to empty the bin, never mind facilitate ‘messy play’. And, most importantly, they don’t need to be made to feel bad about it.

The impact
A downloadable book of relatable and reassuring stories and anecdotes from well-known parents about the trials and tribulations of day-to-day parenting.

Part two

How do you uncover new insights?

The best way to conduct customer research involves a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches to provide a comprehensive and deeper understanding of your target audience. Here are some effective research methods that we use:


Surveys and questionnaires

  • Targeted online surveys to gather quantitative data on customer preferences, behaviours and opinions.
  • In-person or video-call surveys using an interview format to gather more in-depth information and insights from a smaller, targeted sample.



  • In-depth one-to-one interviews with individual customers to explore their experiences, motivations and pain points.
  • Focus-group discussions to discuss specific topics in a guided conversation, providing qualitative insights.


Observational research

  • Ethnographic studies to observe customers in their natural environment and gain a deeper understanding of their behaviours and decision-making processes.
  • Mystery shopping to evaluate the customer experience by posing as a customer and interacting with the brand’s products or services.


Digital listening

  • Monitoring social media platforms to track conversations, sentiments and trends related to a brand and industry.
  • Using social media analytics tools to analyse data and identify patterns.


Customer feedback and reviews

  • Collecting feedback through customer reviews, comments and ratings on platforms including websites, social media and third-party review sites.
  • Analysing both positive and negative feedback to understand customer satisfaction and areas for improvement.


Website and app analytics

  • Using tools such as Google Analytics to track user behaviour on a website or app.
  • Analysing metrics such as page views and bounce and conversion rates to understand customer interactions.


Data mining

  • Analysing existing internal data such as transaction history, customer support interactions and CRM data to identify patterns and trends.
  • Using advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to uncover hidden insights.


Competitor analysis and benchmarking

  • Studying competitors to understand their customer base, market positioning and strategies.
  • Identifying gaps in competitor offerings and areas where your brand can differentiate.


User testing

  • Conducting controlled experiments to compare different versions of a product, service or marketing campaign.
  • Measuring the impact of an activity on customer behaviour and preferences.


Trend analysis

  • Staying informed about industry trends, emerging technologies and societal changes that may impact customer behaviour.
  • Anticipating and adapting strategies based on the trends identified.


Advanced analytics

  • Big data analytics – processing large volumes of data to uncover patterns and trends that traditional analytics might miss.
  • Using predictive modelling to forecast customer behaviours and preferences.


Customer journey analytics

  • Mapping customer journeys to understand and optimise every touchpoint a customer has with a brand.
  • Attribution modelling – where value is assigned to various touchpoints in the customer journey.


The landscape of evolving techniques and technologies means a constant stream of new ways to decipher audience behaviours and brand interactions while building new methods to enhance engagement, make relevant communications and secure connections. Here are some of the latest technologies giving us a new set of data to predict behaviours and explore new ways to connect creatively:

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning

  • Predictive analytics using machine learning algorithms to predict future customer behaviours based on historical data.
  • Natural language processing (NLP) – analysing and understanding customer sentiments from textual data, such as social media comments and reviews.
  • AI heat mapping, allowing a greater prediction of engagement and usability.

Voice-of-the-customer (VoC) technologies

  • Speech analytics to analyse customer service calls and extract insights to improve customer interactions.
  • Voice recognition for understanding and interpreting voice commands or feedback from customers.

Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR)

  • Immersive research using AR/VR to simulate real-world scenarios for consumer testing and feedback.
  • Virtual shopping experiences to create virtual environments for customers to explore products and services.


  • Technologies such as fMRI that utilise brain imaging to understand how the brain responds to stimuli, providing insights into subconscious consumer reactions.
  • Tracking eye movements to understand visual attention and preferences.

The internet of things (IoT)

  • IoT-enabled devices that gather data to understand customer usage patterns.
  • Smart products that collect real-time data from products to enhance customer experiences.

Biometric research

  • Facial recognition tools that analyse facial expressions to gauge emotional responses to products and advertisements.
  • Biometric sensors that measure physiological responses such as heart rate and skin conductance during consumer testing.

Chatbots and conversational AI

  • Real-time customer interaction using chatbots to engage and gather immediate feedback.
  • Sentiment analysis during customers’ chat-based interactions.

Intelligent technology needs a human touch

As technology advances, it’s good practice to stay updated on emerging methodologies and technologies while always taking into account ethical considerations and data privacy.

