Customer Ikigai: An Introduction

What is your Customer’s ikigai?

This may be a question you’ve never heard of before, but it’s one that could hold the key to helping you better understand your customers.

When it comes to understanding what drives customers, marketers can often feel like they are in the dark. But what if there was a way to unlock the mystery of customer behavior? According to Japanese philosophy, there is- and it’s called ikigai!

Ikigai is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “reason for being” or “purpose in life.” Ikigai is all about finding your purpose in life, something that brings you happiness and satisfaction. And when it comes to doing business on the internet, the Customer Ikigai can be used as a tool to help you unlock what makes customers tick.

By figuring out what your customer’s ikigai is, you can create a marketing strategy that resonates with customers on a deeper and meaningful level.

So what can you do to uncover your customers’ ikigai and use it to create more effective marketing campaigns?

Keep reading to find out!

Start with the Why

Knowing who your customers are is the first step in digital marketing.

To gain a deeper and meaningful understanding of today’s internet consumers, marketers have to start their marketing research process by asking “Why?”

Buy knowing ‘who’ and ‘what’ they are doing online is no longer good enough.

As Simon Sinek, famously said, “Start with the Why.”

Why do your customers have the passions they have?

Why do they join online communities?

Why are they spending hours on their phones playing casual games like Clash of Clans?

Why do they pay the price for goods/services?

Why do they perceive a brand or website in a certain way?

In SEO, Keyword research is the first (and most important) step in any SEO project. It’s all about learning what people enter into Google and Bing before they can locate your website or Content.

Google Search Ads campaigns are built upon keywords while Facebook Ads campaigns are built on laser focused audience targeting.

Keyword research is, in fact, a 21st century digital replica of traditional marketing research. Marketers had to invest in research reports or set up their own focus groups to ask and record people’s answers before there was the Internet.

Keyword research is the modern way to learn about people’s wants and needs. This research is done through the internet.

However, there is no real framework or strategy for performing research on the internet. The internet is littered with techniques, hacks, and pointers on how to do keyword research, but there still lacks of a framework, a guide, and a strategy for conducting successful keyword research.

A new marketing research technique, the Customer Ikigai is a pioneering approach to help marketer’s discover their customer’s ‘purpose’ or ‘ikigai.’ It’s a new way to get to know your customers, in a deeper and meaningful way. It aids in the discovery of what Customers really want and aids the creation of Content (e.g., blog posts, videos, advertisements) that resonates with them.

The goal of the Customer Ikigai is to help marketers learn what consumers care about. This includes figuring out what people’s passions and problems are, as well as where they discuss these topics online (Place). The Customer Ikigai can also help determine how much people are willing to pay for activities or products that make them happy (passions) or help solve their problems (Price).

The Customer Ikigai is perhaps most importantly valuable because it informs marketers on how to ‘position’ their content (or products/services) in the thoughts of customers (Perception).

The Customer Ikigai can be utilised in a variety of fields, such as Keyword Research for SEO and Google Ads campaigns. It may also be used in Facebook Marketing since research helps to reveal audience interests, which aids with audience targeting.

So I created the Customer Ikigai. Why not develop a guide/framework that enables millions of marketers to organise and execute keyword research in order to have a chance of success, like Ikigai has helped millions do?

At the moment, most marketers rely on the customer avatar/buyer persona. A customer avatar, or buying persona, is essentially a profile of the perfect customer or client. 

A customer avatar may describe a customer’s personality, interests, challenges, but it does not reveal their motivation or passion.

The customer avatar does not answer the “Why” in a deep and meaningful way, just tells you the “What” the customer is like. Most importantly the customer avatar is like a business wishlist of an ideal customer – but on the internet, it’s the users who choose who they do business with and not the other way round!

The Customer Ikigai is an evolution of the customer avatar.

There was a need for a framework that would allow marketers all around the world to have a greater understanding of the Customer, allowing them to create Content with confidence that it would appeal to them and be valuable.

If Content is King, we need a way of making sure we have a good king who everyone loves on the Internet.

The Customer’s Ikigai could be the answer!

The 5Ps of the Customer Ikigai

Below are the components that make up the Customer Ikigai:

1. Passion

What is the most important thing to your target customer? What do they care about? What drives them? What are their greatest wishes? What is it that they want the most in their life? What makes them happy?

