By Mark Murray
Accept it. Our obedient consumer marketplace was highjacked more than a generation ago. Ad agencies worked to soften the blow with engaging creative executions. But the days of proclaiming “Choosey Mother Choose Jiff” and expecting an eager market to eat it up are long gone.
Today’s choosey mothers are asking, “Should I give my 8-year-old peanuts, sugar, molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, fatty acids, and salt. And do I need to “blast” my school contacts about allergies?”
As “things” are more transparent, “things” have gotten more complicated. So how do we move from tracking existing behaviors to understanding how consumers will decide in our favor?
First, let me offer some comfort. Strategic marketing can become a predictive science once again. It just requires us to connect with consumers at the most fundamental level – How “We” make decisions.
Established social/psychological theory tells us that behaviors are the product of fundamental motivations – why people want what they want and do what they do.
Not to worry, we won’t be asking you to lie on the couch for some “free association.” That was Freud. This is Adler. And while the esteemed Alfred Adler did bring us the “inferiority complex”, remember this is an approach to simplify your marketing agenda. You’re more than up to the task.
In the 1990s, MarketResponse developed a research methodology to define and quantify segments based on consumer motivations. Originally designed as a means of understanding brands across the many cultures of Europe, the method can isolate the core motivations that manifest themselves in the behaviors “Big Data” tracks. Today, it provides a platform for hosting Adaptive Customer Experiences (ACX).
As anyone who has tried to find firm footing on the soapbox of predictive models will admit, behaviors are ever-changing, confusing and often a misrepresentation of what today’s self-reliant consumer is hoping to achieve.
Getting in front of today’s consumer requires getting to the core motivations of an individual’s needs and self-image.
Here’s a quick walk-through.
Step 1: Define Your “Domain.”
With motivations you’re not researching a product or service; you’re out to understand a Domain. By “Domain,” I’m not referring to the lands of a king or the web address you snatched up at Go Daddy. Instead, you’re defining the experience.
It’s not cars; it’s “Driving.” Consumer reactions to banks are steadfast; research “Money” and the insights pour out. Instead of pet food, you want to understand a person’s relationship with man’s best friend.
Adler’s theory isolates a “productive tension” which gives birth to a decision. We’re all familiar with the expression, “I’m torn between …”. And if your teenage daughter ever asked to spend the weekend at a friend’s beach house, you know how this internal anxiety feels.
It’s similar to the tension experienced by your customers as it defines the Domain in which you compete. We view it as the most powerful perspective for understanding your category, competitors and customers. And we call it the “Motivational Lens.”
Through a qualitative exploration designed to reveal what individuals are hoping to achieve within a defined Domain, you’ll be able to capture the boundaries of assertive and adaptive role models. And you’ll be able to assess how much energy a person is willing to exert in achieving the most vivid expression of their self-image through their buying decisions.
DECISIONS ARE MADE THROUGH THE PRODUCTIVE CONFLICT OF SOCIAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL FORCES
Adler’s Theory has been adopted as a basis for consumer decision-making. The renowned philosopher and psychiatrist stressed the need to understand individuals within their social context. His theory illustrates how decisions reflect one’s self image. – Decisions made from the productive conflict of social and psychological forces.
Step 2: Create A Motivational Map
As much as I would like to avoid the cliché, there are two types of people. As you peer into the motivational lens, you’ll observe a distinct division between those who work to embrace a positive and those wanting merely to avoid a negative. It’s the first dramatic divide you’ll discover in the qualitative exploration. It will look familiar to you.
We all have good friends with whom we just can’t travel. What was to be a break from the grind becomes its own grind.
“Do you have the reservations?” “Are you sure the rooms will be the ones we saw on-line?” “Don’t you think we should get to the airport earlier?”
Your friend is focused on avoiding a negative. Encourage him, her or them to buy some cool patio furniture and build a backyard fire pit. They’re looking for “security” in the Domain of Adventure. And like all motivational segments, people don’t change within a specific domain.
The second divide in what becomes your quadrant map is the release of tension that defines where an individual lands on your map. An individual’s decision will be the result of asserting their will or adapting to the norm.
If you’ve ever seen someone throw over a Monopoly board, you’ve seen an assertive will to avoid the negative of losing the game. You’ve just observed “lower left” behavior.
“Self Image to Need” and “Assert to Adapt” are the optics of the motivational lens. In time, this Vantage Point will serve in explaining people’s behaviors in a range of situations.
So, you now have a quadrant map and a new understanding of why you’re winning or losing among specific groups of consumers.
Don’t thank me. Thank Dr. Adler.
Step 3: Define Motivational Segments
With your four quadrants in place, it’s time to look for deeper divides. Our experience suggests six to seven distinct groups exist within a given domain. While we’ve defined many Domains, we are still surprised at how discrete segments emerge. Look for significant numbers in what we refer to as the “Acceptance” segment. They know the routine of shopping and buying in your category. With their level of interest being marginal, they’re willing to default to the recommendations of advertising, friends and sales staffs.
On the other side, you’ll find the aggressors wanting to have the upper hand. Listen for their buying criteria. While a most demanding group, they can be most valuable influencers. Most importantly, they’ll provide the market expectations to win the total market.
Most importantly, pay no attention to the outside selves you observe. You’ll know if you’re at the motivational level when tough guys cry and socialists fight for the biggest piece of the pie.
In the end, your exploration reveals insights. Attitudes and opinions coalesce to define the segments within your domain. You’ll have the platform for differentiating strategies as they are rooted in the domain and not a product. Finally, you’ll have a new appreciation of why some tactics worked and other well-constructed plans failed.
Step 4: Quantify
It’s time to blend the art of qualitative learning with the science of quantitative design. The quantitative design is critical in addition to the modeling expertise of Smart Agent MarketResponse Netherlands.
As authors of this field of work in association with the University of Tilburg, they guide us through question design, ranking schemes and can deliver a view of the market of the market that makes the motivational lens eye opening. Results reveal why your brand or products are missing out on significant shares of the market as well as your potential path for growth.
In this model, quantitative defines the size and priority of very specific drivers. Perhaps, more interestingly you’ll see where you and competitors have an advantage among particular motivational drivers. When one pairs this with communications and experience audits your first reaction will be to hug or fire your marketing agencies.
Did you stake your claim with a cool but alarmingly small segment of the market or speak to the largest common denominator with no real point of difference? Lastly, have you embraced a market dedicated to crushing your margins before they say yes?
In all cases, you will have a logical and new perspective of your category landscape.
Step 5: Research-To-Work
At this stage, the imagination roars. It’s time to post a Japanese proverb on the wall. “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” You’ve developed your domain-specific “Motivational Lens”.
You’re now able to see the strength in concepts, products, and messages on a total and segment specific basis. It’s time to look at product development and marketing engines against defined goals by segment. The path is straightforward; the last hurdle is the internal consensus.
In our experience the logic revealed through qualitative examples is so vivid, the presentation and workshop guides write themselves.
Get your audience and get ready for strategic and creative minds to connect in rapid fire. Interactive designers can develop new decision trees based on motivations and not the behaviors that created “spray and pray” models. You’re now able to have a conversation at an individual’s most basic level.
- Celebrate the ability you have to adapt through segmented messages and channels.
- Construct communications that are complimentary, logical extensions from mass media to segment-specific messages.
- Append customer files based on their motivations instead of the “rules” of the model.
And, let your competitors wonder why they’re losing share across all of their behavioral and attitudinal segmentations.
Innovating and acting on motivational segments is the closest thing to playing chess while your competitors arrange with the red and black discs on their boards.