Friday, April 8, 2016
Marketing and the Deep Understanding of Human Behavior
The best marketers understand why people behave in the ways that they do. They understand people's underlying phobias, fears and anxieties. They understand their hopes and aspirations. And they understand their attitudes, convictions and values.
The best marketers constantly observe human behavior but also strive to understand the motivations that underpin that behavior. The best marketers have some of the skills of anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists and they are constantly conducting informal ethnographic research.
Do you know what it is like to live and work in a big city such as New York? Do you know what it is like to live and work on a dairy farm? How about a ranch? Do you know what small town life is like? What is it like to be a poor unemployed African American in a dangerous urban neighborhood? What is it like to be a CEO? Or an oil rig worker? Or a soldier who has seen the worst of war? Or the son of a high profile politician?
What's it like to live in Burlington, Vermont or Corpus Christi, Texas or Boulder, Colorado or Akron, Ohio? What is it like to live in Tokyo or Zurich or Almaty, Kazakhstan?
What is it like to live in Cuba today? What is it like to live in Syria today? What is it like to live in Papua, New Guinea today?
What is it like to not have a car and only use pubic transportation in a big city? What is it like to not have a car and to walk or ride your bicycle everywhere?
What is it like to never get any exercise other than pushing the buttons on a remote control? What is it like to work out two hours a day and have a perfectly sculpted body?
What is to like to live in the jungle? What is it like to live in the desert? What is it like to live on a remote island?
What is a mother who just lost her teenage son in a tragic traffic accident feeling? Or a father who's daughter just won a gold medal in the winter Olympics? What is going on in a Tea Partier's head? How come some people are so liberal? What does it feel like to be a 45 year-old laid off factory worker who has not worked for five years?
If you are pro-life, do you really understand what motivates pro-choice people? If you are pro-choice, do you really understand what motivates pro-life people? If you are a strong gun control advocate, do you understand why some people will fight to the end to preserve their right to bear arms? If you are a gun advocate, can you put yourself in the shoes of a staunch gun control advocate?
What is it like to have grown up Mormon? What is it like to have grown up as an Evangelical Christian? What is it like to have grown up in a nudist colony?
What is it like to have grown up with an abusive father? What scars remain from having been raped as a teenage girl? What is it like to have had a near death experience? What is it like to have experienced altered consciousness as the result of a drug induced trip? Why do some people have strange compulsions?
Why are some men afraid of strong women? Why are some people so self-centered? What is it like to have grown up in an orphanage? What is it like to be a refugee? What would life be like if you knew that you had a disease from which you could die at any moment? What is it like to be HIV+?
How does it make you feel that your spouse makes five times as much income as you do? How do you feel about graduating in the bottom 10% of your class? What's it like to win $100 million in a lottery? What if your brother is a doctor, your sister is a lawyer and you are an unemployed contractor?
These scenarios are just the tip of the iceberg. My point is that marketers should constantly consider how others are feeling, what their insecurities are, what pressures they have to bear, what forms their attitudes, what their beliefs are and what fears drive their behaviors. Because marketers need to know what motivates people. And the only way to do that is to understand people, not just at a superficial level, but deep down.
And it would help to understand different societies and cultures and even to understand different psychological disorders such as social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, narcissistic personality disorder and hypomania.
It is even instructive to know the different motivators for people's religious fervor. A good book to stimulate your thinking on this is The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. Further, it would be very helpful to understand what it is like to be a working poor person, a blue collar worker, an upper middle-class professional and the member of an elite uber-rich family.
Again, marketers must strive to really understand human motivations at a deep level. I wish you great success in developing your anthropology, psychology and sociology skills.