Most importantly, why do they care?

Creating Content around topics that users care about and are enthusiastic about has a better chance of attracting the correct sort of audience that is already interested and will interact with it.

Engagement with your Content on the internet generates free advertising for your Content via Facebook, Google, and TikTok – Something that is explored in more detail in Simba’s Five Forces.

Let’s just say the Google and TikTok algorithms on the internet love it when users engage with your Content.

Further Reading:

2. Problem

What are your customers’ biggest concerns?

What is the one thing that keeps them up at night?

What are they concerned about?

More deeply, why are they having these problems?

“Fall in love with the problem not the solution”


To fall in love with the problem means that you should try to find out why the problem is happening.

You should not just want to get rid of it with your products/services.

For example, if your car is broken, you need to find out why it’s broken and then fix it.

It is natural for us to want answers immediately, but this can hold us back from thinking of good ideas for Content.

If we have a problem, we will stop thinking about it when we think of an answer. This is because our first thought is not always the best idea.

The Customer Ikigai Framework helps marketers fall in love with the problems their customers have.

The art of doing good market research is an interesting one – finding out the what, and how about your customers can be easy if you know where to look. But, finding the ‘why’ requires putting on that investigative journalist hat takes which takes your research up another notch!

Further Reading

3. Place

This section of the Customer Ikigai is critical to determining “where” your customer hangs out online and helps you understand why.

Where do they hang out (both online and in person) and why?

What websites do they visit often and why?

What apps do they download and why?

What experts do they follow online and why?

It’s human nature to want to form or join communities to share our interests or assist one another with problems. The Internet has allowed people from all over the world to form communities around shared passions or problems.

Why do people join groups around their interests or shared concerns? Because we want to belong, acquire knowledge and understanding through social comparison, define our sense of self and social identity, and accomplish goals that would elude us if we worked alone, people form communities around their passions or shared problems.

The internet, according to Seth Godin’s book Tribes, allows anybody to start a movement – to create a tribe of like-minded people and accomplish amazing things. There are tribes everywhere, each of them seeking for connection, significance, and transformation.

As a marketer, understanding the places where your customers hang out is important, but also why they choose those places is more important.

For example, Reddit is a fantastic, huge, and all-encompassing super community full of smaller sub-communities! To date, Reddit has over 138,000 communities (subreddits) formed around people’s passions!

I’m a Liverpool FC supporter, so I frequently visit the r/liverpoolfc, a subreddit (online community) for Liverpool fans from all over the world!

And why do I choose to spend time in that sub-reddit? I like to take part in discussions about the club – its player transfer business, ownership, management and everything else. I choose it because it’s enjoyable to hang out with other people who are as passionate about Liverpool as I am. It gives me a voice, a chance to be part of something bigger than myself.

I’m also part of the r/soccer subreddit, which is full of soccer fans like me!

Knowing the ‘place’ where your customer hangs out helps you to target them with relevant ads (if doing PPC) as well as know places to do guest posting (for SEO purposes)

Further Reading:

4. Price

What is the most money a customer is ready to pay to satisfy their desire or alleviate their problem? 

Most importantly, why are they willing to pay the price? 

Do they have no choice? (.e.g paying taxes!) 

Or is it something they feel is worth making a sacrifice for?

Or they think the price is bargain? 

Are they buying because they are desperate or misinformed?

Are they compulsive buyers or thoughtful buyers?

What is the most money a customer is ready to pay to satisfy their desire or alleviate their problem?

Price is considered an important aspect of the marketing mix, but in the Customer Ikigai framework, it functions as a strong signal to marketers about what consumers are willing to pay for and possibly why as well.

When a company offers a product/service for sale, it implies that there is a market for it and individuals are prepared to pay for it.

When a firm sets a price, it is sending out a message about the value of its goods/services.

When a customer pays the company’s stated price for any item/service, they are expressing their agreement to the value proposal.

As a marketer, you want to delve deeper into these signals – is the product/service useful?

Are customers genuinely satisfied with the value they receive or are they being short-changed?

For example, I teach SEO and Digital Marketing on SEOpedia for free, but how do I know there would be demand for my SEO content?

Because there are 100,000s of people who already pay Udemy, LinkedIn Learning and SEO experts for SEO and Digital Marketing courses.

