It’s Largely Unconscious- Understanding the Business-Customer Disconnect

Another fine post by 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.

Like the countless actions (walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, etc.) we complete each day without consciously thinking about it, the motivations and emotions that drive our personal quest for satisfaction and identity fulfillment are mostly hidden from our rational thought processes. Similarly, unaware of how marketplace symbols —brands, products, services, communications— inform our sense of identity and bond us to our favorite brands. But marketers need to understand the role of the unconscious in decision making if they hope to build brand loyalty.

The role of the unconscious presents an important opportunity for business. But to truly understand why people do what they do, one must look at the

Monika Penkutė

Monika Penkutė

psychodynamic context surrounding decision-making. In the marketplace, consumers often project rationality onto brands to reduce potential cognitive dissonance (buyer’s remorse). But initial satisfaction with a purchase is a poor indicator of whether their affections will endure.

Fostering Brand Relationships

Many companies talk about the need to establish lasting customer “relationships.” And, where else but in interpersonal relationships do we bump up against our emotional needs? As in all interpersonal relationships –friendships, marriage, company and client– trust lays the foundation for growth and development.

By identifying the emotion-based needs of their audiences, businesses can discover insights that transcend standard marketing practices. Let’s see how marketers can uncover the logical explanations of consumer behavior associated with brand loyalty or disconnection.

The decision making process is driven by a mix of conscious, logical, and subconscious, emotional, needs. When faced with too many choices, people often gravitate toward products or services that “feel” right. And, in such a crowded marketplace, emotional drivers trump rational consideration.

Businesses are adept at addressing the rational, logical aspects of the customer’s decision-making process, but are largely ignorant of the emotional element. Many ignore the core human needs that deeply influence customer decisions only to find themselves baffled by their failure to retain customers.

Marketers often talk about customer relationships, but make little attempt to understand their evolving emotional needs, dooming the very relationships they hope to foster. Marketing strategies often depersonalize people —customers are targets, buyers, early adopters, eyeballs— further undermining their attempts to address the emotional needs that drive their purchase decisions.

Beware Customer Satisfaction Scores

Brands can also be misled by customer satisfaction measures that fail to take into account whether customers’ emotional needs have been met. As a result, while customers may verbally express satisfaction with a product or service, subconsciously, they may have no desire to repeat the experience, deciding instead to try another product or brand.

Businesses need to balance quantifiable marketing, but then must take a further step to understand the meaningful, intimate insights into the true drivers of behavior. Businesses need to understand “why.” They must not only ask, “What will this product do for the customer?” but also “What will this product do for the customer’s emotional self and identity?”

ETAT arkitekter

ETAT arkitekter

While business must address the emotional needs of customers, it must also at the same time respond to their rational needs. If a business focuses only on the rational drivers, it will make mistakes. If it focuses only on emotions, and fails to fulfill rational needs, it will fail to win the loyalty of customers. Only by balancing the appeals to both the emotional and the rational mind, will marketers succeed in building lasting, profitable, relationships.

Understanding the emotional needs that influence and guide customer actions and behaviors begins with EMPATHY on the part of a business —a concerted effort to understand the emotional motivations and needs of customers, and to align the business’s approach to customers and prospects with those needs.

When business truly views consumers through the lens of relationship dynamics, they will understand that, whether we are working, shopping, or engaging with friends and family, our foundational psychological needs are a constant driving force. Understanding and putting this into practice (strategically and executionally) will eliminate the two-way mirror (or more commonly, the brick wall) between daily life experiences and the ways businesses traditionally communicate with their customers.

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Mark is author of “Empathetic Marketing, How to Satisfy the Six Core Emotional Needs of Your Customers” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012).

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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.


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


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.” 


5 meta-trends underlying almost all of modern marketing by Nick Samuel


See on Scoop.itDesigning design thinking driven operations

As a recent grad I have to say you’re way more in touch with marketing than a lot of textbooks/lectures I’ve had in the past 3 years…excellent blog. I feel fully justified in tabbing up this page and several others at work (Digital Marketing).

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Is Customer Engagement and Experience the new CRM?


See on Scoop.itDesigning design thinking driven operations

I am currently traveling on our ISIS Papyrus Roadshow 2013. The theme of our event series – as well as my keynote – is ‘Customer Engagement and Experience’. It was therefore sensible to include an …

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NEXT #SD13 kicks off at Sep16. Learn about latest methods and cases in #ServiceDesign.


Meet with service design experts and marketing strategists on September 16 at Radialsystem V in Berlin – hosted by SinnerSchrader and the NEXT Berlin crew. The conference is about to kick off.

Read more at  NEXT #SD13 kicks off at Sep16. Learn about latest methods and cases in #ServiceDesign. All information pooled

My point of view:

  • If you are in town this weekend, check out
  • The conference claims that one can meet service design experts and marketing strategists. Is is a manifesto of the convergence of marketing, sales and service?
  • I do sincerely hope that within a few years the event will also attract the strategic management at the C-level. Looking at the speakers (but also looking at the curent sponsors) be sure that it will happen.
  • In 2012 Paul Sims (Made by Many), Chris Downs (Method), David Bausola (Philter Phactory) and Louisa Heinrich (Fjord) impressed me very, vey highly. I assume that this line-up (and the line-ups) of the next years will include speakers with the same attitude and creative impact.