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When Goals Conflict
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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In the Information Age, we have been told that two-way communication is key. We have heard that businesses and brands are no longer leading the conversation, and that with the amount of data and information the consumer can obtain, they know what they want and why they want it before those of us in AdLand can show them different options.

But is it true? Perhaps.

Or perhaps not. Latest research suggests that consumers often change their minds multiple times when making choices that conflict with their goals. Consumers put themselves in situations that involve satisfying one goal while failing another one. The example the research article brings out is when a consumer is at a restaurant and sees a piece of cake on the counter or a beautiful picture of it on the menu. Since they're out enjoying themselves, they would love to end a good night with the cake. On the other hand, the "fit" self inside wants to finish the heavy dinner on a lighter note. In this case, which choice wins?

The research doesn't give a clear-cut answer, but it does indicate that the choices consumers deem more important, or the goals that were initially ignored, end up winning. If we want to assume that our species likes to prioritize, then we can say that the important goals may also be the goals initially ignored. But those goals that are not as important, and those choices that aren't ignored initially face major competition within the consumer's consideration set. 

What does this matter to advertising?

We're in the industry of influence. We use advertising to inform or persuade. If consumers are fighting within themselves to make a choice, will advertising tip the scale to one choice or another? Can advertising help consumers make the choice they want? 

At this point some anti-advertising folks may call foul, saying that we are shoving advertising in front of their faces. This research clearly indicates that many consumers need help making the right choice. We, as part of AdLand, can help make this process smoother. AdLand can do more research to figure out the important goals for their consumers, find out the competing, unimportant choices, and then create the messages accordingly. Advertising and marketing are the ways businesses connect to consumers, so if it is truly a two-way street, AdLand should have the authority to go back to brands and clients and tell them what it is their specific audience is looking for or struggling with.

Everyone loves a happy consumer.

We can understand the complaint if the advertising doesn't relate to the audience at all. That's annoying to us, too. But don't hate an industry due to a few bad apples. When goal-oriented advertising meets goal-oriented consumers, that's a beautiful thing.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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