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This is the title of an article Terry Grapentine and Dianne Altman Weaver authored for the Winter 2009 issue of Marketing Research (MR). Given the audience, their focus is looking at marketing research as connected with behavioral economics.
You won't find the article in the links I provided, the site has not been updated yet. Which is a shame, because it's an important piece and hope you'll tag the site to go back and read it when it becomes (hopefully) available.
The authors list some of my favorite books as the premise to the renewed attention on human motivation and behavior. This is due especially, I think, to the rise in popularity in public discourse of social media.
The books are [all Amazon affiliate links]:
- The Tipping Point and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
- Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
- Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
- Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
- Herd by Mark Earls
If you've read any of these books, you'll know that they include compelling case studies for behavioral economics. The discipline reveals that the context and situation that surround product choice, decision heuristics and how consumers react to risk can sometimes trump the marketing mix.
Which is the reason why integration with participation and actually listening to customers are key in your activities. Marketing by context building continues to become more important especially online, where the context can be built and tended to in micro interactions via information (content) and participation. Personal and detailed can help you track, measure, and achieve your predetermined goals.
What behavioral economics says is that emotion, context and situational factors influence our choices.
While "there is no market for messages," as Doc Searls wrote more than ten years ago, and you may not be able to outspend your competition, you can guide customers in simplifying their learning curve when making decisions.
Or as Kathy Sierra wrote in her last brilliant post at her blog, you need to out teach your competitors. What does affect behavior? How can you test and observe what your customers do, and organize the information in ways that simplify the buying process? What do you need to think about when you create content and organize experiences to achieve tangible results?
The authors of the MR article list some guideposts for market research. Their list, from which I borrow a few items (in bold), gave me some ideas as to the content you might want to develop to utilize each specific situation or context. We'll then connect the ideas to their socialization.
KISS or keep it simple, stupid
This is one of the points Kathy Sierra highlighted often in her writing: make the user a hero, make them smart by simplifying your stuff, working the usability magic, and making your product accessible. I read it everywhere, people want things to be simple.
In The Shift Index, Deloitte's Center for the Edge highlighted a couple of industries that are particularly in need of simplification: technology, telecommunications, and media. Information Technology (IT), especially in the B2B space, is reminded daily by its customers about it. So much so that Dell started using the tagline Simplify IT.
In our recent conversation, John Hagel provided the example of Amazon in the simplifying media category. Amazon figured out a way to go across the digital table, and find out what its customers want.
Ever wonder about those codes that change in the URL depending on where you come from in linking to an item? They tell Amazon exactly what you looked at and from where, so it can serve you more of that kind of experience in the future. The site does all the heavy lifting for you.
What can you do in your marketing information and content to make it more approachable?
1.) You can create results by moving forward the internal training and education of your sales group with information that is simple and spoken plainly.
2.) You can provide clearer differentiation in your product labeling or service delivery process. Stand for something and you won't fall for everything.
Ariely's book does provide a great example, also cited by Grapentine and Weaver. The Economist ran an ad offering three options for yearly subscriptions to readers: $59 for online only; $125 for print only and $125 for print + online. Easy choice, you might say.
Here's where it gets interesting, so think about your product when reading how Ariely tested the offer with MIT students. He ran one test with the three options, and a second one with just online and print + online. In the first test, 16% chose online only, 0% for print only, and 84% picked print + online. In the second one, 68% chose online only, and only 32% picked print + online.
See what happened? By providing the third choice of print only (the decoy), The Economist stimulated sales of print + online.
As you think of ways to present information that will organize your products or services in relative order, remember that when people are faced with having to choose one option out of many desirable choices, they will begin to consider hypothetical trade-offs.
They will evaluate them in terms of missed opportunities and not as opportunity potential, as described in Barry Schwartz The Paradox of Choice. This is also valid when you stuff the marketing materials you use early in the sales process with lots of different data points and no main point to focus attention.
Gains and losses
Here's where free trials and money-back guarantee messages work. Both hotels and airlines are not getting the perceived loss lesson. Charging for an Internet connection or an hour at the gym in addition to a room rate is a communication blunder and will generate negative sentiment. Or think about charging to check in bags, which they may even lose.
