“Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart” (Joe Chernov, CMO at Insight Squared)

Consumers buy from trusted sources. Balancing good quality and helpful content with influential marketing initiatives allows the customer to see your company as a trusted industry leader. Of course, marketing and advertising are necessary expenses/investments in your brand (“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time” – Henry Ford), but effective marketing efforts require an astute understanding of the human psyche. Customers are largely influenced by perceived value – not just by what others consider fashionable, but also by how they feel “wearing it”, “carrying it”, “displaying” it or “owning it”. As such, marketing has to be designed to meet this human need if it is going to be in any way effective at all.

The recent study of the brain’s biological responses (called Neuroscience) indicates that the brain’s reactions impact social interactions and behaviour. In fact, in 2000, Evian Gordon suggested that one of the primary organising principles governing social behaviour is the desire to maximise reward and minimise threat. In 2008, Lieberman and Eisenberger found that the neural networks used to maximise reward and minimise threat are the same as those used for critical survival needs. This implies that the brain treats social needs as it treats the need for food and shelter. It is perhaps not too far a stretch, therefore, to suggest that our purchasing practices are closely related to meeting these critical survival needs – physical, social, and emotional.

If marketing is not just about making the company look smart, but about making the customer feel smart, then marketing should target the fulfilment of these critical survival needs so that the customer experiences the possibility of reward. David Rock, one of the leading researchers in the neuroscience field, suggests the SCARF model to illustrate human sociological needs (italics mine):

  1. Status – importance in relation to others (the need to be respected). Marketing should target the dignity and value of the human being positively.
  2. Certainty – ability to predict the near future (minimising uncertainty). Marketing should target issues like reliability, quality, and sustainability.
  3. Autonomy – perception of exerting control over one’s environment (the provision of options). Marketing should target the ability to make decisions and to exercise options.
  4. Relatedness – feeling safe in relation to others, feeling “in” and not “out”. Marketing should target issues like fashionable design, latest technology, and desirability.
  5. Fairness – perception of being treated justly (equitability). Marketing should address issues like value for money, guarantees, and service policies.

Good marketing can make the company look smart, but great marketing makes the customer feel special – it meets some, or all, of the potential customer’s felt needs.

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