For eons, the Marketing discipline (and its practitioners) has been subjected to mockery over being ‘fluffy’ and ‘unaccountable’. Despite being masked under the guise of “Commerce” at University, we were still subjected to judgment from friends studying Law, Science, Veterinarian studies (everyone except those studying the Arts basically).
Marketing is, indeed, subjective and creative (which is part of the reason it is unashamedly fun) but we are starting to see an injection of science amongst the art that is worth paying attention to. Case in point is the emergence of literature suggesting that we can apply research to better help us understand (irrational) Consumer Behaviour and Marketing laws more broadly. At the forefront of this is Bryon Sharp’s “How Brands Grow” and various individuals spruiking Behavioural Economics (BE) including Dan Ariely.
A few BE examples relevant to marketing (and of interest) are Relativity and Decision Paralysis.
Research has proven that the introduction of a decoy option will sway you to choose an alternative option that you may not have otherwise considered (Relativity). A well-known real world example of this in action comes from The Economist. Potential customers were given two subscription offers – an ‘online only’ subscription for $56, and an ‘online + print’ subscription for $125. Consumers preferred the first option ($56), although the second option ($125) was preferable to the publishers. They then introduced a third decoy option, that they knew nobody would prefer – $125 for print only. As expected no one chose the third option, but an overwhelming majority now chose the second option ($125 for online + print)! The introduction of this third option made option #2 look very attractive – they were getting online version for free now.
Decision Paralysis is the proven theory that a reduction in the number of options available to consumers will actually increase sales. Being an indecisive individual myself, I can readily relate to this one, but it is more widespread than just for people of my ilk. Faced with too many options, people are simply unable to evaluate at all, and consequently don’t buy. The human brain in innately lazy and does not like processing too much information (cognitive load). This seems highly relevant for manufacturers who can be tempted to launch a plethora of flavours, varieties and pack sizes in a retail environment.
What about applications to media specifically? When I learnt that BE could solve the age old question of whether the left hand or right hand page were most effective, I was impressed. The answer is the right hand page, because most people are right handed so most brains find it easier to process information on the right. Accordingly, consumers value that information more highly than that contained on the left (cortical relief).
And then there’s Byron Sharpe’s “How Brands Grow” which refutes consumer segmentation, consumer loyalty, brand differentiation and basically anything else theoretically learnt at university and beyond. It’s a good reality check that consumers perceive very little differentiation between competing brands and buy out of convenience and habit.
Some areas of the aforementioned research are easy to apply to our daily working output to assist clients and most importantly, are really interesting, thought provoking and inspiring. Clearly, some are commonsense, others spruik slightly controversial notions. Regardless of personal opinions, anything that encourages us to further examine current marketing and media beliefs can only be a good thing. Happy reading!