Motivations are Causally Upstream

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Not much of psychology has filtered over into marketing. Out of the vast range of psychological thought, all of which is potentially relevant to marketing, the trickle that appears in marketing practice is constrained to the reason vs. emotion dichotomy, attention vs. inattention, attitude shift measurement, and most recently, neuro and other biometric measures including eye tracking and facial emotion encoding.

Marketing has been inventive in adding somewhat to psychological theory by driving the development of self-reported data including attitude/perception statements useful in understanding differences in buying behavior. Not much use has been made in that other direction either (from commerce to academe), with little inspiration of psychological theory stemming from the billions of dollars invested in such research annually.

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Most psychological of the latter marketing/media research survey data are attitude scales related to the benefits of specific types of products and services. This sub-field of product benefit segmentation has become quite popular in marketing and is used heavily in consideration of what to say in ads and whom to target at a planning level.

I call this sub-field Product Motivations. That's to distinguish them from Life Motivations, such as the desire for interesting experiences, love, riches, fame, power, etc.

To me the most promising types of psychological data to make marketing and advertising more effective are the Motivations -- both types, Life Motivations and Product Motivations. Life Motivations is more important because one's motivations in life determine the product characteristics one is motivated to buy, not the other way around. If one seeks love, breath freshening and tooth whitening would be the Product Motivations one would have in the toothpaste category.

Of all the different types of psychological data we use in the marketing industry -- mindsets, product motivations, brand perceptions, attitudes, interests, lifestyles, generations, affinities, intentions, self-identity -- the type that is most causal are Life Motivations. They are at the top of the mountain where the avalanche starts.

Life Motivations are what causes attention, such as when an ad is perceived by an individual's preconscious mind as being relevant to a deep life motivation. Life Motivations are what causes sales and brand equity, when an ad resonates with the Life Motivations of the individual perceiving the ad.

Life Motivations are also mostly subconscious, while the derivative psychological categories which devolve from them are mostly conscious. This is part of the explanation of why marketing has tended to stay away from Life Motivations after a brief flirtation with Dr. Ernst Dichter in the early '60s. Dichter used the focus group, which was a blunt instrument. Today RMT deep learning AI deduces Life Motivations from passively observed privacy-protected content consumption behavior, and has been independently validated by other research companies including Nielsen, Simmons, 605 and Neustar. This is bringing Life Motivations into marketing.

In a study presented at ARF, RMT and Semasio showed that using both Life Motivations and Product Motivations together quintupled website visits as result of ad exposure.

When he took the helm at ARF, Scott McDonald announced his priority for the organization and the industry by means of his button exhorting "Foment Empiricism." He spoke openly of bringing more science into the art of advertising. His initiatives in random control experimentation, creation of the ARF NYU course, collaboration with the MRC in setting Outcome Standards and updating the ARF model, validation of attention measures, acquisition of the Marketing Science Institute (MSI) and the Coalition for Innovation in Media Measurement (CIMM), have moved the industry steps closer to a bridge of richer sharing of empirical science discoveries across the great divide corpus collosum between marketing and psychology, industry and academia.

This foretells of a possible escalation in receiving the pragmatic benefits of psychology within the marketing field.

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