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Technology Changes, We Stay the Same

By Nancy Woo/The Slasher

Appealing to a Technological Consumer is Still Appealing to Human Nature

Technology is advancing much faster than the human psyche or our social structures, allowing for more efficient ways of doing things and possibly even insight into ourselves. In fact, one science fiction author, Douglas Adams, renowned for writing Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, proposes that understanding the way a machine computes information may be the key to understanding how the human mind works. What a leap forward for marketing that would be (not to mention, a leg up for baffled husbands on a lifelong journey to understand their wives, etc.).

As fascinating at the claim may be, psychologists have a fairly good understanding of the human psyche as it is, and this understanding plays a huge role in marketing. Even though we’ve got new gadgets to do things, the things we naturally want to do are still basically the same. According to the mid-20th century psychologist Abraham Maslow, humans operate under a hierarchy of needs, with the most essential needs like food, water, sleep, shelter and sex taking priority over the higher-tiered needs like morality, spontaneity and self-actualization.

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Maslow created a pyramid to visualize his hierarchical structure, where satisfying the bottom tier allows for upward movement. Similarly, if there were to be a pyramid based on marketing principles, understanding ingrained human drives would be at the foundation. Marketing without understanding human drives would be like trying to catch a fish with an electric toothbrush – ineffective and silly.

So with that in mind, appealing to the same basic human instincts can be done in new and different ways with the latest technology and a little creativity.

Remember that humans are:

  • Curious – In addition to the basic drives outlined by Maslow, like food, sleep, sex and shelter, marketing think tanker John Lloyd poses curiosity as another innate human drive. We’re drawn to the mysterious and the unknown, and it’s no secret that people are going to be more willing to listen or watch something that piques their curiosity, something that may have a cliffhanger, bizarre or unusual aspect about it. With new technology and ways of doing things appearing in the world all the time, standing out in the crowd by appealing to the drive of curiosity can be one huge way to sustain a consumer’s attention. Show them something they’ve never seen before and they will stay tuned.
  • Invested in a Sense of Self-Importance – People are full of pride and usually more interested in talking about themselves than listening. Dale Carnegie, author of the best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People, outlines some of his cardinal rules: Talk in terms of the other person’s interests, and make the other person feel important - sincerely. We all strive for a sense of importance and of good reputation within our social circles. As more and more people have increased access to the Internet and social media, there are bountiful opportunities to involve the consumer base and make them feel important. Ask them their opinion and they will give it, loudly and across many media channels.
  • Whimsical and Emotional – With an immeasurable number of companies competing for attention in a similar arena, most people make buying decisions based on context, comparisons and emotions, not necessarily reason and logic. Hardly any consumer has the time to research a company before they make a buying decision, though, as a side note, a company’s reputation does have the power to influence a buying decision. Humans generally make decisions that are comparative rather than absolute, meaning we are very good at determining better or worse, but not an absolute best. Especially in a technological world oversaturated with information, spending choices can be arbitrary and based on a whim or a fleeting thought, so understanding this ephemeral nature is important. Playing to it by using fun, whimsical methods of advertising can be very attractive.
  • Pleasure-seeking – This is an easy one to spot, and one way to apply it to new strategies of marketing is to understand that consumer culture is based on entertainment. Gone are the days of sheer practicality. Providing entertainment in the form of marketing will not only keep the modern consumer’s attention, but it will provide them with a tangibly positive association. Offering entertainment as a marketing strategy, and thus lighting up those pleasure centers in the brain, gives consumers a solid reason to return.
  • Social – Not all living creatures create complex social structures, but of course, humans are among the most social of all animals. Even though the very structures with which we interact on a social basis are transforming from one day to the next, what with Facebook and texting, etc., the opportunities for using our social nature in marketing are rife in the age of digital relationships. New ground is being broken every day, and gone are the 2-D forms of passive advertising. Appealing to the social and increasingly digitalized nature of human relationships may be one of the biggest leaps forward for the technology of marketing.

Of course, building upward from the bottom level of human understanding, marketing becomes more complex. Different demographics respond differently to certain messages, and there are so many different avenues of sending a message out into the world, as well as various ways to craft a self-image. In the digital world, the options become almost infinite. All these complex factors must be taken into account when designing a marketing strategy, all the details fine-tuned, while still paying attention to the simple basics of human desire. As technology advances, it is still essential to keep fundamental human principles in mind.

Especially important to creating an effective and appealing marketing message is changing the framework from asking, “what can benefit the company?” to “what can benefit the customer?” Answering the latter question will inevitably answer the first. And when offering creative options to our clients, IM/TMA takes on the same mindset. Rather than asking, “What is best for us?” we consider, “What is best for the client?”

Going forward with this framework, we think the best way to begin designing a creative strategy for a client is to take the menu approach. Much like a buffet line of creative entrees, IM/TMA may present 15 to 20 different ideas for starting a marketing campaign, and then using the feedback from the client, we tailor the approach accordingly. The goal is to understand the principal natures of the customer base, then craft a well-rounded and thoughtful message that will satisfy the needs of the customer, thereby creating success for the client.

What is most important to us is not gripping the reins so tightly we all start to steer off course, but rather, working intelligently and thoughtfully with the client, so they can give the customer what they want. In turn, when successful, we all win. And it all starts with understanding.