Touchy Feely Research into Consumer Motivations

Marketing Highlight 6.3

box ... You taste nice ... riot harsh.' Ideal cigarette to smoker: 'If I can make you relaxed and happy, that's what I am here for. I always try to please my customers.'

researchers use a wide variety of non-directive and projective techniques to uncover underlying emotions and attitudes towards brands and buying situations. The techniques range from sentence completion, word association and inkblot or cartoon interpretation tests, to having consumers describe typical brand users or form daydreams and fantasies about brands or buying situations. Some of these techniques verge on the bizarre. One writer offers the following tongue-in-cheek summary of ;\ motivation research session:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We've called you here today for a little consumer research. Now, lie down on the couch, toss your inhibitions out the window and let's try a little free association. First, think about brands as if they wen; yourfriend" ... think of your shampoo as an animal. Go on, don't be shy. Would it be a panda or a lion? A snake or a woolly worm? For our final exercise, let's all sit up and pull out our magic markers. Draw a picture of ?i typical cake-mix user. Would she wear an apron or a negligee? A business suit or a can-can dress?

Other researchers use transaction analysis (TA), based originally on psychoanalytic theory, to study the relationship between the consumer and the brand. In this die consumer and the brand role player assume the 'ego states' of a parent, adult (equal) or child. Data are obtained from recording a dialogue between the consumer and a brand;

Smoker to ideal cigarette: 'I can taste you; your tobacco is good ... I like you. Smart card. Respondents depicted gold eard holders as active, hroad-shouldered men; green card holders were perceived as 'couch potatoes' lounging in front ot television sets. Rased on these results, the company positioned its gold card as a symbol of responsibility for people capable of controlling their lives and finances.

Some motivation research studies employ more basic techniques, such as simply mingling with consumers to t'ind out what makes them tick:

Saatchi & Saatchi, the London based ad agency, recently hired anthropologist Joe Lowe to spend a week in Texas sidling up to wearers of Wranglers blue jeans at rodeos and barbecues. His findings reinforced what the jeans company suspected: buyers associated Wranglers with cowboys. The company responded by running ads with plenty of Western touches. For a consumer-goods manufacturer, Lowe went to health clubs where he observed patrons applying deodorant. And for shampoo maker Helene Curtis, he spent three days in salons before coming to a somewhat predictable conclusion - going to the beauty shop makes women i'eel good.

Some marketers dismiss such motivation research as iiiumbo-jumbo. And these approaches do present some problems: they use small samples and researcher interpretations of results are often highly subjective, sometimes leading to rather exotic explanations of otherwise ordinary buying behaviour. However, others believe strongly that these approaches can provide interesting nuggets of insight into the relationships between consumers and the brands they buy. To marketers who use them, motivation research techniques provide a flexible and varied means of gaining insights into deeply held and often mysterious motivations behind consumer buying behaviour.

SOURCES: Excerpts from M. Blackthorn and M. Holmes, 'The use of transaetional analysis In the development of a new brand's personality', ESOMAR Seminar on Now Product Development, 1983; O. De drool, 'Deep, dangerous or just plain dotty?', ESOMAR Seminar on Qualitative Methods of Research, Amsterdam, 1986; Annetta Miller and Body Tsiantar, 'Psyching out consumers'. jYetestoeefe (27 February 1989), pp. 4<i-7; see also .Sidney J. Levy, 'Dreams, fairy talcs, animals and cars', Psychology anil Marketing (Summer

1985), pp. 67-81; Peter Sampson, 'Qualitative research and motivational research', in Robert Worcester |ed.), Consumer Marketing Research Handbook (London' McGraw-Hill,

1986), pp. 29-55; Ronald Also]), 'Advertisers put consumers on the couth', Wall Street Jmimal (13 May 1988), p. 21: Rebecca Piirto, 'Measuring minds in the 1990s', American Demographies (December 1990), pp. 31-5, and "Words that sell', American Demographies (January 1992), p. 6.

A person has many needs at any given time. Some are biological, arising from states of tension such as hunger, thirst or discomfort. Others are psychological, arising from the need for recognition, esteem or belonging. Most of these needs wilt not be strong enough to motivate the person to act at a given point in time. A need becomes a. motive when it is aroused to a sufficient level of intensity. A motive (or drive) is a need that is sufficiently pressing to direct the person to seek satisfaction. Psychologists have developed theories of human motivation. Two of the most popular - the theories of Sigmund Freud and Ahraham Maslow - have quite different meanings for consumer analysis and marketing.

FREUD'S TIIUORY OK MOTIVATION. Freud assumes that people are largely unconscious of the real psychological forces shaping their behaviour. He sees the person as growing up and repressing many urges. These urges are never eliminated or under perfect control; they emerge in dreams, in slips of the tongue, in neurotic and obsessive behaviour or ultimately in psychoses.

Thus Freud suggests that a person does not fully understand his or her motivation. If Anna Flores wants to purchase an expensive camera, she may describe her motive as wanting a hobby or career. At a deeper level, she may be purchasing the camera to impress others with her creative talent. At a still deeper level, she may be buying the camera to feel young and independent again.

Motivation researchers collect in-depth information from small samples of consumers to uncover the deeper motives for their product choices. They use non-directive depth interviews and various 'protective techniques' to throw the ego off guard - techniques such as word association, sentence completion, picture interpretation and role playing.

Motivation researchers have reached some interesting and sometimes odd conclusions about what may be in the buyer's mind regarding certain purchases. For example, one classic study concluded that consumers resist prunes because they are wrinkled looking and remind people of sickness and old age. Despite its sometimes unusual conclusions, motivation research remains a useful tool for marketers seeking a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour (see Marketing Highlight 6.3).21

MASLOW'S THEORY OF MOTIVATION. Abraham Maslow sought to explain why people are driven by particular needs at partiexilar times.22 Why does one person spend much time and energy on personal safety and another on gaining the esteem of others? Maslow's answer is that human needs are arranged in a hierarchy, from the most pressing to the least pressing. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is shown in Figure 6.4. In order of importance, they are (1) physiological needs, (2) safety needs, (3) social needs, (4) esteem needs and (5) self-actualization needs. A person tries to satisfy the most important need first. When that important need is satisfied, it will stop being a motivator and the person will then try to satisfy the next most important need. For example, a starving man (need 1) will not take an interest in the latest happenings in the art world (need 5), or in how he is seen or esteemed by others (need 3 or 4), or even in whether he is breathing clean air (need 2). But as each important need is satisfied, the next most important need will come into play:

The wine market shows how the different levels of the need hierarchy can be at play at the same time. Buyers of premium wines are seeking self-esteem and self-actualisation. They may achieve this by showing their knowledge by buying 1986 Chateaux Ausone from a specialist wine merchant. Wine buying makes many other people anxious, particularly if it is a gift. They buy the product to fill a social need but are unable to gauge quality. To be safe they buy from a reputable store (Marks and Spencer) or a brand legitimised by advertising (Le Fiat d'Or).2-1

Maslow's hierarchy is not universal for all cultures. As the heroes of Hollywood movies amply show, Anglo-Saxon culture values self-actualization and individuality above all else, hut that is not universally so. In Japan and German-speaking countries, people are most highly motivated by a need for personal security and conformity, while in France, Spain, Portugal and other Latin and Asian countries, people are most motivated by the need for security and belonging.24

What light does Maslow's theory throw on Anna Flores' interest in buying a camera? We can guess that Anna has satisfied her physiological, safety and social needs; they do not motivate her interest in cameras. Her camera interest might come from a strong need for more esteem from others. Or it might come from a need for self-actualization - she might want to be a creative person and express herself through photography.

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