Mark Ingwer on How to apply the needs continuum in the marketplace

Guest author: Mark Ingwer, PhD, is a consumer psychologist and the managing partner of Insight Consulting Group, a global marketing and strategy consultancy specializing in market research and consumer insights. He has 25 years experience applying his blend of psychology, marketing, and industry acumen to helping companies optimize their brand and marketing strategy based on an in-depth understanding of their customers. He is the author of the book “Empathetic Marketing” published by Palgrave, May 2012.

In consumer business strategy –branding, advertising, public relations, or product development and design– understanding and addressing the emotional human needs continuum is not as simple as choosing a need and force-fitting it to your product and message. Businesses that seek to create superior products and experiences need to learn how to do a better job of empathizing with consumer needs.

Years ago, our firm conducted research at Universal Studios Florida and Walt Disney World, both in Orlando. At the time, Universal was searching for new ways to

distinguish itself from its giant competitor. We conducted consumer deep-dive research with 14 families with children of varying ages, selected to provide a diverse participant mix representing the typical park visitor population. We followed these families around the park observing their moods and behaviors, and discussed with them their thoughts and impressions as they experienced the parks. Essentially, we wanted to know what was really at play during a family vacation.

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We all take vacations to escape daily life or to reconnect with loved ones. To experience thrills different from everyday life. To provide children new experiences that they’ll take with them into adulthood. To leave our routines behind. Some people find it hard to detach from the world of work (smartphone addicts, raise your hands) but we tell ourselves, if only for a few days or weeks, we have to.

Vacations satisfy our need for pleasure, which is a commodity in a culture that refuses to slow down and smile every once in awhile. Just look at Americans’ attitudes toward downtime. Vacation days in America are miniscule compared to our European friends.

So what happens in these few weeks when we supposedly escape and let work pile up in our inbox? In the context of emotional needs, a destination theme park can mean a lot more to its patrons than they can readily articulate. It’s not about the fun theyexpe rience, but rather the function of the fun for the family’s growth and sustenance.

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One might think that the two parks are locked in a win-lose competition for Sunshine State vacationers and their children, but that’s not necessarily true.
 Many families, especially with children of different ages, go to both parks. At one time, however, the theme parks offered discernibly different atmospheres. One of our interview subjects put it best: “Disney is like sitting by a stream. Universal is like going rock climbing.

Both are enjoyable, both are nature, but with one, you’ve got more of that nervous adrenaline rush. Our researchers and I spent days observing how this participant’s analogy was on the money. The polarity of experiences is perhaps why some vacationers visit both parks.

Who doesn’t enjoy a little relaxation mixed in with action on their vacations? At the time, Universal and Disney mirrored the needs continuum. However, this has changed. They aren’t merely high-end amusement resorts that offer different sets of thrills for families. They’re helping families satisfy polar psychological needs for their children.

Remember, young people, from toddlers to teens, have conflicting sentiments, with a desire for the security of connectedness pulling them in one direction and a desire for the adventure of independence pulling in another. At the time of our research, the Walt Disney World experience appealed to their desires for security, safety, and closeness.

It is a child’s and a family’s rite of passage. It has always offered an undeniably fantastic experience that feeds children’s imaginations. But generally speaking, its essence nurtures a younger child’s connection in a safe and fantastic world. Disney is the quintessential “mother” archetype.

