How Marketing Affects Consumer Behaviour

James Papworth avatar
How Marketing Affects Consumer Behaviour

How many choices have you already made today? It’ll be more than you think. In fact, the average adult makes around 35,000 cognitive choices every day! Get up or press the snooze button? Tea or coffee? Cereal? If so, which one – and how much?  What to say to my boss? And, how to say it? And for the author of this article, of the 500,000 words in the English language, which one shall I write down next?   

With so many choices to be made, a good question is ‘How do we make them?’. Well, when it comes to choices which involve a purchase of any kind, two main influences are at play: practicality and emotion. And by far, the most potent, is emotion.  

It’s estimated that 80% of any purchase decision is driven by emotion. Meaning that while 20% is down to box-ticking of functionality, availability and price (all of which are part of the marketing function) the lion’s share is down to the more intangible elements entwined with consumers’ feelings. 

In a world where multiple options exist to satisfy any given need, we gravitate toward purchasing the versions which feel right.  


How Marketing Influences Consumer Feelings

Marketing is about creating desire. About introducing consumers to a product or service, and through imbuing it with characteristics and character, moving customers from a state of nonchalance to one of preference. Ultimately, marketing aspires to develop trust between consumers and brands, strong enough to result in a commercial relationship.  

To develop this trust, marketing operates on many levels. At the heart of the process is consumer insight: getting an understanding of what consumers want, what makes them tick and, by finding the right hooks, integrating a brand into their lives. Pre-internet this involved expensive quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews. Today, Google can do that job very well for everyone; indeed, marketers from big companies to small SMEs can access the world’s biggest rapid-response research tool for free.

A topical example could be your next holiday, thankfully back on the agenda after lockdown. Most of us have only one main holiday a year, so it’s vital to pick a brand we trust and have confidence in their ability to deliver a good experience. It’s a high-risk purchase and we won’t give it over to just anyone. Leading holiday operators and hoteliers have expended huge effort in identifying their audiences, and building relationships.

Most recently though, they have had to radically adapt their marketing strategies, staying closely in touch with shifting consumer sentiment during the pandemic and responding to these changing needs. They are now communicating new hygiene and cleaning regimes, social distancing measures and general ‘reassurance’ messaging as a primary concern rather than the pure destination / price-led campaigns they were running before the pandemic.

And it’s not just high-cost, high-risk items which need marketing. How about breakfast cereal, picked up during the weekly shop? Costing much less, and easily replaced, it’s still a trusted purchase. After all, it’s going to be ingested. Plus, if the children kick-off because they don’t like it, well, that’s a whole new issue. 

Kellogg’s didn’t invent the need for ‘breakfast’, they just invented several ways to satisfy it. Their marketing job is to develop a relationship with the consumers such that, from all the choices they face in the supermarket aisle, the packet that feels right for them is a Kellogg’s one. As opposed to Nestlé or a lower priced, own-brand option. 

And therein lies the real benefit of marketing. Influencing consumers not only to buy your product, but to feel good about paying for your brand.     


Marketing for All

But why should international travel and breakfast cereal be of interest to us here? Because the internet has completely democratised marketing. 

From a time when the big brands monopolised big media, with SMEs and sole traders relegated to the small-ads and trade press, marketing is now a game everyone can get involved in. And every consumer-brand contact moment is a chance to create and deepen a relationship. 

That could still be a high-end TV commercial, shown publicly to a million viewers all at once. But it can also be a Google webpage description, shown privately to one viewer at a time. Or it’s a Facebook post, a Google My Business Profile page, or an Instagram video ad. They all count. And on the consumers’ screen, all brands look the same size. 

So with online marketing now in the reach of every company, every company should consider how their marketing can affect their own consumers’ behaviour. 

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