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How Consumers Choose
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Ah yes, choice. The holy grail. If marketers could figure out the perfect formula to predict what consumers choose and why, creativity and our profession would be dealt a death-dealing blow.

But alas, no formula to be found. Though our friends in TechLand are fervently trying and testing out behavioral targeting, predictive modeling, and all types of data-mining strategies that would make our heads spin.

Choice is tough to predict. But, as communicators, we do have a roadmap: the Staged Model of Choice.

The stage model simply shows how the consumer gets from knowing the product or service to ultimate realization. And what is interesting about it is that our marketing activities could affect each stage, or could emphasize a specific one.

1. Awareness
Obviously, the consumer must be aware that the brand exists. Without bringing to mind that the consumer knows your brand, one is just throwing money away.

2. Perception
Now we're getting somewhere. What words, passions, and phrases does the consumer associate with the brand? What senses does the consumer believe most appeal to the brand? Does the consumer like the brand? Why or why not?

3. Preference
Think of awareness and perception as the internal portion of the process. The first two steps only had two parties; the brand and the consumer. Now the third step, preference, adds the competing brands into the mix. In this step, the consumer raises up all their considerations. In certain cases, why would Brand A be better than Brand B? If the consumer is hungry, which one would they prefer? If they are running low on cash, would Brand A be picked over Brand B? The consumer just watched a sad movie; do they go for Brand A or Brand B? Why? Does the consumer care about what their friends think? Do they prefer quality or value? Preference lays down the foundation for all future decisions.

4. Choice
Okay, the consumer has gone through all three stages, and now they have to act. They choose what they think they want, and hopefully — for the brand chosen — the consumer is satisfied.

Of course the process is simplified, but it drives home the main point: choice doesn't just happen. If we do the right research and connect with the consumer in a way that captures their attention, we are able to influence the choices they make.



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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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