As consumers we’re drawn to products and services that are:
Walk down the aisle of any electronics or grocery store. You’re greeted with a sea of bright boxes, eye-catching imagery, and alluring claims. Starbursts, even.
Does any of that actually work? Does the most intuitively designed, highly functional, best-made product make the sale? Does the celebrity endorsement tip the scale? As marketers, we’d like to think so (otherwise, what’ve we got to work with?). But is it remotely realistic to think this way?
What really motivates people to buy?
Product strategy: fade to black
In addition to quick, easy, and inexpensive, we often sift purchase decisions through form and function filters too, of course. But even when a feature or design element is part of our heart’s desire, we’ve demonstrated our willingness to sacrifice some functionality or aesthetic when an easy-peasy “plug and play” version is up for grabs. Move over custom install, automated recommended overdrive is in your ‘hood.
Those clever boxes with their professionally-shot images seem less like a good idea right about now?
Communications planning – gone the way of the dodo?
Chalk it up to our species’ inherent laziness or (if you’re more charitable) our situational flexibility and adaptive nature; the reality is consumers continually scan their options and make selections based on current circumstance and active environment. Then they quickly move on. It’s always Go Time. There are flag football practices to make, spreadsheets due at the office and social networks to catch up on. Who’s yelling the loudest? What fire can we let smolder while extinguishing today’s inferno? Busy, overworked us.
What are the marketing implications of a real-time world?
Part marketer, part consumer: between Scylla and Charybdis
On one hand, there’s our “day” job as insight-driven marketers (Assuming you are. Go, team.). On the other, there’s our general evolution into a people that often place cursory thought behind our selections before we forge ahead.
Where our ancestors would have considered provenance, durability, and craftsmanship in trade goods and home life, today we cull based on how quickly people and products can come up to speed, how much time and energy we’ll most likely have to dedicate in order to reach deadline, how easy it integrates, and whether the price hits our current-as-of-the-last-update mark. Brand loyalty and advocacy are often forgone with the next 25%-discount-for-new-customers-only offer (revealed only with a Facebook “like”).
It’s gotta matter to them, those you hope will buy your stuff
What does this behavior bode for marketers? Is it past time we shut off the lights and leave the animals with the keys to the zoo? Can the legs of differentiation your product/service stands on bear the brunt of a semi-attentive consumer audience?
If no one has any time to pay attention to our marketing, and consumers aren’t basing their decisions on our carefully crafted benefits lists, what is there left for us to do?
Wake up and smell the opportunity
All hope isn’t lost. I do think there’s hope for marketing in today’s socio-economic climate. We can breathe new life into our work and affect greater numbers of potential buyers.
I just think we have to be smarter about it. We have to choke down the reality that in a real-time world, there are scant moments to solidify brand image and positioning and to establish a reliable, trustworthy product history to serve as a framework for building stepped plans. The buyer’s journey has changed to reflect multi-point entry into the consideration cycle, and we have to move past the assumption that consumers are waiting patiently to receive our every missive and proceed down our carefully staged, organized paths.
If quick, easy and inexpensive matter most to your customer segments, then I recommend you pay close attention and plot any gaps between what they want and how you communicate your offering.