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We found that Universal Studios, on the other hand, appealed to older children and their families’ desire to explore, to be curious, and to interact with the world around them, through which they gain a sense of mastery and accomplishment. By developing and solidifying this sense of autonomy, children develop self-esteem and understanding of personal agency. Universal Studios was perceived as edgier and more adventurous—generally more stimulating and intellectually challenging. No longer was Universal just the more exciting cousin of Disney. Instead, it was an amusementpark that satisfied its visitors’ needs for individuality and independence in ways Disney wasn’t designed to do.
Recognizing this fundamental difference between itself and Disney, Universal changedits marketing efforts from promoting what it wanted consumers to experience to a testimonial to what the experience was already providing. No longer focusing on their longstanding marketing platform – “ride the movies”– they built a new strategy –“Experience an extraordinary escape at Universal. Slowly and steadily, Universal made gains in gate entries. Of course, this dynamic has changed in recent years. The Disney of decades past is not the Disney we find today. Their parks are now much more “Universal” in their feel, entertainment offerings, rides, and attractions. That said, the dynamic illustrates the profound opportunities that arise when a needs-based approach is applied to existing business models.The process, however, is not simply one of a business matching its product to a customer’s psychological needs. A single product category can potentially satisfy different emotional needs for different people. To harness the value of human needs, one must understand where people are located in their life cycle. Some emotional needs are more relevant at different ages and milestones, and for different genders and personality types.

Take cell phones. Beyond placing calls, sending texts, and checking emails, what is the emotional value of the twenty-first century’s most pervasive device? A cell phone can simultaneously satisfy a person’s need for control, security, connection,growth, and expression. To be sure, the device can’t do all things for all people, and cell-phone providers would be mistaken to try to persuade people otherwise. A company’s promoting access to 100,000 apps will appeal to the individual addicted to customization and control, while alienating an older audience intimidated by the concept of a smartphone.

For many segments of the population (nontexters and Tweeters), a phone is still primarily used to talk to people! Parents like the peace of mind that comes from always being connected to their children, but the child may just be after the status or unlimited contact with his or her tightest social circles. These issues raise important questions and challenges for marketers, who must decide where and to whom to direct their resources, what needs are most relevant for a specific segment and audience, and importantly, what communication tone and style work best to appeal to and satisfy a need.

It’s important to note that we see the push and pull between connectedness and individuality at each point on the continuum. In other words, not one of the needs is owned entirely by the individuality or the connectedness side of the continuum.

For instance, consider the need for belonging, essentially connectedness within acommunity. So much of our daily routine consists of participating in groups. We join groups for closeness, and sometimes, just to “fit in.” To a great extent, though, the need for belonging is not wholly consumed by the connectedness space. What we belong to is a stamp on our individual identity.

Consider how we routinely categorize informal acquaintances. It’s not Dave, the guy with a unique perspective on financial markets, but rather it’s Dave, the guy from Rutgers, the big Mets fan, the one who volunteers with Habitat for Humanity. Certainly,we are not the church, synagogue, or mosque to which we belong. We are not the political party we vote for (and on behalf of which we argue with friends and family). We are not the company we work for. Or the brand of shoes we wear and the grocery store we frequent. But each group we ”belong” to is a distinct piece of our identity.

The Needs Continuum can only be put into action when matched with a psychological perspective that helps businesses identify their consumers’ unmet needs. With the right focus, meeting unmet emotional needs can be much more than a token statement issued in press releases.

This is a modified excerpt from “Empathetic Marketing, How to Satisfy the 6 Core Emotional Needs of Your Customers.” 

Photocredits:  thevaultofbeauty, cookahashi.co, a phil-opon

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Mark Ingwer on High Time for Empathetic Marketing

Let’s say that service design starts with empathy.  Mark Ingwer shares his insights, based on his 2012 book.  Enjoy!

Guest author: Mark Ingwer, PhD, is a consumer psychologist and the managing partner of Insight Consulting Group, a global marketing and strategy consultancy specializing in market research and consumer insights. He has 25 years experience applying his blend of psychology, marketing, and industry acumen to helping companies optimize their brand and marketing strategy based on an in-depth understanding of their customers. He is the author of the book “Empathetic Marketing” published by Palgrave, May 2012.

