We can no longer assume that the way we did business before is the way to do business now and in the future. Even if COVID-19 goes away and nothing like it ever comes back again, the jarring traumatic shock of what happened to us has changed each of us forever.
However, the likelihood is, that this is not our last biological shock, nor is this one going completely away any time soon. Even with perfect long-lasting vaccines, viruses will continue to mutate. Unless we stop deforestation everywhere, and meat market practices everywhere, and the way we relate to animals everywhere, the mutated viruses will come and get us again, requiring new vaccines, ad infinitum, until medical science itself mutates to a higher level.
The social distancing itself is cutting off one of the most humanizing ways we use time.
Other shocking things are having deep psychological effects, including pandemic propaganda warfare, rising anger and fear (they always go together), divisiveness, ambitions of other countries and of some of our own leaders, the list goes on…
So, we cannot assume that our old verities about consumers, and our previous marketing practices too-often based on flimsy evidence, are still the ways to go now.
The first thing we must do, despite belt-tightening, is the highest quality research we have ever done, into what consumers want from us today, create new creative and test it in random control trials to make sure that we know which way we are going.
Looked at through the lens of the 15 RMT Motivations, the two that have increased the most since March are at the top and bottom of the scale – Security at the base, and Altruism at the top. Any threat to health or income is a threat to Security, so it's easy to understand why that one is increasing.
Altruism is one of the names we give to the top (most evolved, least deployed) Motivation. We officially call it Self-Transcendence, meaning that one sincerely cares for people in general, not just for oneself and one's loved ones (Love is another Motivation).
As the Federal government under-reacted, people hoped that corporations would step in and help fend off COVID-19. People expecting corporations to exhibit good citizenship goes back a long way. I started to talk about it in the 70s, calling it "QOL" for Quality Of Life, something to strive for in business and advertising. Jim Stengel wrote a great book about it. Today the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has an entire division devoted to Purpose, the current name for the idea that business exists for improving the quality of the lives of its customers, employees, stockholders, trading partners, agencies, et al.
Since March there have been two waves of Purpose driven advertising, one about COVID-19, and one about Black Lives Matter. Ads, reflecting reality, increased their use of the Motivation Altruism.
You need to understand what motivates your current customers today. And you probably have a CRM list, customers with whom you have a relationship and a way to communicate with them directly, by email, and other means. You could survey your CRM list. But the problem there is that in a questionnaire what you get back when you ask attitudinal questions is pretty weak. It rarely predicts behavior. Simmons found that across 3830 brands, with at least 1000 users each, within its 25,000 annual survey, the hundreds of attitude questions in the Simmons survey predicted only 6% of brand adoption. (When RMT science was added this increased to 11%.)
Dr. Gerald Zaltman said it in his book. 95% of decision-making is subconscious. The best way to find out people's Motivations is to measure their behavior, such as the content they consume. With partner Semasio, RMT is now daily updating the Motivations of 276 million Americans, based on the content they consumed in recent weeks.
You can match your CRM list to this database and learn the Motivational segments within your customer list which will ground your creative in fact. This is how you can deterministically understand what your customers want, based on the content they read and view. All the information is calculated passively without asking people anything and without invading privacy by knowing identity. All we know is that they have IDs that can be matched and reached by addressable media. You can obtain the data inexpensively from your usual sources of audiences: DSPs, DMPs, Liveramp, et al.
Whatever way you go about it, learn what your customers and prospects care about today, it isn't the same as last year. Subconscious motivations are what drive behavior. The best way to learn about a person's subconscious is to observe their behavior. Content consumed is an excellent indicator of Motivation.
This is a whole new way to derive value from audience data. It is most valuable at the big data level of CRM, return path data (RPD), frequent shopper card (FSC), RMT/Semasio and other such multimillion home/person lists, which can also be matched onto small data piles which you still consider important e.g. your own surveys, panels, etc.
Understanding changing Motivations at scale will help surmount the challenges we all face now.
In life, understanding ultimately leads to forgiveness, which awakens hope.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.