Permanent changes in purchase choices

By Tom Dougherty

Permanent changes in purchase choices

Marketers must adapt to customer changes.

Mass changes in lifestyles sweep over purchasing behaviors. Some are permanent. Others transient.

No doubt you have witnessed these changes. They seem difficult to label in a way that is understandable and therefore addressable. We have been tracking these changes and swings for 20 years. Here is what our research reveals.

Experience vs refuge

Basic human driver change every time change grips the consumer market. This is true after 9/11, the Wall Street banking collapse and the current pandemic. Condensing the change into a word or phrase is easy. In better times, your customers seek out experience. In times of great change, they seek refuge.

brand anthropologyBut what does that really mean? How can marketers and brand managers respond? Should they respond? Does seeking refuge trigger a strategic shift or a tactical one?

Start with the elements that define refuge and experience

Stealing Share is a company of brand experts/strategists and researchers. But we are really brand anthropologists. We study human behaviors and the motivators that influence commercial behavior. Watch this 30-minute presentation on these changes below.

Only when the behavior is dissected and finely examined can marketers and brand managers address those changes.

Purchase choices in normal, positive times

Brand preference is measurable. Not simply in sales data and margins. That only shows historic results. It is not a predictor of future trends. Here are the elements that define the cultural trend of seeking experience.

Because we prefer, ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, products and brands that align with the core tenants we individually believe define our raison d’être, successful brands reinforce those tenets. They form the bedrock that the brand claims. When you list the rational benefits of your product/brand/service — you speak the HOW of your brand. The bedrock tenets are the WHY. That is the brand’s support point and personality.

The pieces of the messaging puzzle

Everything in brand science is about affirmation. You can predict a brand’s importance be measuring the power it has in affirming the correctness of a customer’s purchase choice.

In this way, affirmation provides a level of certainty to the choice. In normal times, brands rationally try to reinforce certainty by listing all the attributes that promise the purchases they made represent the best choice. “Removes even the toughest stains,” as some say.

We have been measuring these attributes for over two decades

These tenets are not static. They are a continuum of a single idea. For example, affirmation, the definition of certainty, moves along a graph of somewhat competing definitions. In the best of times, customers look for affirmation that they are making the best choice.

purchase choicesBut in more stressful times, your customers are infected by the context of their times. We have seen this migration in times of stress before 9/11, the bank crisis and to a lesser extent the .com bubble.

What does it mean to look for the right thing vs the best thing? For one, it means that a simple list of attributes won’t move the needle. Why? Because the RIGHT THING is more nuanced. It has an emotional element in it that demands the context of the times be interwoven in the purchase. What was BEST might not now be RIGHT. If you ignore these changes, your marketing messages will lose the relevance you need even more today than yesterday.

We have researched eight key ideas

The movie below is a condensed presentation of all eight of these key brand and marketing elements.

Ignore these changes at your own risk.

Are these permanent? Life is a case study in impermanence. Some things change for good. Some rebound or morph into something else. Human nature teaches us that the longer the disaster remains more permanent the effect.

We will keep measuring them and modifying the tactical messaging for our brands to reinvent stickiness.

See more posts in the following related categories: Brand meaning brand positioning brand preference brand strategy COVID-19 human behavior