not listening

Positioning is determining your niche in the market and creating an impression on the consumer. But no matter how much you sweat the small stuff, a) ultimate positioning is in the mind of the consumer and b) they’re not likely to perceive most of your efforts.

When people go to buy something, they tend to focus on three key aspects. They evaluate quality/quantity, the “cool” factor (what do others do and say?), and brand loyalty, if they’re already brand-loyal. If it’s a product they’re unfamiliar with, like a new cell phone or a car, all the technical specs in the world won’t influence the vast majority if they don’t perceive it as meeting their needs.

Why don’t people evaluate more? Because we’re cognitively lazy. First, we don’t want to be educated, even if it’s in our own best interest; we want to buy and be done. The more criteria we have to evaluate, the more anxiety we experience because there are more judgments we could screw up. Most adult consumers realize there’s not much difference between competing products, so there’s no reason for us to dwell on the details. Finally, having determined the need to buy, we prefer faster gratification; only a few of us have the self-control to methodically evaluate each aspect.

This means you should probably focus less on physical positioning and more on perceptual positioning. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • We make choices based on perceived benefits to ourselves, not risks. Except for some consideration for visual aesthetics, most customers don’t buy physical characteristics, they buy the benefits. Let form follow function, but don’t waste unnecessary ad space or time on specs unless you can show the benefit. There’s a reason the best model homes are furnished and decorated: it helps people imagine their own stuff in there.
  • Most purchases are not a matter of life-or-death. They’re emotional, so those choices tend to be made by the amygdala and nucleus accumbens. These are not only the emotional centers of the brain, but the areas that remember positive conditioning (a behavior reinforced by a reward). Encourage positive emotional perception. Subaru’s “Love” campaign, which is almost ten years old, has doubled their market share and pushed them past 11 other car manufacturers in terms of sales.
  • Decisions are often subjective due to perceived differences even when products are virtually identical. For example, do you ask for a tissue or a Kleenex? A boatload of factors affect this perception, and they aren’t limited to who had the better ad campaign. Context, culture, gender, and even a buyer’s personality and emotional state at the moment may influence a decision. Tap more deeply into your market and find out why they’re even considering you.
  • Finally, while as consumers, we say we want options, it’s not really true. When we have fewer options presented at a time, we end up feeling more satisfied with our purchases. More options may gain more attention, but fewer buyers – it’s overwhelming and, as I said above, we realize there are more evaluations we may get wrong. If there’s a ton of information or options available, great! Let your audience know they exist, but don’t spill ’em all at one time.

– Adina

© 2013 All rights reserved | Adina Wollam, M.S. |

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