On my way back from Thanksgiving, I read some chapters from Malcom Gladwell's new book, "What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures". In this case, the "book" is actually a collection of his NewYorker articles + a preview. Something like a "greatest Christmas songs" mix ... I have no idea why I actually picked that book up, since I am not really a fervent reader of Gladwell's (mostly because I think that his very good observations are way too often disguised as a true insight). Anyway. It was a fun read.
In the book, there's a chapter on hair color and advertising and getting the consumer psychology right. Gladwell writes about the relationship people have to the products they buy, and about advertisers realizing that "unless they understood the psychological patterns of that relationship - unless they can dignify the transactions of everyday life by granting them meaning - they could not hope to reach the modern consumer." Hence the focus groups: "Focus groups are aimed at discovering people’s motivations in buying products. Up until 1940s, advertising research had been concerned with counting heads - with recording who is buying what. Motivational researchers are concerned with why: why people buy what they do? what motivates them when they shop?"
This reminded me of how much the things in advertising have changed.
In digital, we surely think about the relationship people have to the products they buy. But we try to figure it out more through observing people's behavioral patterns then through thinking about often obscure consumer motives. In a sense, our job is easier - online, almost every action and behavior is visible. Which frees us up to replace tricky psychological "understanding" with a simple observation. Often, do we really need to know what people think, if we can see what they do?
And this is why we are focusing the question of "how." Thinking about why people shop/run/use services/enjoy content can be a tricky game, but designing conditions so people shop more easily, more often, and in a more fun and functional and social way, is indeed going to make them shop more, run more, consume more content, and to want to do all of it more often.
And so it is.