The Psychology of Consumer Behavior: Understanding Your Target Audience

The Psychology of Consumer Behavior: Understanding Your Target Audience
Photo by Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

Good business owners understand that their business succeeds or fails on the back of their marketing, and good marketers understand that good marketing succeeds or fails on the back of their ability to reach an audience. A lot of people don’t understand that when they’re hiring a social media manager or copywriter, they’re not just hiring a pimply teenager with a phone addiction. They’re hiring someone with a set of skills that render them uniquely suited to analysing the behaviour, needs, and interests of the target market.

Make no mistake, effectively reaching a target audience is nowhere near as simple as it sounds. It is a blend of multiple artistic passions and scientific interests. Understanding your target audience isn’t just a matter of getting a Graduate Certificate in Marketing online and then joining your nearest marketing agency. It’s a practice in conducting thorough studies, analysing data, constructing a strategy around that data, and reaching into audience perception to accurately predict what will reel them in.

What Is Consumer Behaviour?

Consumer behaviour isn’t difficult to understand, and, likely, you’ve probably tried to use it to your advantage before. In marketing, there are multiple stages to any business-to-consumer interaction. This psychosocial paradigm is called the “marketing funnel”, and is the base level of knowledge when attempting to learn about a target demographic and catering to them.

The marketing funnel tracks the behaviour and mental state of a prospective customer. “Consumer Behaviour” consists of any actions or decisions that either an individual or household has when making a purchase.

This is a critical piece of information to know in marketing, as it tells marketers precisely what does or doesn’t engage their potential audience. Let’s say you’re selling rugs. After a month you go over the data and realise that your red rugs are selling much better than your blue ones. The next question should be, why? Is it simply an issue of colour? Or are your red rugs made of a softer material that feels better on the feet? Do the majority of houses around your area happen to complement a red colour palette? Are the red rugs cheaper? Is it a recent social media trend? 

It’s common in business to ask “Why aren’t my products/services selling well?” as though it is the fault of the product. The question to ask should be, “Why are consumers reacting this way to my product/service?”

The Psychology of Consumer Behavior: Understanding Your Target Audience
Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

Consumer Psychology

Consumer psychology is a science in and of itself. The crossover of art and academia is paramount to effectively understanding your target audience, and how to appeal to them. The process of collecting information on the target market of a campaign involves investigation through customer surveys, sales data, website analytics, search engine keyword research, product analysis, and sociocultural trends.

Once all the data is gathered, it’s a practice in analysing what is or isn’t relevant. What can the data tell you about your audience, who they are, what pain points they have, how old they are, where they live, and their awareness of your product/service? What’s more, how can you leverage that information to grow your business?

Marketing with Consumer Psychology

One of the most important skills in marketing, depending on your specialisation, is the ability to condense customer data into actionable strategy, design, and media. These three outcomes are the basis of every successful marketing campaign and thus have been the basis of every successful product. Let’s take a look at these components concerning one of the most famous marketing phenomena ever, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.

The Strategy Your Strategy Could Smell Like

Despite being the top brand for men’s cosmetics, in the early 2000s Old Spice was seen as an “old people” brand. Young people just weren’t using it. However, after acquiring the Gillette razor company, Proctor and Gamble (the owners of the Old Spice brand) desired a shift to more humorous and relevant marketing. The Man Your Man Could Smell Like was born.

The research performed by Wieden+Kennedy (the marketing team for Proctor and Gamble at the time) could have marketed to young men. However, their research showed that it was more often women buying body wash for their partners. The target market became that of young mature-age women in committed long-term relationships. 

The Design Your Design Could Smell Like

The advertisement meets that demand by presenting them with an attractive, funny, magical, romantic man who can produce diamonds on command. Then recognises that although he is a fantasy, their real partner could at least smell like him.

What’s more, is the entire construction of the set. Contained in a single unending 30-second shot, the ad is famously hypnotic and entertaining for its rapid scene changes, quick-paced monologue, and attentive, purposeful, enduring stare down the camera lens. In the space of less than a minute, TMYMMCSL becomes the most convincing person you’ve seen in your life.

The Psychology of Consumer Behavior: Understanding Your Target Audience
Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

The Media Your Media Could Smell Like

TMYMCSL was a huge success. The initial advertisement spawned sequels, was referenced in TV shows, and even a surreal rivalry with Terry Crews. The company capitalised on the sheer popularity of TMYMSCL, and the campaign continues to be one of the most famous in the world of advertising.

The Reality

Chances are if you’re not a huge multinational conglomerate like Proctor+Gamble, and don’t have the budget to run an ad that becomes, in effect, a multimedia franchise in its own right – chances are you aren’t going to get your very own Man Your Man Could Smell Like. However, the core principles are the same. You need to analyse your existing market and the trends in their thinking when making decisions. Then use these trends to create something that appeals and will be visible to them, then publish it on all the relevant channels.

Consumer behaviour and psychology is a tough and multi-dimensional discipline, but when you have a marketer or marketing team that gets to the heart of your clientele, there can be little doubt that your business will soon start to thrive with their input.

About the author

Tom Bernes

Tom Bernes is the Editorial Director at The Next Hint Inc.

Prior to joining The Next Hint Inc, Tom had a hand in a number of online and print publications, including as chief copy editor and Government Technology Magazine as managing editor. He also did a stint in Sydney as group editor of RBI Australia's manufacturing group, which is when he also developed an affinity (a love, really) for cricket.

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