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October 10, 2013
Understanding the Consumer
 
If you have followed our posts here at BMA for a prolonged period, you will have noticed our emphasis on market research and consumer behavior. Yes, as a marketing and advertising practitioner, we encounter many who believe that either data or creativity is king. 

We would readily admit that not only are both important, but both data and creativity are fed by what we think is the most important element in our industry — consumer choice.

Yes, if marketers could accurately predict why and how consumers make decisions, many of us would be out of a job. The clear winners would be running the market.

But since we are irrational beings, figuring out why people act the way they do is more of a guessing game than science.

Thankfully there are people like Dr. Ariely who are giving sciences like behavioral economics a helping hand. On Google Think, the writers caught up with Dr. Ariely and asked him what key point marketers should take away from his 20 years' worth of research.

First and foremost, Dr. Ariely talked about the "path of least resistance." This concept is very interesting, though it is not a new one. Dr. Ariely's research suggests that consumers are prone to making the easiest decision presented to them. We hate making our situations "complicated," so the easier the choice, the better. He said that marketers should make sure that their goods and services are in line with the consumers' path of least resistance, or else they will face being second place.

But that is just the beginning. Dr. Ariely didn't go into detail in the article, but as fans of his research, he expands on this, saying that once a consumer makes a decision, they unconsciously base all future decisions on the first one. For example, a consumer walks up to two restaurants. The first one doesn't have people there, but the second one has five people. The consumer goes to the second restaurant. Another person walks up and sees the same thing, so they go to the second one. Even if the first restaurant has better food and service than the second one, unless the consumer feels like being adventurous, they will think that the second restaurant has more credibility solely because of that first experience.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Dr. Ariely has plenty more takeaways along those lines for marketers. Read the article and tell us what you think.

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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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