Christmas gifts 2013

Marketers sell products but my family gifts me items. How should those two approaches merge? My wife and I were blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas multiple times with multiple family units. While we are on the road quite a bit, we do bleed out the season. I noticed that as I get older that I forget completely about the gift exchange aspect of the season and get excited about just being able to visit with family that I haven't seen in forever. Sitting down for a conversation with someone I haven't talked to recently is one of my favorite parts of the holiday.

Some of the gifts the wife gave me. She knows me well.

Going to the gift giving, I noticed something this year that I am certain has happened in years past. This year, from my wife, parents and in-laws, I received gifts that I didn't even realize I wanted until I had them. My wife gave me a book that I had never heard of but currently cannot put down. My parents gave me an extremely nice bag for work that I didn't even realize I needed until I received it and the in-laws gave me another blazer to wear for other "professional" occasions.

All these items weren't things I had on a Christmas list (not that I really made one this year). They weren't things I would've have even thought of on my own. My families knew me well enough, recognized needs I wasn't even aware of and gave me things to fit those needs. I'm sure this has happened with several of us over the years.

How does that apply to marketing?

Look at Apple in recent history. There wasn't a market demand for the iPad...they created it. The tablet market wasn't a space that was highly developed or in demand but Apple continued to create a product that us as consumers weren't even aware that we needed. Now, some folks probably can't fathom life without their tablet device. Amazon did the same with online book selling. There wasn't a need...now it's a necessity.

As marketers today, we have countless pieces of data that we track with consumers. We know what they like to buy, when they buy it, what they buy it with and what they do with what they bought. Potentially, through feedback on social networks or analyzing purchase behavior, we could really get to know who are customers are, the same (and slightly more creepy way) that my family knows me.

We could use what we know about our customers to create a product or service that they don't even realize they need but won't be able to live without. Those are the things with a competitive edge because...well...there probably won't be many competitors.

My family used what they knew about me and my interests to buy me gifts that I loved. How could we use that same mentality to offer more valuable content, products and services to our customers?