Understanding Buyer Behavior
What makes consumers tick?
As powerful and pervasive as advertising seems to be, it really isn’t a matter of “executing a Jedi mind trick on the sheep to separate them from their cash”.
When all is said and done, the consumer will either accept or reject the product on the basis of their experience with it. However, the messages that they receive from advertising will likely affect how the consumer expects that experience to go.
Often it is the advertising that influences whether or not the consumer experiences the product at all.
To develop an ad that will encourage consumers to buy your product, first place yourself in the position of the person who is going to see the ad.
This should be fairly easy to do since you are bombarded with advertising messages every day. Most of them we ignore, yet every once in awhile one message will stand out as being meant just for us.
How is it that in the course of a split second we manage to take in an ad, determine whether or not the message is for us, accept or reject the message, then respond accordingly?
It might be helpful to understand (in very general terms) how the human mind works.
First, the mind is governed by various Psychological Programs.
These programs determine how we react to stimuli in given situations.
A psychological program is a plan of mental and possibly physical activity that people develop to deal with a given situation.
(George A Miller, Eugene Galanter, and Karl H. Pribram. Plans and the Structure of Behavior New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1960)
A situation is the set of conditions in which people find themselves at a given moment in time.
(Russell W. Belk. “Situational Variables and Consumer Behavior” Journal of Consumer research 2:3 December 1975, pp 157-164)
There are two types of programmed activities, tests and operations.
A Test basically asks whether or not a specified operation has been carried out.
An operation is a set of instructions from the program.
The action of going from the test to the operation back to the test and then exiting to the next test is known as the
For example, you are reading a magazine and flip to a page with an ad on it.
You ask, “Is there something here important to me?” (TEST)
If the ad is of interest to you, you look at it. (OPERATE).
Then you ask, “anything else?” (TEST)
If the ad was the only important thing, you turn the page. (EXIT)
What makes the ad important to the consumer is going to be their predisposition to needing the product or service being offered.
According to Maslow, man has a hierarchy of needs ranging from the most basic (food & shelter) to the higher needs (Self-actualization). While these needs are constantly changing, it is possible to establish a general disposition referred to as a Master Program (Lifestyle). This Master program is also subject to change, but generally it’s relatively enduring.
Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to identify the target audience’s master program is very helpful in choosing a creative strategy that will influence their behavior.
Be aware that how you categorize (name) your market segments is not important. What’s important is that you are able to properly describe the categories to convey the core values that you are attempting to key in on.
For example, Chiat/Day/Mojo segmented the car buying market while working for Nissan as follows:
True car enthusiasts, actually work on cars and are mostly male, blue collar. They are most likely to believe t hat the car you drive says a lot about you. They love sports cars, both domestic and Japanese.
The largest group, like fully equipped, comfortable cars; are looking for style and elegance; and have the second highest percentage of women, the highest household incomes, $100K or more. They especially like convertibles.
The youngest group, are skeptical and not brand loyal but like driving and sports cars. They have high concentrations of laborers and Asian Americans.
Conservative homeowners, often with children, who want sensible, fuel efficient transportation. They buy small to mid-sized domestic cars.
Tied with epicures as the largest group, are safety conscious, strongly prefer large domestic cars don’t enjoy driving, and have the highest share of women, the highest ages and the lowest incomes.
Uninterested in cars, regarding them as necessary evils, hassles. They’re the most educated, with large incomes, and frequently buy small foreign cars.
How you market (or whether to market) any given model in Nissan’s product mix will depend on the characteristics and values of the group you’re selling to.
For example, would you try to sell a 370 Z to Road Haters or Negatives?