Blog: How do we understand what consumers want?

Monday, 14 March 2022

Susie Stannard is a self-confessed data geek which comes in handy in her role as AHDB’s Consumer Insight Manager. Here she shares how the work her team carries out on consumer insights influences our marketing campaigns.

Our data and insights help the marketing team come up with concepts and ideas to base a consumer campaign around. The initial idea for the We Eat Balanced campaign was conceived before the pandemic when the world looked like a very different place, nobody had heard of social distancing or lateral flow tests and plastic straws were the top consumer concern. 

There are several stages to the process, which is why it takes a long time. It is not always straight forward and at any stage an idea could fail and we may need to go back or start again.

Strategic development

We buy into various data sources including sales data and survey data so that we can understand who our consumers are, what they trust and will buy as well as what their motivations and concerns are. All this provides insights so that we know what we need to communicate to them, when and how. 

With We Eat Balanced, we found that consumers enjoyed eating meat and dairy but were worried about the impacts on their health, the environment and on production standards. 

Audience specification

There is no such thing as ‘the’ consumer. There are 68 million people in the UK and all are unique. We worked with Kantar, a leading research organisation, to make sense of this and develop groups of consumers based on what they purchase and what their attitudes are to enable us to go beyond simple demographics. The common theme across the three groups we identified was that they wanted to be healthy, do their bit for the environment and because of this were considering reducing meat and dairy intake. Sometimes they were basing this on information they had heard or read online. We call them ‘waverers’. 

Message refinement

Once we understood our target audiences and the underlying issues, we formed focus groups with those people to explore some of these issues in more depth. This told us that, even though consumers talked about the environment, the most important thing to them was their personal health. The most persuasive argument was that meat and dairy are packed with a whole range of nutrients which are easier to get from these products than from plants and that B12 was unique in that it was naturally available in a diet containing meat and dairy. 

Concept development

At this stage we know what we want to say and who to, we just need to work out how. This is where the clever people at our advertising agency, Ogilvy, come in. They came up with lots of ideas that we shared with consumers to see which landed best.

We got it down to three good ideas which, through testing with consumers, we whittled down to one great one. This became Nancy investigates. At this point I drop out of the process and let the creative teams do what they do best. 


The final stage is making sure that the campaign fulfils its main objective of positively influencing how the target audience feel about British red meat and dairy. To do this, we look at a representative sample of consumers before the campaign is on TV and measure their response. We then look at another representative group of consumers during the time the campaign is on TV.

We hope to see a significant improvement in our key metrics including consumers’ perceptions of the health, the environment and production standards when considering meat and dairy. This makes sure that we are using levy-payers’ money to create advertising that is doing the best possible job and providing value as well as helping us make them even stronger next time. 

Keep a look out on our We Eat Balanced page as we will be announcing the results of the latest campaign very soon.

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Image of staff member Susie Stannard

Susie Stannard

Lead Analyst (Dairy)

See full bio

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