by Philip Graves [Consumer Behavior Expert]
When my video camera wouldn’t upload to my PC I was convinced I knew where the problem was. The camera had always been fine, but I’d recently upgraded my PC. This was the first time I’d tried to use it with camera and it wasn’t playing ball. I contacted Dell and got quite cross about it. It didn’t help; they tried to fob me off by saying it was the camera; that got me crosser still.
Three hours later, after getting cross with quite a lot of people and making no progress, I gave up and borrowed a friend’s camera and laptop to do the editing I needed to do. As an afterthought, I tried her camera in my PC; it worked straight away. I was embarrassed (although secretly grateful that, thanks to the modern phenomenon of call centers, I would probably never speak to any of the people I’d been cross with again).
The same thing can happen when you’re trying to market a product or service. There you are, slaving away to make your thing as splendid as possible. You want people to notice it, to appreciate it, to love it, or better still to buy it, and you work on getting every aspect perfect.
But it still doesn’t seem to get the respect you think it deserves. Are you deluded? Are nagging doubts creeping in? Perhaps you should put your efforts into something else instead.
Perhaps you’re just looking in the wrong place.
Recently research has started to explore how the way people think shapes what they buy. The unconscious mind is preoccupied with associations. It likes to find things that link in with what it already knows (and feels good about), and it likes to make relative judgments rather than absolute ones.
Here’s a simple illustration of the point:
Most people think the box at the top is the same as the second box; in fact it’s the same shade of grey as the bottom box. In a different context with different associations it seems… well, different.
When it comes to products the most peripheral of elements can make a big difference to how people feel about what they see.
Whether it makes any logical sense or not to the conscious mind, the unconscious will make judgments based on associations that it makes around the time it sees your product.
One study by the University of Georgia found that people thought silverware was more luxurious when it had a work of art placed in the lid of the display box. The effect was nothing to do with the product type either, soap dispensers and bathroom fixtures were affected in the same way.
Another study by Areni and Kim found that people would buy more expensive wine when there was classical music playing in the shop at the time. Consumer behavior really is so often much more about how the unconscious feels, than it is about what the conscious decides (despite what we might tell ourselves after we buy something).
So the route to success may have just as much to do with what you put around your product or service, as it does with what you put into it.
University of Georgia (2008, February 15). Simple Recipe For Ad Success: Just Add Art. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com; /releases/2008/02/080211120643.htm
Areni, C. and Kim, D. The influence of background music on shopping behavior: Classical versus top-forty music in a wine store, Advances in Consumer Research, Provo, Utah: Association for Consumer Research, 336-340 (1993)
Visit Phil at www.philipgraves.net
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