4 Powerful Psychological Marketing Techniques

How many choices of ice tea do we really need?
How many choices of ice tea do we really need?

Throughout my years in branding and marketing, there are a few techniques that really get more positive responses from consumers. Quite consistently.  Here are four techniques:

1) Give away FREE things. You will see a stampede of consumers going after your free samples or freebies. Yes, you will also attract a significant percentage of people who are just interested in free products, and not really in your brand. However, these people will also try your products, or give them to their friends or family members. By giving away free things, you get more word of mouth and increased review buzz among consumers.

2) Up your prices. Whenever we see a category full of competitors, our first natural human instinct is to lower prices and hopefully attract more people to buy our products. This does not work well, as most competitors will think just like you. Instead, be brave and try for a higher price. A higher price denotes higher quality, or a superior product automatically, unless you deal with commodities. A recent new face wash brand priced itself at a ridiculous 10 times higher than competitors, but yet business was good for them!  Go figure!

3) If you do retail, ensure that your ambience is top notch. Research has shown that restaurants with superior ambience give their customers a positive expectation the moment they walk in the door. When they eat your food, the food will somehow taste better compared to a restaurant with a lesser ambience. Consumers will also be more forgiving of mistakes in service.

4) Restrict the options that you offer consumers. With the proliferation of line extensions, product offerings have exploded in recent years. I was shopping for some stationery yesterday, and the choices available for the ordinary pencil is staggering!  The category is sure more exciting today, but definitely made making choices harder and more laborious. Buck the trend and limit your product offerings to the least possible, showcasing just your very best products! Consumers will love you for enabling them to make choices easier and faster!


How to Get More Accurate Data from Focus Groups

The best way to understand a focus group is to know what they did, rather than what they think.
The best way to understand a focus group is to know what they did, rather than what they think.

We often engage consumers to answer some of our business questions through consumer surveys or focus groups.  However, how accurate can the data be?  Are the respondents giving projections on what they will like to be, vs. what they are?  Will they be influenced by group think from other members of the group?  Or will they be nice and say nice things about your brands even when they don’t feel so?

Understanding the mind is certainly a big hurdle.  Relying on what consumers say means you have to trust them a lot, and hopefully their answers really reflect the real reasons and motivations behind their decisions.

I found that the best way to get more accurate data from focus groups is to observe their actions.  Very seldom do they try to hide what they have done.  They may mask the reasons and motivations, but they will often tell the truth about what they have done.

Find out what they do, and under what circumstances did they make the decision.  Get them to do the act itself, e.g. observe them buying the product from the supermarket, and using the product in their daily lives.  Understand their daily surroundings, and the environment they are exposed to most of the time.  It’s true that sometimes consumers don’t really understand the true reason they do something, as it’s in the subconscious mind or habit.  Through their actions, you can observe and deduce for them their real motivations for buying certain products.


Truth, Love and Power in Marketing

The Ultimate Goal of All Brands
The Ultimate Goal of All Brands

I was just reading Steve Pavlina’s website on the pinnacle of human development through Truth, Love and Power.  Steve claims that personal growth will have to start with these three fundamental elements.

In marketing, it is also through truth, love and power that we grow our businesses.  It is through truth of what our products can do that establishes trust with our consumers.  With the truth about how our products can make consumers healthier or make their lives better, consumers will be willing to form a stable, long lasting relationship with us.  If we resort to marketing gimmickry and falsehood, we can get customers to come once, and then never again.

Through love, consumers want to have deeper relationships with their friends and loved ones.  If we can help them to make this easier, consumers will love us to bits too.  There are various kinds of relationship enhancements that a product or service can do.  One is to make the consumer more attractive.  Another is giving gift options for them to share their love.  Also, if you help them to save time, they will have more time for their loved ones.  Gradually, your brand will be included in their circle of loved ones.

Finally, power.  Achievement has always been what keeps us all motivated in pursuing our goals.  Men, especially wants to display their achievements through status symbols of an expensive watch, or the latest Mercedes series.  Women too are not to be left behind.  Women are getting more educated, and are increasingly found in the upper echelon of the corporate ladder.  If you can help them to reach their achievements earlier, or allow them to show their success through your products, your brand will achieve success too.

