Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marketing & Me

As I stepped into the exciting field of marketing little did I know that it is more a study of human behavior, a kind of human anthropological study wherein lie the real answers (well, most of the times at least) to most of the questions marketers since ages have pondered upon! It is not just about the art of buying and selling anymore. We as a dignified consumer want an overall experience- after sales services, support, tech updates, the works basically!

“Striking the deal” starts well in advance when the consumer gets all his information beforehand these days. Resources are ample- the Internet, magazines, media, word of mouth, peer circles, the information is out there and it is fast to hit you by- On Your FACE! The point is what you make of it!

As a consumer it is overwhelming sometimes with the kind of new products and services that are hitting the market these days. Everyday there is some new gizmo, a new technology almost smothering our already over cluttered minds. When all this happens is it that a helpless consumer stands there gazing in blank space about this bombardment of information around you? And the answer is a surprising no! As the choices around us increase, we make some rather predictably irrational decisions of buying! There have been an increasing number of studies about what exactly lures us into buying something, a thing sometimes which we really don’t “need”. As any amateur marketer, we were taught that people have needs and wants- well we may be thirsty and refreshing cool water drink could suffice our basic need but a Cool new ad showing our favorite celebrity gulping down a Pepsi makes us want it to satisfy our parched souls! Our aspirations are aroused by subtler instincts like our peer groups following a certain trend, our idol effortlessly carrying out a grotesque task using a certain facilitating product! We have these impulses getting triggered for more than once for making a decision that somehow does not validate at the end of the day.

The catch is we do make some predictably irrational decisions when we buy, and that too unconsciously! Have you ever noticed we always have an anchor price, a model, a prototype in our mind when we purchase anything? Well we haven’t noticed this consciously till now, however it certainly makes sense. Now let me explain what does it mean. An anchor price is like a threshold value entrenched deep in our minds- like the first time you just dropped by while window shopping on your favorite flat screen LCD, you register its price, features – all this time without the intent to do so! Then when we really go to make the real purchase of that much touted flat screen just before the FIFA world Cup, to enjoy our game with a whole new experience we subconsciously compare those already registered features, price when we look at those other new models in the store. This “ANCHOR effect” price and features are wired into our brains once we see that perfect gizmo we want to own. The fact is that the power of the first decision can have such a long lasting effect that it will percolate into our future decisions for years to come.

Socrates once said: “ The unexamined life is not worth living”. The adage holds true to most of our first anchors that we register in our brains until we get wired to them.  These anchors illustrate many choices that we make – from the trivial to the more profound ones!

What also intrigues me that how some marketers show a flash of genius when they want us to sell something which can be something which we may not really need. We always use relativity while taking those supposed important decisions. There was a very interesting study done on supposedly smart set of group of people- Scenario1:A popular magazine subscription is made available with 3 choices, option one: a internet subscription for Rs.600/annum (with access to all the articles since last 10 years), option two: a print subscription for Rs 1250/annum and option three: a internet plus print subscription for Rs.1250/annum. Now what would a clear thinking , rational individual decide in this case: clearly the internet subscription is better than the option two, however the marketer for this magazine has been smart over here with offering us the third option with print along with internet subscription which seems more value for money. Obviously most of these smart people who were a part of this experiment opted for the third option seeking its more value for money goodness offer!

Now in second scenario this same group of smart individuals were given only two options; option one: either the Rs.650/annum internet subscription of the Rs.1250/annum print subscription. Interestingly it was found that most of them unlike in scenario one, in here scenario two opted for the first internet offer which now made more sense! Clearly the marketers knows that we as consumers go through this dilemma most often, hence they make our life simpler with providing us with options which will be easier to choose from. In scenario one, while the print alone offer made little sense, the print+internet offer gave all the more impetus to go ahead and take it up immediately. That is the truth of smart marketing- and the power of relativity!

Another of the most enthralling discoveries for my marketing journey has been that how a completely unassociated, non related, independent group of large people can together paint the reality which is better for most of the times, than a learned focus group specially called upon to present their takes. A huge crowd traditionally has always been thought of being a disturbance in coming up with a certain sane, intelligent conclusion, a huge gathering allegedly, is rather inconclusive in presenting their results in a comprehensive format. However this does not hold true (on a larger scale). World’s biggest market research agencies collect data from distributed independent people  from all across to present their preferences about a certain product, latest TV soap to the latest political campaign! Certainly this industry has grown huge by tapping into this “wisdom of the Crowds” and providing their clients with conclusive research about what really the consumer likes and wants!

These humble observations made on my side are just a stepping stone to this journey which has just begun, many more such facets are yet to be discovered and to be written about! Till then, long live marketing!
- Priyanka Titkare
 PGDBM, Marketing


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