Understanding what customers are presently paying for a product or service and why helps me in getting inside the minds of consumers who buy marketing courses.

I spend hours reading the positive, neutral and negative feedback that customers post so I can gain a better appreciation for why they paid the price and whether they got what they paid for, i.e. value for money as they say in India, Paisa Vasool!

And why do they pay? 

Based on the perceived value of what they are getting in exchange.

People pay for courses on Udemy so that they can improve their career prospects in digital marketing. The pay rise or promotion is a better return on their money invested in the course!

Businesses pay for digital marketing courses to upskill their employees and be able to gain value from their improved digital marketing efforts. 

Governments like the Scottish Government are paying LinkedIn Learning so that they could equip their people with digital skills and prepare them for digital jobs.

Further Reading:

5. Perception

What does the customer think about your brand/product/service/industry/CEO/workers/customer service/website/content?

This is the most overlooked element by marketers and organisations, yet it is the one thing that determines whether or not a company lives or dies.

Did you know there was a CEO once lost $10 billion in ten seconds after mocking his company’s products and negatively influencing his consumers’ perceptions?

Google the story about Ratner!

When someone thinks about your business, they will have a certain impression in their head.

In fact, contrary to popular belief about what a brand is, according to marketing expert Marty Neumeier, a brand is an intuitive feeling you get when you encounter something for the first time.

Think about it – when did you make the decision to adore the Apple iPhone, or Samsung Galaxy, or PlayStation, or Basketball team, or Cricket team, or Football team you support?

Of the many choices of phones, game consoles, basketball teams, cricket teams or football teams – why ‘THAT’ one?

There must have been a feeling that was sparked by the thing you ended up falling in love with.

Take me for example, I will never forget the sensation of holding a PlayStation controller for the first time while playing FIFA!

It was so new and exciting, with the controller vibrating in my hands, I felt as if I was on the football pitch in the TV!

The commentary, the crowd singing, the graphics – the lot!

And since then, I’ve been an avid PlayStation lover and loyal to their brand. X

box or Nintendo can try to market to me all they like, but my perception is that PlayStation are the king of Consoles (Change My Mind!)

How many marketing dollars are wasted on digital marketing campaigns targeted at consumers with a negative perception about the brand or the company’s products/services?

When you try to market to people who have a negative or neutral perception of your brand/goods/services its like trying to preach religion to an atheist!

YouTube Ads are annoying, but still people will not pay for YouTube premium!

When people complain about annoying ads, what they are really saying is, “these ads are doing nothing to change our perceptions of your products/services that is why we will not click on them.”

I’m not a fan of the advertisements on YouTube, for example. I prefer hour-long Amapiano mixes, but YouTube ruins the listening experience by showing me multiple ads throughout the soundtrack.

Why is it that, despite the ad claiming that I will be immune to advertising if I pay for YouTube Premium, I never click on their YouTube Premium advertisements?

Because of my perception of YouTube.

“YouTube should always be FREE.”

I’m not ready to purchase a service that would change the way I view YouTube! I believe that YouTube gives millions of advertising just to irritate me into purchasing their YouTube Premium service, and I’m not going to give in! It is probably illogical and more of a conspiracy-inspired perception, yet for that very reason, and only for that I never buy YouTube premium.

This idea about Perception was really inspired by the book “Positioning” which talks about how to win the battle of the customer’s mind.

Further Reading:

Customer Ikigai: Application

Knowing how to recognize your customer’s ikigai will become one of the most essential digital marketing skills. That’s why it’s the new Swiss army knife—you can use it for every type of digital marketing.

Content Marketing:

Knowing your customer’s ikigai allows you to make informed decisions about what and why you’re producing content. It nearly guarantees that the  Content you create is timely, interesting, and useful for your target audience. If you don’t know what your customer’s ikigai is, you are always guessing, and that means wasting marketing dollars.

Paid Traffic

Knowing your customer’s Ikigai can help you choose the most appropriate targeting methods when using advertising platforms such as Google Ads or Facebook Business Manager. 

SEO Keyword research

By understanding your customers’ ikigai, you’ll be able to discover keywords that have personal significance to them and it will entice them to your Content. It will be almost like your Content is having a conversation with them about their passion/problems!

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