Though the number of marketing data analysts and predictive modelers has increased in the past decade, we would suggest that the number of market scientists has decreased. These market scientists — whom all perhaps left for the behavioral economics arena — helped early marketers and AdFolks figure out what makes consumers tick.
We had the pleasure of being under the tutelage of such one. He was a marketing scientist for BBDO, and he remarked that the agency at the time kept them “in the basement” because their work was both valuable and needed no interruption.
They created concept maps (now we call market mapping, or brand position mapping), they performed tests to find trends in behavior, and most interestingly, he was big on theory.
He introduced us to the Fishbein-Ajzen Theory of Reasoned Action. TRA states that through looking at a consumer’s behavioral and normative beliefs, one could create a spectrum of anticipated behavior, or behavioral intent (BI). Since that theory came out, Ajzen revised the theory to the Reasoned Action Approach (RAA), which added perceived and actual behavioral controls (meaning things in our environment that we think control our behavior, and those things that actually control it), so it created a more well-rounded theory.
We, though, think that the theory can be improved. The criticisms of the approach have merit; it is way too rational. If consumers worked like this, it would be easy to predict behavior.
We would like to add PLR, or the Path of Least Resistance, to the mix. Path of Least Resistance states that when a consumer faces a difficult decision, or a decision they do not make regularly, they will default to whichever choice requires the least amount of effort. We feel that the RAA doesn’t quite address the regular irrationality that consumers engage in daily.
We believe that making additional revisions to a proven approach is vital for researchers and market scientists. Many people, especially our creatives in AdLand, would dispel reasoning like this. Fortunately for them, but unfortunately for the industry, this kind of thinking is being pushed to the outskirts.
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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