For nearly two decades, the business world has increasingly embraced the value of emotion in selling products. Countless books and articles describe how emotion factors into decision- making and bonds people with brands, products, services, advertising and people. Increasingly, business leaders, marketers and advertisers have come to see the value of appealing to consumers’ heartstrings. There is now little doubt that emotions offer buried treasure for businesses. Emotions can be powerful economic tools if understood, but without the benefit of a proven psychological theory to tell us where, when and how to extract emotional insights, opportunities are lost. The word “emotion” is derived from the Latin movere — “to move” — suggesting that emotions literally take us to another place.

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Businesses try “to move” customers, but it’s crucial to ask: where to? The logical answer is: “to the sale.” But that’s the short view, which misses the deeper role emotion plays in the marketing mix. Google, a company with a brilliant understanding of the needs of customers, launched its social media answer to Twitter and FacebookGoogle Buzz — in February 2010. There was no doubt that people were willing to share posts, pictures and information with friends over the Internet, but Google vastly underestimated consumers’ privacy concerns. The launch of Buzz immediately led to an angry outcry when it became clear that Buzz made all users’ email contacts public and made connections to other Google services, such as Picasa, automatically. A class-action suit followed, resulting in an $8.5 million settlement. Despite addressing the privacy issues, Buzz never caught the imagination of consumers, and in October 2011, Google discontinued the service. I contend that our individual well-being – self-esteem, success, relationships and happiness – is a result of meeting emotional needs. An individual’s needs are satisfied when he or she is connected meaningfully to others and comes to find his or her identity through those connections. Needs are at the root of our triumphs and setbacks, and they affect many consumer A Framework for Understanding Emotional Needs Businesses need to develop a conceptual framework for understanding emotional needs and a passion for meeting them every step of the consumer journey. For example, Facebook succeeds because it satisfies a yearning for connectivity to a group and a need to celebrate one’s individuality through self-expression. Most businesses leaders claim that they care about consumers’ needs but don’t understand how these needs dovetail with their business goals. Yet, it is possible to develop a framework to help businesses comprehend the science of emotional needs and incorporate this perspective into their strategy. But first, business leaders must acquire a more humanistic perspective rooted in the experience of people’s behavior. As a consumer, a clinical psychologist, market researcher and marketing consultant, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing thousands of consumers and business professionals. These interviews often take place in front of a two-way mirror with clients observing. At the end of the session, clients state what they heard in the discussion. Frequently, I have a different interpretation. When I report this, the client sometimes counters with “That’s not what they said.”

Listening With the Third Ear

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I listen with what psychologists call “the third ear,” a trained lens that helps me see beyond what people say and toward a deeper empathic understanding of their emotional needs — the hidden meaning behind their conscious thoughts. What I do is akin to the finely honed listening skills top executives use to navigate corporate politics or manage tense situations. But, as a business psychologist, I specialize in understanding a diverse, complex group of people – customers. Despite business’ growing embrace of emotion, this awareness is often the first thing shut out of their professional mindsets. Too often, we build a firewall that helps us rely on logic and reasoning to solve business problems. We stick to what is perceived to be the safest method of meeting business challenges. The sciences, including psychology, are not immune either; they attempt to create a fact-based, quantified approach that tends to sanitize people, so we forget about the humanity of consumers and filter out the raw emotion underlying the needs.

Solving business problems and generating insights is more about connecting the dots.

Oftentimes, the answer is found when we widen the scope. We can learn about consumerneed by peering inside the dynamics of human relationships. We can learn by observing the psychological underpinnings of how and why people use products and services. We can learn by listening to others through an empathic understanding of their emotional lives. In short, understanding how human needs manifests in the marketplace requires businesses to learn from disciplines that have often been overlooked in boardrooms. Drawing from sociology,ethnography, psychology, neurological, behavioral and clinical studies, blended with traditional consumer insights, marketers can make an emotional needs-based paradigm shift in perspective.

This new perspective will result in better ways to listen to, talk to, observe and understand people’s life stages. It’s time that marketers step away from their spreadsheets and enter familykitchens, local bars and doctor’s offices to gain a deeper understanding of human needs.

