Articles on Psychological Marketing
WHAT ARE YOU
By Gary Witt, Ph.D.
Knowing what you're selling is the first critical step in
selling it. Sound simple? It ain't necessarily so.
You are not really selling a product or a service. Did
you know that? Count yourself lucky -- because people don't want it
anyway. And they sure don't want to pay you their hard-earned money
What you are selling is Satisfaction, with a big capital S.
Your product or service is merely a means to satisfy some set of
motivations your customers currently have, like using a wrench to
tighten a leaking faucet. Now if you sell lawnmowers, you might be
thinking that your buyer's Satisfaction comes from having a machine
which cuts grass well. If you believe that, you are only looking at
the surface of the psychological Satisfaction your buyer craves --
and YOU ARE LOSING SALES because you are not looking deep enough into
The most effective marketing strategies plumb the depths to locate
the hidden motivations of buyers. Remember when you were a
teenager and starting to date? On Saturday night you went to the
drive-in, paying good money to see a terrible movie, the scarier the
better. But seeing the movie was not your motivation for giving up
$1.50. That product was just the necessary means to an end.
Having a place to be alone with your date in the dark was the true,
inner motivation for your buying decision. Time and privacy were the
hidden Satisfactions you were really buying. The product was just the
way to get them
Knowing the true, and sometimes hidden, motivations of your buyers is
the key to discovering what you are really selling, or, said more
properly, what they are really buying. Drive-in owners didn't pay top
dollar for films because they knew they weren't selling great
entertainment. By discovering your buyers' key needs, wants, fears
and desires, you can then highlight the features of your product or
service which best satisfies those motivations. In other words, you
have to look at life through your buyer's eyes.
Creating ads that captivate your buyer will lead to bigger sales and
growth -- all because your ad basically makes this promise: "We
will satisfy your true, inner motives if you buy from us."
Perfume ads are a great example. They don't talk about the smell, the
bottle, or the value. They know they aren't selling needs, wants or
fears -- they're selling desire, for romance, for closeness, for
love. And that is exactly what the ads promise with their photos of a
handsome man, an attractive woman, and a romantic place. You're
practically back at the drive-in. No need to describe the perfume's
features because they are irrelevant, just show readers its name.
I believe that every company, at its heart, is really in the
business of selling perfume.
There are many different ways a product or service can provide buyer
satisfaction. Performing well is the most obvious. Being a bargain is
another. Appearance can also give satisfaction -- one of the joys of
owning a Jaguar is looking at it, and watching other people admire it.
The first step is to analyze your product from your customers' point
of view. Remember, Gillette doesn't sell blades, it sells smooth
shaves. 3M doesn't sell tape, it sells convenience and time. Voit
doesn't sell exercise equipment, it sells health and appearance.
Begin by analyzing your product or service along four lines: What are
its . . .
1) Concrete Features -- These are the tangible things about a
product that a buyer can see, hear, feel. A car's leather interior,
front-wheel drive, and racy style are good examples of concrete
attributes, as is a good price or loan terms.
2) Abstract Features -- These are the intangible things about
a product that you can't see, hear or feel, but which exist
nevertheless. You can't see "good quality." It is a
conclusion derived from an overall evaluation of the product's
features by you and others. But that image is a powerful selling
tool. Abstract features of ice cream include "rich taste"
and "fattening." A lustrous piece of tile may have an
"expensive" look, while an attorney may have a reputation
as a "tough guy."
3) Functional Features -- These are benefits created directly
by the product. A car "handles well." A toothpaste
"whitens teeth." A lending company gives "two-hour
approvals." In each case, the benefit comes directly from the
product or service to the buyer.
4) Psychosocial Features -- These are psychological benefits
that come to the buyer indirectly. A car which produces admiring
looks from others, a cookie mix which makes a boy tell his mother,
"These are sooo good," or a new hairdo which makes you feel
special are all Psychosocial features. These features are important
because we want others to approve of us and what we have. It was
psychosocial pressures more than anything else that drove many women
away from natural fur products.
After doing this analysis of your product, you should also do the
same analysis of your brand and your product class. Both can
dramatically influence a buyer's thinking.
Your Brand (which may simply be your company or store name) can carry
some positive or negative features for the consumer. For example,
when some consumers look at the label on a bottle of Fantastik
cleaner, they may see the Dow Chemical company name and recall some
negative stories about Dow. Such associations may be enough to tilt
consumers either for or against purchasing the product.
In addition, your product and brand are both colored by the good and
bad features of its product class. For example, when Michael Jordan
elevated the national popularity of professional basketball, other
levels of basketball also benefited. That increased appeal was even
enough to spur the formation of a women's professional basketball
league, something which would probably never have happened without
the high positive image Jordan created for the product class.
Let's say you manage a fast food restaurant franchise. Let's do a
product class analysis. What are some Concrete features of this
class of business? Low price, clean but plain setting, young and
bored employees, small variety of food, open late, food smell in
dining area, good and well-lit parking, drive-through window.
What about the Abstract features? Fair quality food, usually
fattening and high in cholesterol, middle class, generally safe, no
"presentation" appeal, little perceived danger of food
poisoning, fair value for the money.
Functional features? Fast service, easy in/easy out, can be eaten
while driving, easy way to satisfy hunger.
Psychosocial features -- Easy way to please kids, acceptable place to
be seen by others, could be eating in same area as people who appear
dangerous or unwashed.
You can see even this perfunctory analysis helps to reveal some
strong appeals which your particular restaurant may have for
consumers simply because of the type of restaurant it is. It also
reveals some of the image problems which you may need to address in
your advertising in order to position your particular restaurant
above the rest.
It is important for you to write down both the POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
features and attributes of your product, brand, and product class.
The positive features are what you have to build on. The negative
features are what you must overcome. By matching these features with
features that buyers require to satisfy their needs, wants, fears, or
desires, you have taken an important step toward creating the best
possible focus for your advertising message.
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(c) Gary Witt, 1998
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