People talk about hotels nickel and dime-ing them and airlines, well so many not nice things are said about airlines these days... There is one airline that is capitalizing on this very point to promote perception of gain - and that is SouthWest. What do they say? Bags fly free!
The cost of zero
The conversation on free merits some additional thoughts. When something is free, people forget the downside, there isn't one! We talked about attention and context in bringing together the many voices that commented on Chris Anderson's Free.
Your marketing material might be free, but it doesn't mean that it will be read and acted upon. What makes it useful is if the content is mapped to the buyer's decision journey, which is how it will play off its context or situational exposure to get attention and time.
This is something non profits have learned to do well. If you've seen solicitations for donations by police associations, for example, you will see they pre-print amount levels. Something like $25, $50, $100. The suggestions take care of what in organizations we often refer to as "blank paper syndrome".
You have some ideas that can get you started on your choices. In the book The Undercover Economist, Tim Harford highlights price anchoring by explaining coffee pricing and customer purchasing choices, as I outlined in a post about who gets what and why. I also included an example of how supermarkets rearrange the information they provide you to sell more of certain items.
How can you rearrange the information about your products and services by providing a broader context and tell a different story? What relative perception do you want to create?
In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error (also known as correspondence bias or attribution effect) describes the tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors.
Think about servicing or opening a dialogue with customers in groups or in a community situation vs. one-on-one. You will have different reactions and responses when in group dynamics, than you'll have in a more intimate setting. I experienced this when we were having online discussions with the Fast Company community on the listserv, and we see it on Twitter. The more public, the more pressure to act in a certain way.
I cannot help but think that social media is showing us conversation in public as a grander gesture, like you'd have up on a stage in theater. Choices made in public tend to pull in the herd effect. A message in an environment like Twitter, or a forum, will need to be simpler and more direct in order to be absorbed by the community, and engage the competitive nature of groups, respectively.
In other words, we tend to do one thing in public, when we might make a very different choice - or assert a different opinion - in a more intimate setting. Your content will need to mirror those behaviors to capitalize on both tendencies.
I worked several years in risk management and even in the commercial or B2B business, the best way to communicate risk is based upon comparative evidence on the likelihood that something might happen and the ability of a product or service to fix or support the resolution to that incident.
Stories of other customer experiences with a failure or issue and the subsequent support you provided are excellent as testimonials, for example.
Perception is reality. Your packaging, presentation, product/service experience, and now attitude and approach in participating to conversation and humanizing the organization, communicate a lot about the value of the product itself.
There is a place in your marketing mix for a high end brochure. And that is in a high end context or situation in the buyer's decision journey. Maybe the part where they've made the purchase, and now they want to brag about it with all their friends.
If you high end marketing content is the actual product, like for Apple, you will see images of the laptop with its box right next to it. They're both part of the Apple Mac conversation with friends. I kept my iPod case. You know why? In the back it says:
Like a fine paid of jeans, iPod nano colors may vary and change over time.
Don't you enjoy your jeans more when you know they've become personalized to your experiences? By knowing that, you transfer the purchase with how it will make you feel.
You know the word of mouth power and value of connectors from Gladwell's Tipping Point. We will spend more time on word of mouth ideas and resources in another post.
If you're interested in the notion of peer pressure, do take a look at the body of work by Mark Earls, not just his book. As Mark wrote in a recent post:
For that you do want to take a look at Connected by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler.
The point comes last, but it's worth some deep thinking about it. That is the idea that a social exchange builds a stronger bond than an economic one.
For those of you interested in marketing research, you should bookmark and monitor the link above to the AMA site for MR magazine. Hopefully, they will post the article when they refresh for the winter edition. I took copious notes while reading it for ideas to implement at work.
Hopefully, this short write up will get you started with some ideas to map your content to the buyer's decision journey - and to their immersion in the social network and context.
What kind of processes do you need to tune up in addition to the marketing mix to harness the power and value of social in your content and participation to affect behavior? Do you need to create a blueprint to build assets and map to tools?
What's the role of training and spontaneity or humanness in affecting behavior?
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