Friday, January 7, 2011

The new marketing approach: The Management of Expectations

The process of creating expectations is developed in our subconscious and interferes directly with the motivations, perceptions, emotional responses and decisions. These four factors, together with the element of satisfaction, are the most important factors that marketing should manage to acquire and retain consumers.

In a further reflection on the drivers of consumer satisfaction, we can argue that some markets and consumer groups choices are made based not just on needs and satisfaction, but based on the characteristics of products or services and then making a purchasing decision related to consumer expectation. Consumer satisfaction is related to the level of expectations created prior to a purchase and then the outcome after purchase must meet or exceed their overall expectations.

From the dictionary definitions, expectations are "anticipation with the confidence of achievement" and "experience of affective and emotional states." That is, if consumers have an expectation, they anticipate what will happen awaiting completion and there is an activation of the emotional state by increasing the attention and curiosity. David Huron says in his book "Sweet Anticipation" expectations are a constant element of our mental life and it can be seen as a further sense - the sense of the future - that the mind provides information about upcoming events; it’s not about how the world is, but how the world will be.

Our mind automatically creates expectations in relation to everything we see, read and hear. This process begins in the "Pons" that exists in the brain where the electrical signal begins, and that directs our attention. Then the "Telemis", which represents the short-term memory, raises expectations and gives an answer to the question "What will happen?" to the central system. Finally, the mind compares the expectations created in the "Telemis" with the long-term memory (past experiences), which is located in the "Cortex". We Compare expectations that we have created, with what we already know, hoping for the same or better. Through this comparison, a decision is made that is based on expectations and not needs.

Expectations, emotions, motivations and perceptions are in the consumer subconscious. All experiences will shape the "schemes" that are housed in our memory. Consumers compare the information that they hold in short-term memory (what they see, hear, and read at a given time) with the information they know that is staying in long term memory. It is based on this comparison that we decide. This means that comparing expectations housed in short-term memory with what they know through the experiences, transformed into "standards" for which await a repeat result or even improvement.

We have created expectations in the first place, as part of our biological system. But if we generate expectations, it means that they must and can be managed and controlled through communication. The process of creating expectations lies in our subconscious and interferes directly with our motivations, perceptions, emotional responses and decisions. These four factors, together with the element of satisfaction, are the most important factors that marketing should manage to acquire and retain consumers.

Managing expectations is a new marketing approach, which may be crucial in the success and differentiation of any brand. The expectations management approach is the opportunity to interact with the consumer subconscious. The model I present to investigate the management of expectations is divided into five phases: Motivations, Sensory Perception, Emotional Response, Decision Making and Satisfaction.

In the first phase the consumers motivation to purchase is created. There is a need and an idea about what they need to meet this need (1 - What do you want). Faced with what they want and the price for what they want. (2 - Perception of getting what they want), the consumer will feel satisfied if they can get what they want and proceed to purchase, or they will have to adapt themselves if they can’t get what they want until they are able to purchase or the barriers keeping them from purchasing have been reduced or eliminated allowing the purchase to happen.

For example, in seeing the recent movie about the creation of Facebook, we understand the perceived need Zuckerberg found was how Internet users liked to appear and be perceived (which was reflected in the explosion of the process of "self-google" and now facebook).

The second phase involves the creation of an Expectation / Perception that is created when consumers go to find what they want to see (announcements / images / design / package), read, and hear. Based on information they get, consumer experiences and information they received, they create an expectation / perception about the product / service and its characteristics. Consumers form expectations on all factors related to the product or service such as quality, design, functions, social impact, etc. If we change communication, we can change the perception obtained for each factor. In the case of Denim, a brand of perfume belonging to Unilever mass market in the 1980’s and 90’s, the expectations created by advertising to their customers was the image of domination, ie, the ruler in a possible sexual relationship was the man "and they always know what they want.”

In the third stage there is an emotional response from consumers. After consumers are motivated to buy, and have created an expectation and a perception about the product and about each feature of that product, there will be a response / feedback. The emotional responses will be present at all stages of the buying process. However, a "tension response" occurs before the decision and that will increase their levels leading to the purchase which is the most important emotional response or one that can dictate the decision and the levels of motivation for the decision. Through this emotional response, which may be caused, we can create and increase levels of curiosity and attention.

This phase is clearly more complicated for marketing managers, because the knowledge, control and influence over the emotional responses of consumers is much more complex. Again, using the same example, when the man wears Denim he feels safe and in control of the relationship (and woman) he is involved with.

In Phase Four there will be a purchasing decision. The decision is based on expectations and takes place through a process of comparing alternatives and consumer experiences. The balance between the need and expectation can be analyzed by one of the models that I am developing and will be important for there to be a positive decision and satisfaction after the decision process. What brings us to the movie theaters to see a particular movie, buy a car or a particular clothing brand x is the expectation we have on a number of factors related to the product or service. The expectation on each of these factors can be changed until there is a balance between expectation and existing needs, which results in a purchasing decision. To realize this process, we must understand the attitudes that are linked to the subconscious, and look at what really drove us to buy certain products or services. The easiest answer would be to say there was an existing need. But the question is not why we bought a phone ... The question is to know why we bought the phone x and not y. Most of our decisions are made based on information we have in our subconscious. When consumers are able to think on a conscious level, they have already made the purchasing decision. It becomes a known conscious level because now the result/outcome of satisfaction and meeting expectations is known.

As an example, if we find that the expectation among consumers about the power of the car "x" is relatively low and this is an important decision for the target y, we can adapt all elements of communication emphasizing this factor: putting the car in situations that demonstrate the factor "power" will change the perception of consumers regarding the power of the car or readjusting the existing expectation or even creating the correct expectations from the beginning.

In the fifth stage we examine the levels of satisfaction. Satisfaction depends on the levels of expectation created and what the consumer obtained for each factor/feature of the product or service. To be satisfied there was balance between the existing expectations and needs. The higher the level of expectation the more difficult it will be to satisfy the consumer. Currently, the only communication that is resulting from company branding and marketing is working to increase consumer expectations on their product or service. Therefore the most important task of satisfying their customers becomes more difficult or almost impossible because of the increased level of expectations. In order to be successful It’s important to understand the expectations created in a consumer’s subconscious and what is needed to satisfy those levels of expectations.

The current marketing and communication approaches will evolve as the management of expectations continues to develop. Through this approach of managing expectations without changing products or services, we can influence levels of consumer perceptions, satisfaction, decision-making, and alter various consumer groups’ motivations for purchasing.

Author's Note:

My research is based on cognitive psychology and focuses on consumer behavior, based on the following theories: ITPRA Theory - General Theory of Expectation, Expectancy Theory, Expectation Fulfillment Theory, Hedonic Adaptation, Placebo Effect, Stereotypes, Sensory Perception, Peer Effects; Relative Standing, Availability Effects, Loss Aversion, Endowment Effect, Status Quo Bias, Engogenous Determination of Time Preference, Multiple Alternatives: Anchoring, Paradox of Choice.

In order to quantify the analysis of expectations and be able to take decisions, I am developing a set of models with positive correlations between needs and expectations, satisfaction and expectations, and importance of factors such as price. Through these models we can quantify the level of expectations and understand the factors that we should increase or decrease the level of expectations, so we generate a "positively balanced decision."

The hypothesis that I present and the theory that I am developing has positive correlations between Expectations and Motivation, Expectations and Sensory Perception, Expectations and Emotional Responses, Expectations and Decision Process, and Expectations and Satisfaction.

Jaime Henriques


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