Customer Discovery | Fall 2018

by Common Thread Collective Collaborator

Sep. 19 2018

Make sure you’re solving a real problem and a problem you feel you absolutely must solve. It’s like you don’t even have a choice in the matter. We meet with and work with entrepreneurs all day long, and it’s very easy to spot the ones who just wanted to start a business and thought up an idea, versus those who are responding to a real problem or need in the market.


– Emily Heyward,

Co-Founder & Chief Strategist at Red Antler

(The agency behind Allbirds, Casper, and Brandless)


I recently discovered “This Is Fine” GIFs. As of 9:52 am, they’re my new favorite thing on the internet.


The format is simple. A person or character notices a situation that is clearly NOT fine and reacts in a way that doesn’t match the severity of the situation, as if to say: “This is fine. Nothing to see here! Carry on…”




“This Is Fine” GIFs are how some brands approach core problems with their business.


That may read too harsh. Let me rephrase that in a more positive way:


If brands do the research to figure out what need their product or service actually addresses, what their customers truly care about, and test value propositions at different points in their funnel, they are more likely to find success.


That’s better. My therapist would be so proud.


Anyway, here’s a fact: Out of three businesses started, one will succeed.


Every entrepreneur wants their dream to be the one that comes true, but the brands who set themselves apart over the long term are ones who not only outwork their competitors, but know their customers needs better than anyone else (maybe even better than the customers themselves).


Here is a well worn example: Coca-Cola began as a syrup producta medicinal elixir mixed by pharmacists to relieve headaches and promote health. As technology and demographics began to shift, the syrup company saw how people loved enjoying it as a novelty. After all, cold drinks weren’t yet a thing. Social connections at the local soda fountain on a summer afternoon became a favorite pastime.


As the years went by, the brand moved from “relieve mental and physical exhaustion” language and imagery from the early 20th century to “a pause to refresh” and “thirst quenching” during the 40s and 50s. They built an entire bottling industry to better meet their customers’ needs of refreshment on-the-go and in the home. Instead of being all things to all people, Coke designs, messages, and executes uniquely positioned brands built off actual customer needs. Today, the Coca-Cola company owns hundreds of brands that not only diversify their portfolio but meet specific needs for unique customers.


As the brand team, we define our mission as “Turning strands into a common thread.” Customer Discovery is our way of sourcing what fibers are best for your thread. Are you eventually going to weave a flag? A sail? A shirt? Details about your brand’s customers will determine which fibers to source.


Simply put, Customer Discovery is in-depth research about customers. We get on the phone with moms from Connecticut. We sit in focus groups at CrossFit gyms in California. We go on college campuses and talk to the next generation of consumer.


Without Customer Discovery, it is easy to waste money on expensive campaigns, product development, and brand redesigns that do not address the core problems your customer needs to solve. The learnings and insight about who customers are, what they care about, and who else is trying to win them over allows brands remain internally aligned across periods of creative ideation and strategic development.


Myself and the rest of the brand team love talking about this stuff. If you’d like to continue the conversation or make a case for why you’re not actually just closing a shiny metal door (fancy “brand” stuff) over a raging fire (poor value proposition design), shoot us an email.


Or just send us your favorite “This Is Fine” GIF.