I recently had the great professional opportunity to lead the launch of Uniqlo in Spain, which to this day was probably the biggest challenge of my career, not only because of how important it was, but because it allowed me to start something from scratch.

The brand was not new to me. After all, Uniqlo is a good point of reference for worldwide branding and creativity, and therefore I have always kept the brand in mind, more so because I am a proud customer! I have been amazed at Uniqlo’s high quality products and low prices since first finding the store in London several years ago.

I faced the challenge with enthusiasm and some anxiety, aware of the expectation and what the launch meant for the company. I knew I could not do it alone. How could I organize such a massive launch from scratch? How would I do it without falling into the same trap marketing specialists often fall into: getting carried away by their own experiences and individual ideas? There was only one key: really listening to our customers. This involved meeting and discovering how to best connect with them. Staying locked in the golden cage of strategic marketing was just not going to cut it. How many times do we decide things based on what we see in our immediate surroundings? That is a big mistake; client-centricity is the basis of any good marketing strategy.

I often remember what my creativity professor used to say: “The consumer is your grandmother.” This was, without a doubt, inspired by David Ogilvy—the father of advertising as we know it—who always said, “The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.” This “grandmother” my professor spoke of has now become a digital entity that knows everything there is to know, is aware that it knows everything there is to know and can therefore make demands. In addition, she is no longer afraid of big corporations and faces them through social networks whenever she wants, whether it be for good or bad reasons. Why? Because every day she reads, sees and enjoys content through her phone, tablet, television, Facebook account… and maybe even her cousin’s Instagram.

The “grandmother” my professor spoke of has become a digital entity that knows everything there is to know, is aware that it knows everything there is to know and can therefore make demands

Today, more than ever, we must be sincere, transparent, human and closer to our customers, otherwise we run the risk of being disliked and ignored as a provider. As good communication and marketing leaders, we must stop navel-gazing and submit to the only entity that can help us: the customer, the grandmother. The following steps should help you be even more effective when executing marketing or communication plans:

  1. Step outside and go to the street, without your phone. Your customers will not see you because they are on their phones all day, but you will realize just how important this device is for them.
  2. Cancel half of your meetings. Get together with your grandmother. Trust me, it will be worth it. Do nothing, let her talk. Less PowerPoint, more cross-stitching.
  3. Create a digital alter ego and follow your customer. Instagram. Twitter. Prioritize the platform your customer uses most often and let yourself be carried away by your creativity. Do not follow their accounts using your business’ accounts; either way, eventually you will be able to apply everything you learned via your personal accounts to your business account. Create a personal digital brand related to your brand and consumer.
  4. Invite your grandmother to your home (your store). Spending time at the point-of-sale is essential. Ask her what she wants and provide it as well as you can.
  5. You have to be sensitive to your environment. Customers seek attention and only want to be heard. Your grandmother wants to be indulged, or receive likes, on Instagram.
  6. Tell her a story before she goes to sleep. But make it a real story with a happy ending or your grandmother will get angry, have nightmares and the next day will not want to see you anymore. Storytelling must always be relevant and must adapt to the customer.
  7. Become your own customer. Do you really think you have nothing in common with your grandmother? You do, more than you think.
  8. Your grandmother’s friends are your friends. Your customer’s digital circle will give you as much, if not more, information about the customer than the customer itself.
  9. Choose the best collaborators. They are those who understand your grandmother and know how to approach her.
  10. Take your grandmother for a walk to the park or the cinema. Where does she like to go? Entertainment is essential for her to be happy and to love, accept and respect you. She does not want a boring caretaker; instead, become her “cool” grandchild so you get the best Christmas gift from her.

You have to be sensitive to your environment. Customers seek attention and only want to be heard. Your grandmother wants to be indulged, or receive likes, on Instagram

Some of these guidelines may seem obvious and overused, but are easily forgotten, which makes us fall into the brand’s egocentrism trap, impervious to reality. Remembering these guidelines came in handy as I helped launched Uniqlo in Spain. Throughout this brand launch I met many grandmothers and it became clearer than ever that without them we would not have achieved the success, market impact and record-time positioning we achieved. They are still loyal to us and we continue having snacks with them as often as possible. Make way, “grandma-centrism” is here to stay!