The Psychology of Marketing and Consumer Behavior, Part 1

An Introduction to Consumer Behavior

The modern consumer doesn’t want to be reached. Consider that subtle ping of irritation every time your Facebook feed opens and is pre-populated with suspiciously relevant ads, or the frustration you feel when a minute-long commercial interrupts a 30-second YouTube video. In the old days, intrusive advertising like that was a fine strategy for marketers. After all, how else could you get information to consumers? But it’s a different era—the Brand to Human® era. Now, people can find exactly what they’re looking for with a quick Google search. They can have it delivered directly to their door in a day or so from Amazon. So today’s marketers have the unique challenge of not only informing the consumer about a product, but also providing that information in a non-invasive, personalized manner. It’s a tall order.

And there’s another challenge: consumers are, more than ever, guarded, skeptical, and suspicious of marketing techniques. Marketing can sound like a bad word. It can seem intrusive, manipulative, and exploitative. While it can certainly be used that way, it’s rarely effective. The best marketing and advertising campaigns aren’t born from a desire to exploit and manipulate, but from an understanding of customers’ needs and wants, and crafted with the intention of providing the best customer experience possible.

Marketing is a diverse field. It deals with every company, in every industry, so it’s difficult to summarize in any one set of qualities. But what every good campaign has in common is an appeal to what it means to be human, and a desire to better the human experience by introducing a product or service. To do that, marketers need in-depth knowledge of the target audience: what they need, when they need it, how they use it, and why. In the marketing profession, this knowledge and research is called consumer behavior.

What is Consumer Behavior?

According to Lars Perner, Professor of Clinical Marketing at USC Marshall, one definition is “The study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society.” It’s a cumbersome definition, but it brings up some great points.

  1. The impact of consumer behavior on society is very relevant to marketers.
  2. The study of how products and services are purchased can (and should) influence how a product is positioned.
  3. Consumer behavior involves the use and disposal of products and the study of how they are purchased.

Consumer behavior is a social science that combines elements of psychology, sociology, anthropology, ethnography, marketing and economics. It’s a lot to unpack. Here at IDealogic®, being a jack-of-all-trades is something of a prerequisite to what we do. We can’t talk about consumer behavior without an understanding of behavioral psychology and behavioral economics. We can’t develop a strategy to reach those who don’t want to be reached unless we understand what they want and need, and what will illicit the most positive response.

To do that, we begin our work with a thorough, in-depth analysis of the target customer. We get to know everything about them—where they eat, where they shop, what they read, what they watch, how they get information—it’s all relevant. This information is, of course, different for every client in every industry, so it’s necessary for us to remain abreast of consumer knowledge for each industry we work with. It’s hard work, but it pays off.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to dive deep into the psychology of marketing and consumer behavior. I’ll discuss its roots in traditional social sciences; how the study of demographics can help to personalize and individualize marketing campaigns; how marketing has moved into the Brand to Human® era; and how a knowledge of psychology and the study of consumer behavior can convert more customers, increase revenue, create brand awareness and advocates, and allow companies to give back to society as they grow. At IDealogic®, we’ve moved away from clever but directionless advertising. Now is an ideal time to ask yourself, have you?

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Consumer Behavior, Pt. 2—IDealogic® Brand Lab