One of the assets that's currently most coveted by marketers all around the world is consumer data. The reason for that is because proper consumer data provides rich insight to marketers to help us understand consumer habits and buying behaviors. And since data scientists are the primary providers of consumer data, data scientists (especially in America) are reaping the benefits of this coveted asset.
In fact, consumer data is so valuable in the U.S. That according to Forbes, data scientists are one of the most in-demand careers in the country. So much so, that the median base salary for top-level data science managers is $250,000 and $160,000 for individual contributors with experience (I’m sure those numbers got your attention).
And although data science isn’t the easiest way to understand customers (you can find that answer here). I must admit, I’ve studied data science to give me an edge as a marketer. I'm not the only one. In their book, Data Science For Business, authors Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett, state that, “With vast amounts of data now available, companies in almost every industry are focused on exploiting data for competitive advantage.” Which is so true!
After studying consumer behavior from both a psychological and sociological perspective; as well as immensely studying consumer data—I’ve come to the conclusion that consumer behavior could be reduced to the fact that people only purchase products for three reasons. And that every product marketing strategy should focus on addressing at least one of those three reasons.
In no particular order, here’s the only three reasons that consumers purchase products.
Think of the last product that you purchased that cost over $100. Now, ask yourself—if you were alone on a deserted island, would that particular product matter to you at all? If not, there’s a 66.7% chance that the product falls under the category of what I call a "validation purchase."
And validation is one of the three reasons consumers purchase products.
A validation purchase is a purchase that a consumer makes either consciously or subconsciously in hopes that it will either boost or maintain their social status.
Part of being a great marketer is understanding tribalism. And like it or not, we’re all part of a tribe—or we want to be. And each tribe has its own social norms, standards, and hierarchy. For example, when a consumer purchases a particular brand of clothes primarily because a certain designer brand created it; either consciously or subconsciously—that consumer made that purchase with a certain tribe in mind.
The expectancy is that if their current or desired tribe sees them wearing that brand of clothing, they’ll receive acceptance or even better—adulation from the tribe. In other words—they’ll receive validation.
In his national best-selling book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, which focuses on why some products succeed and why others fail—author Nir Eyal, states that, “All humans are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to seek hope, and avoid fear, and finally, to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection.”
So, since validation is one of the three reasons consumers purchase products. Your brand’s logo must serve as a status symbol among the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Nike, Apple, Supreme, Louis Vuitton, Rolls-Royce, Hermès, etc.—in order to address one of the three reasons that consumers will purchase a product.
If it doesn’t, then it will have to fall into one of the next two categories.
It was the German-born genius Albert Einstein that once said, “The monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” That statement is very true. However, the harsh reality is that the vast majority of people prefer excitement over monotony—even if it’s monotony that stimulates the creative mind.
Which is why one of the three reasons that consumers purchase products is to experience exhilaration.
The thing about exhilaration, is that it comes in many forms depending on the person seeking it. Exhilaration can be experienced by way of video games, smart phones, books, movies, television, driving, sports, or anything that combats monotony.
Let’s go back to that deserted island scenario. If you were alone on a deserted island, I think it would be pretty safe to say that you probably wouldn’t care about a 24-carat emerald cut diamond ring that would garner adulation and validation from your tribe. Instead, you’d care much more about finding ways to help you pass the time and defeat boredom.
Products that serve as combatants to monotony would fall into what I call the "exhilaration category." And if a product doesn’t fall in either the validation or exhilaration category—then it only has one more category to fall into in order to be purchased by consumers.
An effective way to approach marketing is by getting to the core of primality. The fact of the matter is that man only really yearns for three things: acceptance from others/companionship (validation), excitement (exhilaration), and security.
Which brings us to the final reason that consumers purchase products—alleviation.
Products that I label as "alleviation products," are products that make life easier for consumers by alleviating a problem that the consumer may currently have or anticipate having. The products that fall into this category are products that provide the most basic needs, eliminate stress, or simply make life easier for the consumer.
For example, a vehicle is an alleviation product because it makes life easier for the consumer to travel. However, if the primary reason that a consumer purchases a vehicle is because that particular car model will boost their social status—then that purchase would not be an alleviation purchase and would fall under the category of a validation purchase.
Other examples of alleviation products are: groceries, accounting software, tools, soap, deodorant, bug spray, detergent, guns, washers and dryers, reasonably priced clothes, gift cards, school supplies, kitchenware, reasonably priced furniture, etc.
If a product is something that would make your day-to-day life easier, or something that you have to have in order to live—that product would fall into the alleviation category.
As previously stated, the reason that data scientists are so coveted in business is because they’re the ones that provide most data on consumer behavior. And as product marketers, it’s our job to dissect that data and devise marketing concepts in order to connect with consumers to persuade them to make a purchase.
In his book, The 1-Page Marketing Plan, author Allan Dibb said to, “Figure out the one thing your market wants a solution to, something they’ll pay you handsomely for, then enter the conversation they’re having in their mind. Preferably something they go to bed worrying about and wake up thinking about. Do this, and your results will dramatically improve.”
As a product marketer, if your marketing strategies can address at least one of the three reasons that consumers will purchase a product, and you can create a story articulating how your product will make consumers' lives better by providing them either validation, exhilaration, or alleviation—your results will dramatically improve.