Understanding Consumer Motivation...On the Fly

 Behavioral targeting has become adept at telling marketers what people do online, but the methodology doesn't necessarily tell us much about why people do or do not engage with a promotion, let alone a brand. In fact, arguably, as digital technology gives us deeper and more granular insight about what actions --  in what order -- people take across multiple media platforms, we are seeing more emphasis at the high end on understanding broad brand affinity. What really aligns people with specific brands? What deeper associations do people make with the choices they make in certain content categories? The immediate behavioral data is dense and near at hand. The levers for using them have become actionable in real time. The higher-level discussions of brand affinity and cultural drivers aren't generally accessible and actionable in the real-time digital realm.

Motista is an interesting play that tries to marry high level-discussion about consumer attitudes and trends with the more immediate tools of digital media. Calling itself a "consumer connection intelligence solution for marketers," the service lets marketers examine some of the deeper motivations that bring users to particular brands and how they ultimately inform and drive behaviors. How does a brand make you feel? How are certain motives that drive people to given brands more or less likely to make consumers share the brand with friends or even get them to pay more for an item?



 "Consumer connections is a top priority," says Alan Zorfas, Motista's co-founder/chief product and marketing officer. "They talk about it, read about it, and they really struggle to understand and apply it. This is hard to harness and sustain in a data-driven business. It is easier to rely on metrics and intelligence that is more tangible to them."


Motista's attempt at a more actionable approach to consumer connections started in 2007 with $1 million in funding aimed at generating core research on what motivations drive consumer connections to brands. The study covered 10,000 consumers across 100 brands and used cultural anthropologists, consumer psychologists and researchers to devise the right survey questions to get at the motives consumers generally don't reveal about themselves. Discovering why a consumer chooses a financial firm over another and how one makes them feel more successful or gives them a necessary sense of thrill in managing their assets, is all a part of this mix.  

"The goal is to make it actionable, so we go pretty deep," says Zorfas. "All the surveys were gathered capturing consumer connections with specific brands and then aggregated at the category level." While there may be some overlap, they found that the things that motivate people towards brands in a health or beauty category will be very different from the motives elsewhere. Consumer connections are divided into several types. One is emotional connection: how the brand makes a person feel. Another is differentiation: how that brand evokes unique emotions. And a third is category-specific, or how specific product types are identified with personal feelings or values. Understanding how good choices in a product category make a person feel like a better parent, or smarter, or more environmentally conscious, etc. all become drivers towards brands and their approaches.

Understanding what moves consumers to connect with and share brands can be the secret sauce that moves the needle for a marketer, Zorfas argues. He recalls one financial services client who enjoyed high levels of customer "satisfaction" but didn't necessarily see that satisfaction translated to loyalty or increased ROI. So the company surveyed the very people who said they were "satisfied" to discover what were the untapped motives that would drive their greater devotion to the brand. "They don't perceive you as making a difference in their lives," Zorfas was able to tell the brand. "They weren't making the leap to making the customer feel more confident in their future or of achieving their goals. If you get people to that higher level of connection, they will be more receptive to your marketing."

Motista is trying to make this level of intelligence immediately accessible and actionable via a Web-based product. It presents the marketer with a range of tools that accesses the kinds of connections their target already does or doesn't make to the brand or category. Marketers can look at things like the kinds of motives that drive women in a certain demographic to mention a brand to a friend. The tool also can identify other brands in a competitive set that already do and don't have ownership over certain connections. A "program driver" tool, for instance, is designed to make this high-level intelligence more immediately applicable, Zorfas says. The marketer puts in the segment they are targeting and the goal they are trying to achieve and then can retrieve the most recent data on the brand for that segment.

Time will tell, of course, whether and to what degree higher level thinking about brand relationships can affect on-the-ground campaign deployments. In an increasingly metrics-driven marketing world of real-time tools, it is always easiest to pull the most accessible levers that have the most immediate and demonstrable effect on the measurements at hand. The most important connection a brand might make in the future will not be just to the consumer, but the connection between larger brand identity and the digital targeting infrastructure that still seems geared mainly to performance marketing.    


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