Go For Win-Win or No Deal

Make the best hotdog that you can for your consumers. You will be happy, your consumers will be happier too. In the long run, your business will outlast others.

Often times when we do business with our clients, we may be too focused on getting revenue and profits from them.  This in itself is not bad, but we need to remind ourselves regularly to take a balanced perspective.

We need to 1) be right with our own integrity, 2) think long term in terms of mutual interests, and 3) build relationships through win-win deals and not short change one another.

Why did Jeffrey Skilling of Enron did all that he do and landed himself with 24 years of jail term?  He rose quickly to the top in Enron, and rapid too was his descent to the bottom.  Neglecting his own integrity, he hurt himself for short term gains of heroism and money, and disappointed millions of clients, investors and employees as Enron folded.

Do we shortchange our clients in the name of protecting company’s interests and profits?  My dear friends, is it worth that short term gain to get that promotion or accolades from your company, while sacrificing your integrity?  The outside world may change, but maintain your principled center to live a fulfilling life of integrity.

From the business perspective, is it worth all that much to gain that short term spike in profits and revenue?  Some brand managers and even general managers get rotated every two years.  This happens in quite a lot of big, structured companies in the name of ‘broadening employees’ experiences’, and ‘prevent boredom’.  Good intentions, but be prepared for short term tactics to rake in the profits and sales from some of your brand managers.

Brand managers and marketing managers should take a long term perspective to build brands that can last, and form relationships with consumers that can endure for generations.  Always think long term in how both you and your clients can benefit the most from your dealings.  Go for win-win deals.  You may not see short term sales spikes.  What you will see is long term steady growth in sales, happy consumers, happy employees, and a much happier you.

3 Most Neglected Advertising Truths

3 Most Neglected Advertising Truths
Make a fashion statement. Guaranteed to bring out the sweet you.

Marketers advertise on a regular basis.  Often, it is just communicating the benefits of the products or services to your target consumers.  In the next campaign, you may impart a new creative twist to the communication.  Rinse and repeat.  In doing these, what do common marketers miss?

1) Advertising needs to build brand equities for the product.  First, rank the important attributes of the product category for your target consumers.  In soap, it may be fragrance and sudsiness.  In beer, the taste and how fast it fills you up.  In clothing, it may be expressing your unique self.  Out of the top few attributes, select one that your product has the potential to own.  Then, advertise in the direction to own it over time.

2) Advertising needs to evolve with changing product life cycle.  If your product is new, then awareness is key.  Give more information about the benefits, and reinforce a consistent brand image.  Then when the product matures, you may need to tell your consumers why your product is better vs. existing and new competitors.  Finally, as time progresses further, you need to remind your consumers that your product is still around, and is still one of the better choices.

3) Advertising may not build sales directly.  Advertising can be about creating awareness, but it may not be persuasive enough yet.  It may not have gained the critical mass, or acceptance by the masses.  Huge advertising costs initially may interest only the early adopters and innovators, but not the critical masses.  After some time, word of mouth and testimonials will increase your sales.  It also depends on the category growth and size.  If you have 70% market share, your growth may slow down despite the massive advertising that you do.

History of Consumerism

Shopping is nowadays a therapy for the senses, more than fulfilling basic needs.

Consumerism is a global phenomenon currently.  It started in the west first, as European countries became some of the first nations to become developed countries.  This was followed by the United States, and then Asia together with Eastern Europe in the recent decades.

Consumerism is the purchase of goods and services in ever greater amounts.

In the nineteenth century, few companies were providing massive supply of consumer goods for purchase.  Even P&G started off with mainly soap and candles then, before flourishing in the 20th century.  Workers and employees had to work long hours and many days of the week, causing lack of time for ‘shopping’ or indulgence in consumerism.  Wages were low, so demand for consumer goods were low too.  Apparently, goods made then were of durable standards, so they could be used for a long time before the need for replacements.  And yes, durable goods were used till they were spoilt, unlike today’s consumers that prefer to change them after a short 2-3 years for the sake of newer technologies.

Henry Ford also contributed to consumerism with his concept of mass production at the beginning of the 20th century.  He innovated on the mass production of automobiles, which were translated into many other industries as well.  This mass production allows large quantities of products to be produced at low costs.

