Saturday, May 5, 2012

Is your customer seeking pleasure or avoiding pain?

Sometimes I meet communication advisors or so called experts who claim they can interpret consumers from what they read in data bases filled with demographic facts and responses to quant studies. It always frightens me to hear them say they “know for sure” how people think and feel because they can back it up with a number or a handly little %. You can´t. There is a huge difference between facts and insights. There is a huge difference between what people say and what they do. There is a huge difference between the rational and the emotional. Databases are great to back up instincts, but they are useless on their own, and building a marketing campaign based on what your target has told you in a survey is dangerous – and lazy.

ScienceDaily presented the other day a study that is of interest for marketers who wish to reach people with different personalities, and at least understand that one person differs from another on a deeper and more complex level than age, neighbourhood or gender.

“Murray and co-authors Remi Trudel of Boston University and June Cotte from the University of Western Ontario found that when it comes to our basic consumer motivations, how we experience a good or bad service experience or how we react to a superior or inferior product depends on whether we're prone to seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. This translates into two groups who show very different levels of satisfaction for the same consumer experience.

The pleasure-versus-pain principle
The researchers studied people's reactions to two consumer experiences: tasting a cup of coffee and choosing a digital camera. In both studies, there was a quality product and one that had been altered to affect its quality. Test subjects were asked to rate their satisfaction with the product's quality. The researchers discovered that respondents fell into two categories: promotion-focused (pleasure-seeking) or prevention-focused (pain-avoiding). "These two types of people respond very differently to having the same kind of service encounter or having the same kind of problem with a product," said Murray.

"People who are promotion-focused tend to get a lot more hurt when something goes wrong, but they're also a lot happier when something goes right," he said. "The prevention-focused people are less upset when something goes wrong -- when they buy a product and it breaks or they have a bad service experience -- but they're also less happy when something goes right."

Can't get no satisfaction? It may be a conservative bias
Murray notes that although the prevention-focused response was far less extreme than the promotion-focused response, the pain-avoiding group appeared less able to enjoy a positive consumer experience. As a consequence, their controlled reactions left them feeling less joy when something went right -- a phenomenon the researchers labelled a conservative bias.
"That conservative bias changes the way they see the world," he said. "They're a little bit more constrained in all their responses, at least in the realm of satisfaction."

The study was published in the March 2012 issue of the International Journal of Research in Marketing.

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