But it’s also important to remember that technology detaches you from the human experience. While the technologies listed above are helpful in interpreting human behaviour, it still takes a human to understand how, when and why these techniques are relevant in context.

Nothing can replace getting out there and experiencing what your customers do in the real world. No amount of data can replace the insights gained by feeling what it’s like to be a customer. Likewise, the colleagues within your organisation who meet and serve customers also need this first-hand understanding.

For example, at krow, we created a campaign for a large life insurance client, and after reading all the documentation, stakeholder sessions and data, I assumed it would be a challenging task to bring a complex subject area and product to life. But once I sat with the call centre team to hear the heart-rending real-life stories, this changed completely. The panic and distress in customers’ voices turning to a wave of reassurance and feeling protected was a real teary eye-opener. I could immediately feel what it was like to benefit from that product and the service the team provided – an insight no policy documentation could provide.

Part three

Our customer intelligence model

Introducing 360i®

At krow, we’ve developed our own robust and comprehensive customer research model, 360i®, because it examines customers from different angles, sources and observations. Our model has three crucial dimensions: intelligence, innovation and integration.


  • Data-driven research

    We leverage advanced data analytics to mine valuable information from various sources, including social media, customer feedback and industry trends.

  • Behavioural analysis

    Our team conducts in-depth consumer behaviour analysis, identifying patterns, preferences and pain points to inform strategic decision-making.


  • Emerging technologies

    We stay at the forefront of technological advancements, incorporating tools such as AI and machine learning to uncover predictive insights.

  • Creative workshops

    Collaborative sessions fuel creativity, allowing us to explore uncharted territories and identify novel solutions that resonate with target audiences.


  • Cross-disciplinary collaboration

    Our approach integrates insights from various disciplines, ensuring a holistic understanding that transcends individual marketing channels.

  • Client and agency alignment

    We prioritise close collaboration with our clients, aligning our insights with their business objectives to drive impactful results.

A range of approaches accounts for biases and catches contradictions

What people say in focus groups can be very different to what they do in real life. And while a net promoter score can tell you how satisfied people are, it doesn’t tell you why.

We understand the limitations and biases of research techniques, which is why we don’t rely on just one. We use a wide range of quantitative and qualitative strategies to get to know your audience inside and out – what they’re saying, thinking, feeling, doing, hearing and experiencing.

Once we know the story from every angle, we can see clearly what we need to do to meet customers’ needs, how to be in the right place at the right time, and how to prioritise what to do next.

Here’s a more detailed look at the components that make up 360i®. We don’t always use all of the following elements, but cherry-pick those most appropriate for the client and brief:


What audiences are talking about among themselves – whether that’s celebrating a moment, complaining or seeking advice.


What audiences think and believe when they’re in a reflective state.


How audiences behave when completing a task, such as searching for information, trying to learn information or making a purchase.


The macroeconomic, societal and cultural trends in the world around customers that influence their attitudes, opinions and behaviours.


Customer expectations are constantly being influenced by what they’re able to experience elsewhere, so we benchmark competitors and alternative solutions to understand the size of the gap.

Examples of 360i® in action

Standing out from the pack in a littered pet care market

What we did

We used our holistic 360i® research model to understand how audiences interact with the parasite protection category. We needed this depth of insight to help position the FRONTLINE® brand correctly and optimise the ‘path to purchase’.


Journey mapping to see where competitors are simplifying the process.


Digital listening into everything from owners’ unconditional love for their pets to the impact of the cost of living on their choices.


User testing, heatmap analysis, search intent and analytics audit to see what audiences were really doing online.

The impact

Our insights showed owners were increasingly treating their pets like children, so we created the Pet Parent Club as a creative response. In the first four months, FRONTLINE® saw:


year-to-date sales growth of FRONTLINE® Plus


year-on-year market growth


increase in reach


increase in customer engagement


increase in web traffic

Stimulating the UK coffee market

What we did

To help the Swedish brand launch in UK supermarkets, we used our 360i® model to understand how audiences interact in the coffee aisles – and what exactly ‘Swedishness’ represented in their minds.


Digital listening and depth interviews to understand the key issues for UK coffee drinkers.


Customer surveys to quantify the audience’s needs and attitudes, and an internal workshop and creative testing to examine Löfbergs’ existing insights and positioning.


eCommerce and digital shelf analysis of the coffee purchasing process, and shopper research of Tesco customers (in partnership with dunnhumby).


