Consumers do not choose yours or your competitor’s product because it is the best on the market. They choose it because they believe that it is the best for them.
You might have technological advantages or better active ingredients than your competitor, but these are not the reasons that your consumer buys your product. They buy it because they believe in it.
“This is the best shampoo and conditioner for my hair”, “This is the kitchen cleaner that I prefer”, “I always use this makeup remover”.
Whilst there will be some apparently rational evaluation, “my hair feels great after using this shampoo”, My kitchen smells great” “My skin feels more refreshed and cleaner” even these are, in fact, emotional responses.
Most consumers are not scientists, they do not have labs in which they can test your products. Their reactions are emotional responses to their experience of the product rather than a rational, thought through evaluation of it.
So, when you are seeking the best product or even evaluating your product development options, while technical improvements may help, understanding how your product prompts belief in the consumer will be far more powerful that simply improving its performance.
However, consumers are very poor at understanding themselves, let alone explaining, why they believe in products. They always revert to logical, apparently rational, explanations such as “It makes my hair feel soft”, “I like the aroma”, “My skin feels great”.
While these are all probably important, they do not explain why they prefer this product to another that does the job at least as well.
Your communications, packaging, the appearance of your product, the consumer’s experience during use, its viscosity, colour, aroma… all create a narrative in the consumer’s mind. This may be a story of reassurance, that the product is doing what it is supposed to do, it makes them feel good. But for others the story lacks some key features, or contains some mis-cues. It is lacking in something, it does not make the consumer feel as good.
When you track the consumers’ emotional journey with your brand from their initial expectations, through their product experience and post use perceptions, and you connect this emotional journey to their experiential one, you can start to understand not only the narrative of your product in the mind of the consumer but also how the specific features of your communications, packaging and product cue that narrative.
How the consumers’ experience of your brand and your product come together to prompt belief in – or a lack of belief in – your brand.
Maybe you need a complicated technical improvement to step up the performance of your product, or maybe you will recognise that you just need to make it a bit more viscous to prompt a greater belief in the consumer’s mind.
“Better” can take many forms, but the one that is important is in the mind of the consumer. Understanding their psychology can be equally as powerful as understanding the complex chemistry of your product.
Chris Lukehurst is a Consumer Psychologist and a Director at The Marketing Clinic:
Providing Clarity on the Psychological relationships between consumers and brands