This is a modified excerpt from “Empathetic Marketing, How to Satisfy the 6 Core Emotional Needs of Your Customers.” 

Creativity in the Workplace. It’s More Than Just Colorful Furnitures.

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For all those cash-rich companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook, there is a race to hire celebrity architects to design their headquarters. Googl… (Article: Creativity in the Workplace. It’s More Than Just Colorful Furnitures.

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Danielle Arad’s guest post: 3 Disruptive Trends which are Affecting Customer Experience

Danielle Arad, Marketing Director at WalkMe wrote this post for my blog.

Regular readers may be aware of that disruptive innovation and customer experience are two of the major themes in my social media activitities. Danielle’s post is a fine wrap-up of how customer experience is affected.

With the rapid development of new trends in the technology industry, we are seeing a rapid shift in business strategies of companies. While it’s important for a business to adapt to changes in the industry to keep up with the competition, these trends should be implemented in such manner that they will not affect the performance of that business. Next, we’ll have a look at the top 3 disruptive trends in the digital media industry and how they are able to affect one’s company:


1. Multi-screen Proliferation

Mobile engagement is, by far, the hottest trend this year. The new generation of customers is making great use of the mobile technologies available nowadays, which has led to this segment facing an immense growth. For this reason, a business which doesn’t have a website adapted to the mobile users need is considered to be pretty much obsolete these days. It’s not only the young generation which is taking advantage of this front, but the more experienced one as well. For instance, when people come back from work, many of them choose to open a shopping session right on their smartphone/tablet, and therefore a business that’s not adapted to this trend risks to be thrown off the market.

However, it’s not only about the mobile world quickly developing, but rather about a multi-screen experience. Consumers are starting to get accustomed with using more than one device at a time, and they are donig it quite well. They have understood that different devices work better in certain situations, at certain speeds, and that they can help boost productivity and social engagement. In this regard, businesses must adapt themselves and build customer experience strategies accordingly. The user experience they develop must be constant and smooth across all platforms.

2. Social Engagement and Gamification

The customers’ new demands for engagement are able to largely affect the implied customer experience. hildagrahnat When talking about the new engagement preferences, we should take into account the following context: social media channels are quickly rising in popularity, leading to the customers becoming more aware. Only by now, Facebook and YouTube number more than 1 billion unique visitors per month, and many businesses choose to approach customers through these channels in order to increase their services success. In addition, all other social media networks are facing a large visitor growth, which lead to them becoming great assets’ in a business’s promotional and customer support needs.

According to Gartner, by 2016 the customer experience model will become far more streamlined, allowing users to yield more social files at once and on multiple devices. This will not only boost the social aspect, but it will also lead to becoming more context-aware and more attentive to the changes that take place around them. 

Another important aspect, which needs to be taken into consideration, refers to the gamification concept. Gamification has begun to be adapted by companies and web-based businesses in an effort to boost customer interaction and to make the browsing experience a more fulfilling one. In the near future, gamification is expected to become the industry standard in multiple domains, with companies being required to adapt to it if they wish to succeed.

3. More Precise Analytics 

More and more analytic systems are being implemented by web-based businesses and individuals in an effort to boost customer experience. Analytic systems have, indeed, a strong effect on monitoring the user’s desires and preferences. They allow for a more personalized experience to be built, to address the customers’ issues as they arise, and to gain access to the customer’s social context. In addition, they allow businesses to be more empowered when it comes to setting up their NPSs and enable to be more objective-driven.

We are currently witnessing a forceful development in the area of analytics. These systems are becoming more complex, allowing website owners to find out precisely the user’s areas of interest and how certain points can be adjusted in order to suit their interests. In the near future, we are to witness analytic systems which will do their job almost automatically, requiring minimal interaction on the admin’s side. Such means will allow website owners to discover certain ‘red’ areas of a website, and do the necessary changes to them as to enhance business’s profitability.

Photocredit: hildagrahnat

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