Commentary

Consumers Are Illogical -- And That's OK

I’m a consumer.  You’re a consumer.  We are all consumers. If you’re reading this, you’re probably involved in marketing or advertising.  Your job is to understand consumers, but the fact is, you rarely do.  Consumers are illogical.  

Consumers seem to rarely do as they say and say as they do.  Let’s look at the facts to support this argument.  Most people admit they are concerned with their privacy and yet they continue to post all day and all night on Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok and more.  Most people admit they are concerned that social media does not present a fair and balanced platform for exposing ideas, and yet when you ask people what their number-one source is for news, they will typically say that it’s Facebook.  It should be noted that Facebook has algorithms intended to show you more of what you like, so by definition it is not fair and balanced.  It is myopic, and intentionally so.

Our job is to understand consumers and deliver messages that resonate with them, but how do you reconcile that consumers are inherently illogical?  It’s especially confounding when you factor in how quickly opinions change and sentiment can flip.  

The solution lies in diving deeper into understanding consumer motivation on a personal, moral and ethical level.  You have to get to the level where you understand true motivations and not the ones consumers tend to expose or publish because many times the Internet makes it easy for someone to say something, but those people rarely expose their true inner feelings.

Self-reported data is not accurate, and most researchers know that.  Behavioral data is better, but only when you have a sample size strong enough to normalize the outliers.  

Marketers also know you sometimes have to go with your gut.  Human intuition is a positive signal and something not to be overlooked.  I typically follow the methodology of “observe, hypothesize, test.”  

Like Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”  He also said something along the lines of, “You can’t always believe what you see” (at least I think he said that one).  Sometimes you look at the data and decide to test against it because your gut tells you to do so.  

That is where the difference lies in being a data-driven marketer versus a data-driven storyteller.  I like to tell stories and sometimes the data points you in the same direction, but sometimes it goes the other way.  

For me, it's all about what my gut says and whether the data supports it, or whether I am willing to bet in a different direction.  Sometimes you bet against the data and the test results in something positive and unexpected.  This is where my favorite part of being a marketer comes to bear.  I do like surprises -- at least, the ones that were good!

There are times when the story the data tells will be different from what consumers will tell you -- which brings me back to the fact that consumers are illogical.  The issue is that consumers are human, and human beings don’t always make sense.  If they did, the world would be a very different, much more restful place than it is today.  

So, with that knowledge, I implore you as a marketer to sometimes go with your gut.   Look at the data, understand what it says -- and make your call. That's what makes you an important piece of the story and keeps you in your role.  Anyone can be an analyst, but not everyone can be a marketer.

1 comment about "Consumers Are Illogical -- And That's OK".
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  1. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, June 18, 2020 at 2:55 a.m.

    Corry, given the faults inherent in data and analysis, when have you made the
    most mistakes? Going with your gut or the data?  If you only act on data when it agrees
    with your existing beliefs, isn't that a form of confirmation bias? 

    As a sidebar, apparently millions of Americans must be going with their "gut" when they refuse to wear facemasks in this pandemic. Let's see how that works out.

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