Knowledge Library

Understanding the Business-Customer Disconnect

Brand Marketing

Mark Ingwer - Founder and Managing Partner: Insight Consulting Group

Author of “Empathetic Marketing, How to Satisfy the Six Core Emotional Needs of Your Customers” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012)

Every day we complete countless actions (walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, etc.) without consciously thinking about it. The motivations and emotions that drive our personal quest for satisfaction and identity fulfillment are mostly hidden from our conscious, rational thought processes.  

Similarly, we’re not aware of how marketplace symbols - brands, products, services, communications - inform our sense of personal identity and bond us to our favorite brands. But marketers need to understand the role of the unconscious in decision making if they hope to build brand loyalty.

The role of the unconscious mind presents an important opportunity for business. But to truly understand why people say what they say and then do what they do, one must look at the psychodynamic context that surrounds consumers’ decision making. In the marketplace, consumers often rationalize, projecting rationality onto products or brands, to reduce potential cognitive dissonance (buyer’s remorse). But initial satisfaction with a purchase is a poor indicator of whether their affection for the product or service will endure.

Fostering Brand Relationships
Many companies talk about the need to establish strong “relationships” with their customers. Indeed, the concept of customer relationships makes sense in the context of meeting one’s needs. Where else but in interpersonal relationships do we bump up against our emotional needs? As in all interpersonal relationships, from friendships, to marriage, to company and client, trust and the promise of mutual benefit lay the foundation for growth and development.

By identifying the deeper emotion-based needs of their audiences, businesses can discover insights that transcend standard marketing practices. Let’s see how marketers can uncover the logical explanations of consumer behavior that are associated with brand loyalty or disconnection.  

Much of the way in which people act is driven by subconscious emotions of which they are not aware. The decision-making process is driven by a mix of conscious, logical, and subconscious, emotional, needs.

When faced with too many choices, people will often gravitate toward products or services that simply “feel” right. And in such a crowded marketplace, emotional drivers will trump rational consideration.

Businesses are adept at addressing the rational, logical aspects of the customer’s decision-making process, but are largely ignorant of the emotional element. Many ignore the core human needs that deeply influence customer decisions, and then are baffled by their failure to keep customers.

Marketers often talk about customer relationships, but make little attempt to understand the evolving emotional needs of customers, dooming the very relationships that they hope to foster. Marketing strategies often depersonalize people - customers equal targets, buyers, early adopters, eyeballs - further undermining their attempts to address the emotional needs that drive their customers purchase decisions.

Beware Customer Satisfaction Scores
Brands can also be misled by customer satisfaction measures that do not take into account whether their customers’ emotional needs have been met. As a result, while customers may verbally express satisfaction with a product or service, subconsciously, they may not have any desire to repeat the experience, deciding instead to try another product or brand.

Businesses need to balance quantifiable marketing, but then must take a further step to understand the meaningful, intimate insights into the true drivers of behavior.

Businesses need to understand “why.” They must not only ask, “What will this product do for the customer?” but also, “What will this product do for the customer’s emotional self and identity?”

While a business must address the emotional needs of customers, it must at the same time respond to their rational needs. If a business focuses only on the rational drivers, it will make mistakes. If it focuses only on emotions, and fails to fulfill rational needs, it will fail to win the loyalty of customers. Only be balancing the appeal to both the emotional and rational mind, will marketers succeed in building lasting, profitable, relationships.

Understanding the emotional needs that influence and guide customer actions and behaviors begins with EMPATHY on the part of a business —a concerted effort to understand the emotional motivations and needs of customers, and to align the business’s approach to customers and prospects with those needs.

When business truly views consumers through the lens of relationship dynamics, they will understand that, whether we are working, shopping, or engaging with friends and family, our foundational psychological needs are a constant driving force. Understanding and putting this into practice (strategically and executionally) will eliminate the two-way mirror (or more commonly, the brick wall) between daily life experiences and the ways businesses traditionally communicate with their customers.

About Mark Ingwer
Mark Ingwer PhD is a consumer psychologist and the managing partner of Insight Consulting Group, a global marketing and strategy consultancy specializing in market research and consumer insights.

He has over 25 years of experience applying his unique blend of psychology, marketing, and business acumen to helping companies optimize their brand and marketing strategy based on an in-depth understanding of their customers. He is the author of the book “Empathetic Marketing" published by Palgrave.

Len Stein, President - VISIBILITY Public Relations

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