Category Archives: Consumer Behavior

Lest we forget who we serve.

Targeting, Astrology and Racism

There are so many things that guides a single person’s behaviour.

Her religious inclinations.

Her neurological make up.

How little, or much she values money.

Her state of hunger at the moment in time.

Her upbringing.

Her unresolved fears.

Her philosophical values.

Her relationship with her father. Or mother.

Her personal experiences and learnings.

Her health.

Her economic well-being or lack thereof when she was a child.

Her sun sign. (?)

Her politcal opinions.

Her view of the environment.

Her conclusions on what is worthy of pursuit in life.

How little, or much she values her own time.

And mathematically, we know that the more the people, the less likely we are to know how they would behave. Because if each of these inclinations directs one person one way, it is likely that they will direct five different people in five different ways.

And you really, really think, bucketing her in a large, not-clearly defined group labeled merely on the bracket of years during which she was born will determine how she behaves?

Insights from the insightful Dara Ó Briain, if you prefer it:

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See Your Own Blindness, First

Ostrich

I have seen many managers distance themselves from consumers by drawing a line between their own perceived rationality, and the irrationality of consumers.

However, we must recognise that we are fundamentally irrational beings, and as managers and business people too, we have our own irrationalities that we are not aware of. And that these irrationalities affect our view of the customers of our businesses, and of our own biases – which in turn affects the management decisions we make.

It then becomes of paramount importance that anyone in a role that has to do with customers or driving business growth through understanding and influencing customers (be it marketing, sales, advertising, business development, customer acquisition and so on) first recognise that they are a consumer too.

For the more we distance ourselves from those who are influenced by our decisions and actions, the less effective we can be in influencing them.

On reading ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman, I found this excerpt which I believe makes this point in the same vein. In the context of the experiment on inattentional blindness (watch before you read on, if you don’t know it already), it says:

“The authors note that the most remarkable observation of their study is that people find its results very surprising. Indeed, the viewers who fail to see the gorilla are initially sure that it was not there – they cannot imagine missing such a striking event. The gorilla study illustrates two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our own blindness.”

As managers, we are “blind to our own blindness”, too. We are people after all.

Your Customers Don’t Care

Another irrational behaviour of people is that we feel we are being noticed. In a sea of people, we feel conscious of our behaviours, because we have a feeling of “being watched”.  Truth is, nobody cares. Everyone is busy doing what they are doing, and unless you do something really interesting (or stupid), nobody takes notice.

The same is true for marketers, who believe that their customers are genuinely interested in their brands. The truth is, they’re really not. They’re thinking about their careers, families, pets, vacations and other more important things. Your brand, actually doesn’t feature in their lives.

Source: Tom Fishburne, Marketoonist

This really comes through a lot in how we approach brand management, as marketers who make this assumption always refer to “their consumers” as a group of people who are eagerly awaiting the brand’s next move. This is one; among other, sure shot ways to failure.

The key to truly understanding customers, and getting their attention must begin with the assumption that they are going to ignore you. Next up, ask yourself what is truly interesting and attention worthy: this is not just a matter of communication or brand messaging (Old Spice, for instance), but of remarkable product delivery too (Dyson, being a case in point)

Brands today, live in an economy of attention. We are each vying for a momentary attention of our consumers, divided between a plethora of brands and media. The only way to get their attention is to be truly note-worthy.

Irrationality in management

There is a fundamental flaw with how we; as humans, behave: We think our rules don’t apply to ourselves. We think we are above the peculiarities that explain those around us, and somehow we are a unique snowflake and these don’t apply to us. I also noticed this idea in Dan Ariely’s ‘Predictably Irrational’ when he wrote (not quoting) that readers of his books must be aware of their own irrationalities, rather than just identifying irrationalities in others.

This issue is significantly compounded in management and marketing. A case in point: A fellow MBA classmate of mine was adamant that consumers of Louis Vuitton bought the brand for its quality and craftsmanship. She forgot to admit, that she was an LV loyalist herself. Would she then base her management decisions (if she were an LV brand manager, perhaps) on her own justifications?

Marketers and managers, those current and aspiring, I have found are guilty of this consistently. Though they cannot be singled out (as we all are guilty of this) this peculiarity greatly affects the decisions that managers and marketers take. I have seen marketers apply all sorts of irrationality in their own buying decisions, but when they talk about “their consumers”, they believe that they make rational choices.

I believe that there is a simple way to fixing this: Understand that you are a consumer too. When you remove yourself from “consumers”, you tend to view them through a different lens. But when you accept that you too are a consumer, and make your own irrational decisions and post-rationalised justifications, you can truly identify your own buying behaviour and not have your understanding of your consumers clouded by this perception.