Classic marketing theory says that you should first identify an opportunity, a gap in the market, that is currently either unmet or that you can satisfy better than the current products available. You then develop a product to meet the identified need, create a positioning and communications story and then launch your product.
But how often do we find ourselves with a product, often we convince ourselves that it is a great product, and then go looking for the right market?
Kotler it might not be, but that is no reason to forget everything that he teaches us.
So, we put our great product or concept into market research and we find out which consumer groups get most excited about it.
The trouble is that consumer excitement rarely equates to sales once the product is launched.
It will not come as a shock to anyone that works in Market Research, but consumers do not tell us the truth. It is not that they purposely lie to us, but that they don’t really understand their own motivations or reasons for buying stuff.
Kahneman put it best when describing System 1 and System 2 thinking. We make the majority of our buying decisions using System 1 (automatic, quick decisions with little or no effort). However, when responding to a market research question we tend to make a little more effort to be accurate, we use System 2 (requiring mental effort, thought and perhaps more complex calculations).
To find the best markets for our product we should not ask consumers if they would buy it, we need to understand the drivers of their System 1 thinking. It is these unconscious drivers that shape most of our day-to-day decisions.
System 1 thinking is often oversimplified as emotional thinking. While emotions are involved, so is our experience and lifelong learning. We don’t put our hand in the fire because we know from experience that it is not a good idea. While this is rational rather than emotional, it is also instant, automatic and does not require any thinking about – it is System 1 thinking.
So, when testing our product in the market, we should not ask them if they would buy it, it is not much help to measure how excited they get, or just to understand their emotional response to it.
We need to understand a much more complex set of emotions and experiences that drive the consumers’ requirements, expectations and assessments in this category, for this need state, and around the product type, brand, communications, etc.
It is perhaps quicker and easier to do some quick and dirty research to assess consumers’ immediate reactions and then get the product into the market, especially when you know that it is a good product. However, that is why 70% to 80% of them fail. Did that really save you any time and almost certainly it cost quite a lot more by the time all the retailers had delisted you.
Understanding the psychology of consumers’ decision making is a little more detailed than getting a quick check on how they react to a product, but it is considerably more helpful in identifying your target market and in shaping your positioning, communications and product detail.
Trying to find the best market, positioning and communications for even the best products or concepts may not be exactly how the classic marketing models are written, but it is often how real life works. It is still worth doing it properly.
When you understand the psychological drivers behind the consumers’ decisions your chances of success are significantly multiplied.
Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Providing Clarity on the Psychological relationships between consumers and brands