Tag Archives: consumer behavior

Are the 4Ps part of consumer behavior?

I never would have asked this question, had it not been one of the combinations of keywords that brought people to this blog within the past week. But once asked, the question is too unexpected not to receive an answer.

And that answer is NO.

The 4Ps are, depending on who you ask, a mnemonic device referring to 4 key concerns of marketing (product, price, place, promotion), a model for organizing marketing activity or a tool for influencing sales volume and frequency.

But they are not part of consumer behavior. That is “The process by which individuals, groups or organizations search for, select, purchase, use, and dispose of goods and services”, according to one definition.

Simply put, the 4Ps are stimuli (and they are by no means the only ones). Consumer behavior is the set of responses to these, and other stimuli.

I feel like I’ve done a bit of responding myself ūüôā Hopefully it’ll be of use to whoever wrote the original search string.

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Don’t wear this, wear that?

Did you know that Abercrombie&Fitch has offered money to a celebrity to STOP wearing A&F clothes?

In an official release, no less, the clothing brand asked Mike ” The Situation” Sorrentino, possibly the most obnoxious of the Jersey Shore cast, to switch to another brand, and offered a pay off if he did. Apparently, the branding department felt that he was not representative of the brand, and may in fact damage its reputation.

The story came to my attention in yesterday’s LA Times and it felt like the can of proverbial worms.

First, consider the reality behind the request, that of celebrity endorsements.

The idea that a 100 year old brand, with significant equity, can feel damaged if a reality TV show star of inappropriate behavior wears their clothing is a frightening reminder of the power that celebrity wields on the collective mind.

I assume that by making this offer public, the brand not only wanted The Situation to stop wearing the T-shirts, but also to squash any thought that Sorrentino may be a paid spokesman for the Abercrombie and Fitch clothing, because the underlying assumption in all celebrity endorsements is that they eat, wear or say something positive about a place or product only for monetary gain.

I am all for picking and choosing your brand ambassadors, but I think that when you tell someone NOT to wear your product, you’re moving into seedy territory that is more damaging than helpful to the brand. Because customers feel offended that the company presumes to decide who is and isn’t good enough to use or wear their products.

Sure, exclusion works as a marketing tactic, if you’re a luxury good, if by making something not accessible, you transform it into something iconic and aspirational. But you work that exclusion smartly, using price, location, in-store experience to subtly communicate to potential customers that they are not desired. You reference other customers and make them operate the exclusion. Clubs and associations have been doing this for ever. And you always leave the gate open for people to access your brand or product if certain conditions are met.

Telling a customer, even one as crude and frankly annoying as Mike ” The Situation” that they are not your brand, and should switch to another makes other customers question whether they are your brand. Can you be in business without Mike? Sure. But can you be in business without all the guidos and guidettes? Or without all fist-pumping, club going American youth? And they might avoid your brand is they feel that what you rejected in that customer is something that represents them too.

It might all be a publicity stunt. If it is, and it looks like that was it’s purpose, it has a dangerous double edge. Not all customers are savvy in the art of PR.

And to be honest, it didn’t really matter that Mike and Snooki and the lot wore A&F clothes. They have horrendous taste anyway.

 

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The Why of Generation Y

I technically am on the outskirts of Generation Y, having been born in the latter half of 1976, while Gen Y officially includes those born between 1977-2000. Now, that’s quite a span, because it encompasses 34 year-old adults as well as 11 year old preteens, and it is hard to perceive them as one single generation.

There are commonalities, as you can read in several¬†researches¬†and articles on the topic, of which I recommend the ones in Portal HR, a well researched set of interpretations and local adaptations of international content. Because this is a blog about marketing and management, the most interesting for me was “Cum ar schimba Generatia Y abordarea in management”¬†outlining three¬†characteristics¬†of Gen Y-ers:

1. Their tendency to question established ways of doing things

2. Their democratic, merit-based outlook that makes it difficult to adapt to rigid hierarchies

3. Their inclination for radical solutions, and their profound dislike of communication barriers

For marketing, these commonalities can somewhat offset the large age gap between the earliest and latest Gen Y-ers. Of particular interest are the implications of the characteristics mentioned above.

