Magazine article Marketing

Getting Inside a Shopper's Mind: Direct Marketers Are Working out How and Why Consumers Arrive at Decisions, in Order to Satisfy Their Needs

Magazine article Marketing

Getting Inside a Shopper's Mind: Direct Marketers Are Working out How and Why Consumers Arrive at Decisions, in Order to Satisfy Their Needs

Article excerpt

Having a bad day? Someone understands how you feel, although you probably don't realise that person is a direct marketer. Best known for the solid virtues of database building and accountability, direct marketing is increasingly being used to get into the mind of the consumer. The reason being if you know your customers and understand their motivation,you can hit them with campaigns that have a direct effect on the bottom line.

"People spent the 80s building their databases, piling up information. It was a question of how big their database was," explains Jonathan Plowden Roberts, head of consultancy at The Database Group."In the 90s we're trying to get value from data. It's no longer 'how many customers have I got?', it is 'who are they and what do they want from me?'"

Gone are the days when all direct marketers had at their disposal was a bit of uncleaned name and address data. Now they know what kind of house you live in, what newspapers you read and what car you drive. Oh, and what supermarket you prefer and whether you like broccoli. Called behavioural data, this approach is based on what consumers actually do, where they shop and what they buy.

Geodemographics, which provides a basic neighbourhood profile, is the backbone of this kind of direct marketing. Its successor, lifestyle data, is constructed from around 25 million consumer surveys and gives a broader perspective of habits and tastes. However, both these approaches lack one thing: the 'why' factor.

The cutting edge of database development is in attitudinal information. Often called psychographics, it is about analysing and quantifying customer values and beliefs, as well as their perceptions of a product or service. It is these attitudes that determine whether a marketing message appeals to you and whether you will respond to it.

Marketing's Holy Grail

Pat Lalonde-Dade, director of Synergy Consulting, says: "Marketing is really very simple. All we're trying to do is change or reinforce existing behaviour. The Holy Grail is not what customers do, but why they do it. If we don't know that it's very difficult to change what they do or make them do it again."

Plowden Roberts continues: "Psychographics means, for example, that a motor manufacturer can identify people's likely propensity to place an emphasis on outward appearances. It puts science into what marketers have done intuitively for years - establish appealing messages and deliver them down the appropriate channels." Psychographics can highlight early adopters, which is fantastic for high-tech brands, and discover who is most likely to defect, useful for companies competing in the newly deregulated utility markets.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for children has seen some impressive results using a psychographic mapping tool called the Motivation and Attitude Profile (MAP). Created by agency Amherst, the system works on the premise that human behaviour is driven by need. Those needs are then categorised into a unique profile. For GOSH donors, the key motivator is the relationship between them and the children, as well as altruism and the feel-good factor. So its 'Hearts' donations mailing features a colourful, striking envelope and a letter which reinforces these driving factors. 'Hearts' has outperformed previous top-performing mail packs by 20%.

Dona Selby, director of marketing at GOSH's children's charity, explains: "To build a relationship, you want to get to know the person and what their motivator is." Jim Brackin, creative director at Amherst, is convinced that empathy is important. "People are driven by their emotions; it's not about fact and logic. Increasingly, the only button you press is an emotional one. You find out what the needs are and you discover ways of reflecting those needs."

As with all effective techniques, most companies don't want to talk in detail about what they're doing, which does not surprise Lalonde-Dade. …

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