Mike Arauz posted an interesting metaphor connecting brands to desire paths. Here's how he describes it:
This is a desire path (lots more here). Desire paths are the walking paths that get traced across the ground when groups of people, over time, leave the sidewalk and find their own more convenient routes from one place to another... We have many places to go and experiences to choose from; and our decisions are guided by our personal interests and the groups of people we want to join.
What I love about this metaphor is that it brings home the point that consumers will always find the most direct route to satisfy their motivations. Yet, if you ask them for directions, they will probably not describe the desire path. Why? Because desire paths are personal. People don't assume that you would desire the same path, so they will most likely talk about the "accepted" path.
You can only learn about the desire path by connecting with the consumer. Successful products, brands, and services convey that they follow the same desire path. How do they do that? This is the fundamental skill that separates good consumer insight from superficial consumer insight. It also separates good design and development execution from rote design and development execution.
How well do you understand your consumer's desire path? How well is this knowledge translated into other areas of your business? If you're not doing both of these things well you will be wondering why, after you've done everything "right", your consumers are no longer walking by your side. They have left you to follow a path you couldn't see.