Today, consumerism is a symbol of prosperity and wealth.  It is a symbol of status and comfort.  It is a norm today to spend freely and waste wantonly, and to indulge in things that money can buy.

Saying Sorry

"I am truly, sincerely, honestly sorry for not having a size XXXXXXL dress!"

Humans are not perfect.  Since businesses are run by humans, then it’s natural that they are not perfect too.

Whenever we or our colleagues or our subordinates make a mistake, customers may come running to us with a huge complaint.  The nicer ones may let us off the hook easily, the raging ones will tear us down with their words and possible follow up actions.  We may have thousands or millions of consumers, but a few of these raging ones will easily bring the business down with today’s instant internet connections.

The word ‘sorry’ may seem antiquated and dated, but it has never failed in its magic to calm down raging and angry customers.  They may be in the wrong, or the fault may lie with some intermediaries, the brand owners will have to protect the brand reputation regardless.  Saying ‘sorry’ is often the fastest and best remedy in such situations, so just say it!

Are Teenagers Nowadays Less Creative?

Creative bulb burning less bright for teenagers nowadays?

Apparently yes.  According to Lego, they have to come up with less bricks to make their structures so that kids can actually complete them, and not get impatient or bored.  Video games have dominated the toy category now, and this gives teenagers better reflexes, better visual capabilities, and the ability to understand lots of ‘knowledge’ quickly.  However, as most video games are choice or linear oriented, kids do not have much room to exercise their raw creativity.

Understanding Tweens Age 9-14

Ooh, I got that new coolest handphone that my friends like!

Tweens are younger teens.  They range from age 9 to 14.  This period is crucial, as you really get your intelligence or IQ score fixed at about age 9 to 10.  Then you are hit with puberty, and all that bodily changes and hormones can really wreck tweens with an identity crisis and the hots for the opposite gender.

Tweens think that the best brands are those that their close friends are in favor of.  Enough people like the brand, but not too many.  If too many likes it, it becomes ‘normal’, and no longer special.  The brand must not be silly or boring.  Popularity is what they crave to be, or what they crave in others.

Tweens generally like sports, movies, computers/internet, shopping, music and partying.  Some communication vehicles that marketers use to target them are love, stability, humor, fear, fantasy and mystery.  Stability in this case refers to feeling safe and secure in this fast changing world, and sometimes getting more dangerous.  The others are self explanatory.

Most of their money is spent on going out, music, computer games, clothes, games and grooming products.  They watch TV, read magazines and newspapers, but often research products with friends and parents, as well as in the store or through the web.

With such strong peer pressures, target your brands at ‘cool’ opinion leaders.  Be seen as understanding or helping them, such as providing seed money for small businesses.  Be at their favorite sports events like skateboarding, basketball and soccer matches.  Sponsor the hip musical concert.  Let your brand rub off some of that glamour from their favorite opinion leader.

Understanding Culture for Better Marketing

I just finished reading the book ‘The Culture Code’ by Clotaire Rapaille. A very interesting look at how our subconscious and social programming determine how we perceive things and events in life, and how whole cultures are shaped by these perceptions.

According to Clotaire, emotions are key to learning, and the keys to imprinting interpretations into our minds. We may not notice it, but a lot of our interpretations were shaped when we were young, on how our parents perceive certain matters, and how the society you live in shape your social programming.

In focus groups, there have been much controversy on whether consumers are really speaking the real truth, or do they answer based on what is expected of them. Do they even know why they like or dislike certain things and can articulate their opinions accurately?

According to the book, it’s not the content of what respondents say, it’s the relationship between respondents and the products. What role does the products play in their lives, and what is the relationship between the users and the products? How do the products make them feel, and how do the products affect their sense of identity?

Here are some findings that the author has discovered in the country of America. He found that sex = violence, health = movement/activities, doctors = hero, nurses = mothers, youth = mask (such as with lifting, botox, and anti-aging creams), money = proof of winning, shopping = reconnecting with life (material and social aspects), luxury = military stripes = money.

One brand that has made use of this finding is Pantene. As Pantene’s brand equity is ‘Giving You Healthy Hair’, it always depicts moving hair to denote hair health and wellness.