Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are we really ever logical?

       In marketing, we sometimes think in terms of two kinds of goods for sale: impulse items and considered purchase items. The theory is that the behavior involved in buying each of them is quite different.

       The first products I worked on as an advertising person in Chicago would be categorized as impulse items. Jim Beam Bourbon, Wish-Bone Salad Dressing, and King's Men toiletries. But were they really impulse purchases? Even though bourbon was relatively inexpensive, someone's choice of brands is not  to be taken lightly. What their friends think of it, what they drink, the price, and how it's presented can make a big difference. Some products are a "badge" people wear, to tell the world who they are. Whether you make your own salad dressing or serve a "store-bought" brand can also say something about you; to some people, it can say a lot. And what a woman buys a guy to put on his face --- and whether he uses it or not --- can be the start of a beautiful relationship. Or maybe the end.

        Considered-purchase items include big-ticket categories like airline seats, cars, and computers. Now think about it. 20% of the air travelers do 80% of the flying. A big deal. And a great proportion of those tickets are bought by company travel planners, not the traveling employees. People in the airline  business have learned that you'd better find a way to market to both the decider and the influencer.

       You'd think people would deliberate carefully which car they'd rather buy, so we'd better market and present thoroughly. Then why do red convertibles in the window bring in more showroom traffic? Why are we so crazy about the way Macs look, and why do we run our palms over them? Car and computer companies agonize over their plans, and their promotion materials are plentiful. But tell the truth: didn't you have your heart set on what you wanted even before you went to the store to check them out?  Car marketing people will tell you that another important part of the advertising mission is to keep recent buyers sold, so buyer's remorse doesn't set in a few days later.

        Even in the world of trade advertising, where the job is to sell to businesses, there's a lot of personal stuff going on. How will the boss react if the buyer recommends an unfamiliar brand --- a different one than the boss' friends recommended at the tennis club? Will the choice help or hurt the buyer's chances of getting a raise? People in business, like all of us, have worries and dreams. We have to equip them deal with these emotional realities, which to them can be far more important than your product's features.

       That's why it's always important to remember that no matter whether we're selling commercial jets or bath sponges, fire trucks or fine art --- we're selling to people. They want facts and they have feelings, and weigh them both. You'd better understand that if you want to sell to them.

        Your customers are only human.

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