Gen Y will often question even successful models or experiences, because they are not only open to something new, but actively seeking it. What could this mean for brand loyalty, for example? Does this make Gen Y more likely to switch to another brand? Does it make it easier to generate trial for a new product? In my opinion, yes, but this propensity must be carefully balanced with other considerations, because as both studies and experience demonstrate, Generation Y is extremely concerned with value, the ratio between cost and benefits, and can easily assess it with the help of their online environment. So something new and attractive will not be tried for its own sake, but only if it delivers value beyond what the trial costs.

A rejection of rigid hierarchies reflects that Gen Y does not like to be told what to do. This impacts the way in which endorsements of a product work. For many years, marketing has relied on arbiters of cool, who were deliberately shaping opinion and consumption. This millennial generation is likely to reject the idea that anyone can dictate what is cool and what is not. They might even want to step outside the boundaries of accepted trends deliberately. There is a certain rebelliousness imbued in their more democratic outlook, and it certainly must make marketers shift significantly away from mass-marketing to niche marketing.

The dislike for communication barriers has a corollary. Or several. There is a thirst for information. The dictum “Information is power” holds truer than ever with Generation Y, but unlike the previous generations, the power is not in the accumulation and withholding of information, it is in its generation, sharing and circulation. This is the essence of the much touted viral marketing. Gen Y will share information that they think is somehow valuable, and they will do so much more than their elders, and more efficiently, due to the slew of online tools. The implications for Word of Mouth are staggering, and barely begin to be comprehended. Notoriety, awareness generation, and the adoption cycle are all changing.

Is this a new phenomenon?

No. Generation Y has been around for a while, but what is new is the ever increasing prominence and effect that their choices are having upon our lives. And marketing.

(This is another post responding to the challenges of the contest organized by Flacara, pranzuldincaserola and PortalHR).

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There is more to labels than just sticking them on

We bought a¬†bottle of Merlot the other day. It’s an estate-bottled wine, and we got it because we’d been buying wines from this estate for a while, and wanted to try their first commercial bottling. It’s¬†a decent Merlot, though slightly less taninous and with a weaker personality then I like my wines to be, but that’s not the point. The point is that had I seen this wine on the shelf, I never would have gotten it, because of the label.

There is more to labels than just design and legally mandated content. Behind every successful label is an understanding of the consumer, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the labeling of wine.

Wine is particular as a good, as my MBA colleagues and I had the chance to ascertain a few years back, when we did a consumer-centric strategy for the Cricova wineries in Romania.

It’s an¬†experience¬†good, whose intrinsic qualities cannot be known until after purchase and consumption, so consumers rely on extrinsic clues such as shelving,¬†price, label design and content, as quality markers. Otherwise put, in a purchasing situation where the consumer is unable to try the product, he or she relies on outside cues as a proxy for the internal qualities that they are looking for. This is especially important if you look at the variety within category. Where a typical FMCG would have 10-12 competing products, a wine would have around 700, many on the same shelf. In such a crowded market, consumers usually rely on wine labels and point of sale¬†material as a source of information to base their¬†decision on.¬†It is important for the label to be noticeable in a positive way, but it should also define the wine. (for example most labels for new entrants on the¬†market¬†don’t assume prior knowledge of wine. Maybe a Chambolle Musigny Pinot Noir¬†does¬†not need to specify how dry the wine is, but a Romanian¬†Merlot¬†sold on the Romanian would need a¬†label¬†saying¬†dry¬†red wine beneath the world Merlot.)

It’s a high involvement purchase, which researchers have often jokingly compared to the purchase of a car. Except, of course, the out-of-pocket is smaller and the frequency of purchase is likely to be higher. But like a car, the wine you buy, depending on the situation in which it is consumed (in a restaurant, at¬†home¬†among friends, at a business dinner etc.) carries¬†certain¬†social cues about the position and sophistication of the person buying it.¬†Being a¬†connoisseur¬†of wine is considered a mark of the rich and refined, and therefore the purchase of a good wine is an aspirational activity. The bottle you bought must¬†exude class¬†or quality when seen by others.

Not being a¬†designer, I can’t create a better label for this quite enjoyable Merlot, but being a marketer, I cannot¬†emphasize¬†enough that understanding the consumer and how they approach the purchase of your product needs to be at the basis of every step of the go to market process, from the packaging of the¬†product¬†to the¬†promotional¬†messages.

I’ve¬†attached below an excerpt from the presentation of the project my colleagues and I did for the winery, back in 2008, just to explain a¬†little¬†bit better how deep one must go into¬†understanding¬†the¬†product¬†and the¬†consumer¬†BEFORE putting it on the market.

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