P&G initiated the consumer connect culture with its ‘living it, working it’ program where employees need to spend a month living with consumers and working alongside trade. Companies have since seen the value of building consumer centricity. We help train and enabling companies with observing, listening and dialoging with consumers and structure and run their programs. Governments have used tools of marketing research to understand their people better. The English were masters of ethnographic observation writing detailed observation reports with a strongly ‘etic’ or outside-in perspective. Field visits and meeting the public in their homes in a village, dialoguing and listening is a routine part of campaigning.
A region in China goes a step further by incorporating a variation of the ‘living it, working it’ program. ‘Tens of thousands of Chongquing officials are now required to spend a week every year living and working with a peasant family’, says the Economist in its latest June 25th 2011 issue. Chongquing, a rugged region is Southwest China, recently won the polls as “China’s happiest city”. The region’s party chief Bo Xilal’s upfront, charismatic personal style sets him apart from other Chinese leaders. Business meets political savvy. They recognize that presently the country is too divided between the rich and the poor for this period to be a true Chinese golden age (shengsi). The activities around Mr. Bo’s Maoist revival in Chongquing involve a campaign to revive popular “red songs” from the early days of Communist rule. Creating engagement by the singing of the songs, sending “red instant messages” citing Mao Zedong, “what really counts in the world is conscientiousness, and the Communist party is most particular about being conscientiousness”.
To a researcher, these programs appear as a leap from insights gleaned during intimate consumer interaction and exchange. Even at the risk of taking some poetic license to make a case for consumer centricity, it is very likely that these innovative ideas to engage citizens came from the week spent ‘living it, working it’ by government employees and officials in Chongquing. At this time Mr. Bo and his government appear to be know what their citizens want thanks to their efforts in getting citizen centric.