30 August 2006

Who are you?

How would you describe yourself? Your spouse or a friend? Your boss or a colleague at work? Your customers or business associates? What adjectives or descriptors would you use? How would you classify or categorise them as similar to, or different from, you? How would you accept or analyse or respond to their behaviour? How would you decide whether you, or a person you have in mind, are fit for a specific relationship?

These questions are no longer solely in the domain of psychologists or those involved in motivational research. Today’s marketers and creators of brands are equally interested in using motivational research to identify and find consumers for their brands – motivating them to buy not just once, but more and more, and even refer your brands to others exactly like them – and build lasting relationships with them.

Unfortunately, most theories on motivation, and the research that accompanies them, have been used in the corporate world for HR and personnel evaluation, and for team-building purposes. The MBTI, 16PF, TAT and FIRO-B assessments, among several others, are typical examples of this practice. Very little of motivational research is used for marketing. Marketing’s ever-present market research usually deals with consumption.

Yet, questions like ‘Who are you? Why do you do the things you do? Why do you buy the things you buy?’ have dogged marketers and creators of brands ever since the Industrial Revolution spun off mass manufacture. And, in spite of marketers offering a single product for their customers (remember Ford in a single colour, black?), markets have become fragmented according to different consumer needs and wants… as well as consumer response to marketing messages.

Thousands of consumer segments have emerged across geographic, economic and socio-cultural backgrounds, indicating that consumer expectations from a product or a brand really do vary from individual to individual. New research, using new techniques, is now available to address these consumer expectations, and creators of brands are now beginning to experiment with avant-garde theories of motivation and consumer behaviour. Mette Kristine Oustrup’s mood theory and elemental experience (see my previous post ‘Elemental’) are some recent examples of this practice.

However, there’s a lot we can still learn from older theories of motivation. But, that would mean we have to go back a hundred years.

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