Today’s shoppers cruise the malls to fulfill one of four basic emotional drivers, says "Trading Up" author Micheal J. Silverstein in his new book "Treasure Hunt. Inside the Mind of the New Consumer".
"Taking care of me" is about buying things that contribute to personal health, wellness, youthfulness and taking time for rest and renewal. Skincare products, fresh foods, spa treatments, holidays, comfy bed lines or a good bottle of wine are great examples. "Taking care of me" is particularly important for working mom’s because they feel stretched to their physical and emotional limits and have very little time for themselves.
"Questing" is about goods and experiences that enable people to challenge themselves and try something new. Examples include cars, travel, exercise equipment, entertainment and collectibles. Life is short, say Questers, and its a big world. Goods and services are part of the fun.
"Connecting" relates to the ability of products to help individuals spend time with the people they love. Say a meal away from home with a loved one, a time-saving appliance, a bottle of wine (again), a kid’s toy, a TV set, and a vacation home all belong in this basket.
"Individual style" is the final driver, and it describes our tendency to express ourselves through our purchases, From Prada to Gucci, Audi to BMW, Apple to Nike, Juicy to Gap, we are what we buy. And we are growing more and more comfortable with conspicuous consumption.
Silverstein’s work is incisive and instructive. He believes that consumers have long had complex and emotional relationships with the things they buy, own and consume.
And he pointedly calls to task marketers who do not take the trouble to really understand why consumers do what they do:
"Most companies pay far too little attention to their consumers and have a superficial understanding of who those consumers are as people and how they actually use the company’s products and services. what they know, or think they know, is usually based on market research data, focus group findings, polling and other traditional methods of gathering information… these methods though invaluable are incomplete… they don’t go deep enough to get at consumers motivations and behaviors. And they are not broad enough to allow companies to see the bigger picture of the entire consumer market and how it is changing."
I suspect that emotional branding, like the other trends that regularly sweep business thought, will one day be discredited and cast aside. But for now pick up Silverstein’s work — he offers an unusually stimulating approach to a subject that has been picked over for centuries. See the book here (Amazon).