Marketing the Feel-Good Factor

By Gray, Robert | Marketing, May 7, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Marketing the Feel-Good Factor

Gray, Robert, Marketing

If you want to influence people's decisions and actions you're to need to know how their minds work. Robert Gray reports on the latest research

Over the years, advances in campaign tracking, analysis and evaluation have given marketers the ability to ascertain with something approaching certainty which elements of their communications activities are effective. Yet despite plenty of stalwart work with focus groups, it is usually far more difficult to pin down exactly why something has worked.

There is, after all, no such thing as a common response. Each individual reacts in their own way to images and stimuli presented to them and the circumstances they find themselves in.

Academics and marketers alike have examined these similarities in the hope that they will reveal basic truths about human psychology. In so doing, they have sought to learn more about influencing audiences.

How to motivate sales staff? Or how to encourage customer loyalty or to persuade consumers to buy a certain product?

At the heart of all of this lies the psychology of motivation: understanding which actions will trigger the desired reactions. But there can be no universal formula for this, or - if there is - it is as yet undiscovered: marketing's holy grail.

"Everyone wants the golden rivet of success, but there isn't one," says David Evans, chairman and chief executive of Grass Roots Group, a provider of incentive and employee motivation schemes.

"You can't motivate anybody - it's something that comes from within. All you can do is be a good environmental engineer."

By this Evans means creating the right conditions for people to motivate themselves. But this is not so straightforward.

"You've got to research the audience as well as the competition," says Capital Incentives assistant managing director Nigel Cooper.

In addition to the audience age and profile, it is important to get a handle on what they have been offered in the past and what will push the right buttons today.

A lot of incentives are offered to employees of third-party organisations, which may be responsible for supplying products from a number of manufacturers. In these circumstances, researching what is being offered by rivals is a fundamental first step.

As these people are not your employees, there is no stick to beat them. So they have to be motivated by the prospect of a carrot instead. But what is an appropriate reward?

Suit your audience

Motivforce deputy managing director Peter Brooks believes it's horses for courses. One client, who wished to incentivise insurance salesmen, saw [pounds]250 to spend on a new suit as a valuable motivational tool.

This would have been totally inadequate for another client in the IT sector, whose brash young sales team enjoy earnings in the [pounds]80,000-[pounds]90,000 bracket. These key staff were rewarded with a trip to the US, where they rode Harley-Davidson motorbikes down Route 66, went whitewater rafting and flew to Las Vegas by private jet.

Although long-haul incentive travel enjoys a high profile, it only accounts for about 10% of the market, says Evans. Companies tend to restrict such goodies to their top performers, predominantly in sales.

But, for a host of psychological reasons, travel is a very effective means of motivation. It appeals to the senses, offers relaxation, and is attractive to high achievers.

It also helps companies retain their best performers. In most cases, the incentive trip does not take place until three or four months after the programme. By that time, the cream of the sales force will already be making strides toward qualifying for the next jaunt, which can be a powerful incentive to stay in their job.

Given the cost of incentive travel, the more usual rewards are cash bonuses or a mechanism which offers vouchers or bonds redeemable against a range of products. Choice is important, particularly as some motivation programmes can involve target groups running into the tens of thousands.

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