Herding Cats: the joys of consumer behaviour

Trying to get consumers to buy what you’re offering is a lot like trying to herd cats. If you’re frustrated and confused why everyone isn’t lining up to shop your product, you’re not alone. Understanding how and why consumers buy what they do, when they do, is a topic of study unto itself. Let’s explore some of the basics.

Why does a consumer buy?

First off a consumer must feel a need before they’ll purchase—but this need doesn’t have to be an essential need like air, food, or sleep. Desires for social status, affection, attention, validation, and community are all examples of ‘needs’ that usually help to sell luxury items, or convince people to donate to charities.  A need can be entirely based on an emotional desire. This is why so much advertising is designed to make you have a strong emotional response.

Once a potential consumer has been identified (and that, in itself, requires some work), and you’ve got them considering your product, they usually follow these universally-acknowledged steps towards decision-making:

GRAPHIC SHOWING FIVES STAGES OF CONSUMER ADOPTION: AWARENESS, INTEREST, EVALUATION, TRIAL, AND ADOPTION.

GRAPHIC SHOWING FIVES STAGES OF CONSUMER ADOPTION: AWARENESS, INTEREST, EVALUATION, TRIAL, AND ADOPTION.

As marketers, you would think that all our time would be spent on developing the awareness—the first step. But because marketing plays a role in everything from the posters to the packaging, marketing is a key shepherd for consumers at every stage.

Most new companies tend to get very excited about their product and they try to get consumers to jump right into the TRIAL step; this is rarely effective. If we are going to shepherd all these mulling cats in our analogy, we really need to entice them: pull out the can of food, open the lid, pile it high in a crystal dish, put it in front of their noses for inspection, let them taste it…and now you’ve got them hooked!

The final step, of course, is to get them talking about it with the other cats. When the cats themselves become ‘awareness ambassadors’, that’s when success will really start to roll.