Competitor benchmarking and in-store ethnographic studies to understand how and why customers select from shelves in major retailers.

The impact

Our insights showed UK coffee drinkers were open to an accessible premium brand, helping us define Löfbergs’ position in the market. And having been originally steered not to focus on the brand’s Swedish heritage, our research showed that Sweden had such strong connotations with a better way of life that we needed to change course. The resulting creative used a burst of bold Swedish colour and language, and Löfbergs’ 1kg Brazil product quickly entered Tesco’s top 10 for the category.

Top-10-selling whole bean for Tesco in year of launch

Top-selling whole bean for Waitrose in launch weeks

Best-selling sales period during campaign period

In summary

Understanding customers should be the foundation of everything we do

If I had to choose the key takeaways from this report, the first would be to make understanding your customers on a deep level an integral part of your entire organisation.

It’s a virtuous circle

Understanding customers isn’t a strategy – it’s what powers successful marketing. So, to reflect on the importance, reach and impact of research, it should be something every team collaborates on and understands. For example, when your creative team understands the importance of leading with insight, your campaign messaging will be stronger and connect better with customers. And when more targeted and relevant campaigns drive customers to your service staff, they’ll have the empathy and awareness to exceed expectations.

Holistic = thorough

My second key point would be the holistic nature of research. As outlined in this report, different research methods can produce conflicting, biased or misleading results. It’s only when we’re rigorous enough in our approach and understand audiences inside and out, and from all angles, that we can see a true picture.

Get out there!

Lastly, I would reiterate the advice to get out there and experience the real world yourself, through the eyes of your customers. I gave the example in Part 2 of witnessing the value of life insurance through claimants’ emotional phone calls, but this is far from my only first-hand experience.

When working with RAC, I also sat in the call centres and listened to the distress of young parents broken down on the roadside late at night – and the steps the RAC ops team will go through to make them a priority. It was only through going out on patrols that I really appreciated the skill, expertise and dedication of the team (and the elation of people able to get moving again).

Similarly, while helping Pret articulate their brand, we spent a week in the kitchens and front-of-house. Making and serving the sandwiches gave us a unique perspective on what goes into making everything perfect for customers, and what it means to the individual employee to be a great team member.

There’s always 360i®

And finally, if you’re looking for insight expertise, at krow we’re committed to navigating the complexities of customer attitudes and behaviour through the lens of our 360i® model. By harnessing the power of intelligence, innovation and integration, we empower our clients to not only keep pace with change, but to thrive in an ever-evolving market. Together, we can embark on a journey to unlock profound customer insights and help shape the future of your brand.

About the author

Eliot Sykes, Managing Partner and Head of Consultancy at krow, explains the importance of a human, holistic approach to customer research and audience understanding.

Discover the inner workings of krow’s customer intelligence model, 360i® – and how to apply these learnings to overcome three major marketing barriers and unearth your own game-changing insights. linkedinEliot Sykes

Your customer research checklist


  • Have you defined clear objectives?

    Establishing clear objectives helps guide the research process and ensures that efforts are focused on answering specific questions or addressing particular challenges.

  • Have you identified your target audience?

    Understanding the specific demographic, psychographic and behavioural characteristics of your target audience ensures your research is tailored to the people who matter most to your business.

  • Have you selected research methodologies?

    Different research methods provide varied perspectives. Choose a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods based on your objectives and the depth of insights you need.


  • Are you leveraging advanced technologies?

    Incorporating cutting-edge technologies such as AI, machine learning or predictive analytics will enhance the depth and accuracy of your insights.

  • Have you established key performance indicators (KPIs)?

    Clearly defined KPIs to measure the success and impact of your research model will ensure alignment with broader business and customer goals.

  • Have you developed a research timeline?

    We recommend creating a realistic timeline to manage resources efficiently and ensure the timely delivery of insights, especially if your research is time-sensitive.

  • Are you allocating budget?

    Allocate resources wisely, considering the costs associated with tools, technologies, participant incentives and any other expenses related to the research.

  • Do you have a data collection plan?

    Develop a detailed plan for collecting data, specifying the sources, methods and planned instruments for consistency and reliability.


  • Are you diversifying your data sources?

    Gathering data from various sources, including internal databases, external surveys, social media and customer feedback, will give you a more comprehensive view.

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