5 lessons about consumer behavior

monkey.jpgEighteen down and seven to go – courses that is. Thursday night was my last Consumer Behavior class which means I can sort of see the light at the end of the b-school tunnel.

My professor had us do a particularly interesting assignment for me: create a list of the top 10 consumer behavior and cognitive psychology lessons for marketers (two of my favorite things of course: lists and psychology). I cut the list down for sharing so here are 5 things all marketers need to know about consumer behavior. They are of course also interesting for anyone who is a consumer.

  1. Elaboration causes people to remember: Getting customers to think about a product or service, especially “self referencing” where they have to think about how it impacts them or how they’d interact with it, makes them remember it more. Similarly, people pay attention to and remember things that are incomplete, such as puzzles that raise questions (the Zeigarnik effect), and can absorb more if they can attach new ideas to an existing associative map.
  2. Perception can be physical: People like things when their behavior makes them think they do. For example, head nodding makes people more agreeable, simulating smiling (like from putting a pen in your mouth) causes you to report you like something more, and “allowing” someone to self select something, consciously or unconsciously, makes them assume they like it, as does increasing their heart rate.
  3. Exposure is sometimes all it takes: Consumers are impacted by the “truth effect” and “mere exposure effect” which shows that the more you are exposed to something and more repetition, the more you like it and the more you think something is true. Therefore, increase involvement or simulate a trial to encourage usage and therefore liking and adoption. In addition, seeing others do something, creating social proof, suggests a product or a service is desirable.
  4. We want control but also “easy” choices: Though humans want maximum control over their destiny, when decision can be reversed, people are less satisfied than if a decision feels final (think modern divorce rates). Humans want easy choices and mental shortcuts. An effective way to get someone to choose a product or service is to make the choice as easy as possible by limiting options, providing clear positive associations and making it familiar and similar. People do what they like and don’t want to feel like they’re giving anything up.
  5. People respond based on their “anchor” and expectations: Consumers interpretations of change – the boost or disappointment – are not based on the amount of the change to cost, size, temperature, emotion, time, etc. but rather in the contrast to reference points – where they are and what they currently have. “Prospect theory” indicates that people like to win but less than they hate to lose so segment pleasure and combine pain to increase customer satisfaction. Also, use expectations: warn about negative happenings to align expectations but surprise when beat expectations to enhance a good thing.

Leave a Reply