The Value Proposition

Why should a consumer buy from you?

Competitive Advantages

What makes you better than your competition?

Choosing A Differentiation Strategy

You chose a target market, now what?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Marketing 101: Cultural Factors Affecting Consumer Purchases

In my last post I discussed the basics of Consumer Buyer Behavior, and I explored the Model of Consumer Buyer Behavior.  We are going to continue our discussion by exploring the various characteristics affecting consumer buying behavior.  Recall that consumer purchases are not just simple one-and-done affairs.  They are affected strongly by cultural, social, personal, and psychological factors.  These are all factors that we cannot control, but we have to take them into account or else our marketing is ineffective and money is washed down the drain.  Let's begin by examining Cultural Factors.

Cultural Factors
Cultural Factors are some of the strongest influences of consumer buyer behavior.  Cultural Factors are the set of basic values, perceptions, wants and behaviors that are "learned" by a consumer from their families and other important social institutions.  "Culture" is the most basic source of a consumer's wants and behavior.  It lives at the foundation of a consumer's world view.  Culture is mostly a learned behavior, being constructed by the society a consumer grows up in. That society "teaches" the consumer basic values, perceptions, wants and behaviors.  What a consumer is "taught" can vary greatly in different parts of the world.  For example, in the United States a child will learn such values as liberty, democracy, freedom, American Exceptionalism, working hard, making your own success, and family values. Children in many Asian countries will learn such values as social harmony, concern with social and economic well-being instead civil and human rights, loyalty towards authority and the well being of the family over the well being of self.

Marketers need to remember that every group or society has a culture.  Cultural influences can and will vary greatly from country to country, social group to social group.  If you do not account for these values in your marketing plans, your campaigns could be ineffective, and at worst embarrassing.

Every cultural group has numerous subcultures.  Subcultures are groups of people that have a set of shared values based on common life experiences and situations.  Subcultures can include different nationalities, religions, racial groups, and geographic regions.  Many of these subcultural groups make up important customer segments.  Because of this, marketers are designing products and marketing campaigns that are specifically tailored to their needs and wants.  An example of a growing customer segment and subculture is the "mature" consumer.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute published a report in 2010 summarizing this growing consumer segment.  In 2009 there were over 39 million people over 65 years of age, the majority of which are female.  The majority of these people were reported as healthy and active.  The top three areas of annual spending were in housing, transportation and food/beverage categories.  Armed with basic information such as this, many CMO's are finding opportunities to create new messaging campaigns for existing products to grow sales in this growing customer segment.  

CMO's and marketers need to always try to notice cultural shifts in order to discover new products that might be desired by consumers in other cultures and subcultures.  Recent trends that have developed over the past decade are the growth of health and fitness over junk and processed food products, and the personal entertainment market which has grown as group and family entertainment in the living room has decreased (think tablets and Netflix).  It is your responsibility to keep an eye on your customer segments, their cultures, subcultures, and any new trends that effect them or may bring new groups of customers to your products.  Are you?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Marketing 101: An Overview of Consumer Buying Behavior

There are many mysteries in life.  Love, happiness, success, the meaning of life, teenagers, and for marketing professionals, consumers can be the biggest nut we try to crack and understand on a daily basis.  It's our job to understand how to convince our target market to buy what we have to offer.  How do we get them to see the value in our messaging so that we can get value from them in return?  It all revolves around the "mystery" of consumer buying behavior, and the factors that affect it.

What is Consumer Buyer Behavior?  Consumer Buyer Behavior refers to the behavior of the final consumers.  These consumers are the individuals and households who are buying goods and services in the marketplace for their own personal consumption.  It is important to note that I did not mention the word "business".  Consumer Buyer Behavior focuses on B2C transactions, not B2B transactions.

Consumer Buyer Behavior is a "mystery", because consumers vary greatly in their demographics and individual characteristics.  No one buyer is alike another.  However some groups of buyers do act similarly to each other.  In order to study buyer behavior, we have had to create a model to answer the central question of how consumers will respond to different marketing efforts and stimuli.  It's called...the "Model of Consumer Buyer Behavior".  Original, I know.  This stimulus response model is our guide.

The model looks like this:

[1] Consumers "ingest" marketing and other stimuli > [2] the stimuli enters their "buyer black box" > [3] the "black box" creates buyer responses.

It starts with marketing and other stimuli.  When we consider marketing stimuli, we usually focus on the "4 P's": Product, Price, Place and Promotion.  When we are examining other stimuli, we usually look at internal and outside economic, technological, political and cultural factors that influence the buyer.

All of that stimuli enters what we call the "buyer black box"... the brain.  This "black box" contains all of the characteristics of the buyer.  The buyer characteristics influence how he or she perceives the marketing stimuli, and creates a reaction.  The "black box" also contains the consumer's individual decision process, which is used to evaluate whether or not they will purchase a product.

Finally, this black box creates the "buyer response".  This buyer response influences the choice of product, their individual brand choice, the choice of dealer, the timing of the purchase, and the amount of money they will be spent on the goods and services.

Over the next few weeks we will be examining these characteristics as they affect buyer behavior, and discuss the decision process that the consumer follows.