How to Get Into Your Customers' Frame of Mind and Adjust Your Marketing
How often do you stop to consider the customer mindset of your audience? What's their frame of mind when they encounter your product and your marketing messages? And what frame of mind should you and your team be in as you build your marketing plans, creative concepts, and campaigns?
Take, for example, the value-anchoring used to get customers in the right frame of mind about black pearls. When they were originally introduced into the U.S., the marketers behind the product had famed jeweler Harry Winston put them in window displays paired with precious gems like rubies and sapphires, getting consumers into the frame of mind that black pearls were a valuable luxury item.
What if customers were first introduced to black pearls on deep discount at a Walmart? Customers would likely have been in a very different frame of mind and viewed black pearls as a much lower-cost product.
The Customer Mindset Should Impact Your Media Planning
All marketing should begin with empathy. When creating any campaign, landing page, or ad, you must ask yourself and your team what your customers’ frame of mind will be when interacting with it.
You have the luxury of absolute focus and a vested interest in your company’s and clients’ success.
Your customer? They're probably distracted. They may be viewing your website on a lower-quality device. And frankly, they don’t care nearly as much as you do.
You can shape the customer mindset on some level through your media strategy. Make sure you’re not only on the lookout for what they read or watch but also what they trust. When will they be in the right frame of mind to receive and believe a message about your product?
Regarding consumer trust, Suzanne Zellner, VP, Corporate Sponsorship, Sponsorship Group for Public Television commented:
“The key to capitalizing on TV’s trust potential is to align with content that viewers believe is trustworthy, especially in the current environment. While PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] doesn’t accept advertising, rather corporate sponsorship messaging, our research shows that there is a strong correlation between trust in content, viewer trust in the sponsor/advertiser, and the impact on intent to purchase.”
Through research with a representative sample of Americans, we’ve discovered that print marketing in newspapers and magazines was the most trusted advertising channel when consumers want to make a purchase decision, followed closely by TV commercials. Dead last – online popups.
Marketing and Products Need to Reflect and Respect the Customer Mindset
Beyond media strategy, your customers' frame of mind is largely beyond your control. So, you must strategize about the levers you can pull — what you can change to meet customers where they are.
Let’s take a relevant example for today’s stay-at-home world: binge-watching on Netflix. TV shows typically have opening credits. But people watch traditional TV shows very differently than they watch Netflix. They might watch an episode once a week, perhaps with a different lead-in show. So, the audience needs something to get them back into the world of this show, the frame of mind to start being pulled into the drama or laughing at the jokes.
On Netflix, viewers are more frequently binge-watching shows. They are already in the right frame of mind, they’ve just seen one or two (or more) episodes of the show. The best way to serve them is to get out of their way and not alienate them.
Hence, Netflix tested a skip button so viewers could quickly jump past the opening credits. “They loved it, and even more importantly as a subscription service, it encouraged people to keep subscribing,” said Todd Yellin, VP of product at Netflix.
Perhaps a bummer for show creators who may have poured their creative energies into those opening credit sequences. But you must put the customer first.
Understand How the Customers’ Frame of Mind Affects Marketing Research
Surveys can be helpful in determining customer preference. Just take the results with a grain of salt. Here’s why: Commenting about surveys, Philip Graves stated, “They don't reflect the frame of mind people are in with they're consuming. They reflect the frame of mind of someone in front of a computer screen.”
Here’s an example he provided: An online survey about advertising should not be presented to consumers shopping for books. People do not go to online bookstores to evaluate their purchase decisions. They go to explore books. The survey would reach this group in the wrong frame of mind, and according to Graves, people act in completely different ways when that happens.
So before launching a survey, ask yourself if the audience’s frame of mind will be similar to the people you are trying to understand. For example, if you're an online apparel retailer, is the audience comprised of people shopping for clothes online? Are they in the frame of mind to think about buying clothes?
Get Yourself and Your Team in the Right Frame of Mind
Marketers and their teams can’t just endlessly pump out creative, award-winning, revenue-driving campaigns. We need to get in the right mindset to tap into our deep wellspring of creativity.
That has probably never been more important than in our current times. Many ad agencies and tech companies understand the impact of frame of mind on creativity and have built offices and even entire campuses to help get their employees in that frame of mind.
But now, many of those employees are working from home.
This can have an upside, though. In those campuses, in gleaming towers, in corporate boardrooms — it is all too easy to forget the customers’ mindset. One of the hidden upsides of the COVID-19 crisis is that people all over the world are experiencing roughly the same thing in the same way (roughly the same — some places are hit harder than others, of course, and sheltering-in-place in a Beverly Hills mansion is not the same as doing so in a small apartment with a large family).
However, all that sheltering in place can be a bit much. Sometimes, you just need to take a walk and let your mind metaphorically wander as well. “Before I start my walk, I read or research the specific topic that I’m thinking through so I’m set in the right frame of mind,” Gary Hennerberg suggests.
There are other ways for marketers to get in the right frame of mind that will extend long past the pandemic.
A/B testing helps marketers get in the same frame of mind of the customer by learning from their real-world actions. When you or someone from your team or agency presents the results of a test, don’t just jump straight to the findings. First, show the control and treatments, and ask each member of your team — either out loud, on a piece of paper, or at least in their heads — to take a guess for which treatment performed best and why.
By forcing your team and yourself to think through the experiment first, you are activating your brains to receive the information. When you assume wrong, it opens you up to questioning what other assumptions you might be making about the customer.
A data scientist who used to work at MECLABS explained it to me with this analogy: It’s the difference between choosing a tree in the forest and then seeing if you can hit it with a rock vs. simply throwing a rock into the forest, seeing which tree it hits, and then saying, “Yep, that’s the one I meant to hit.”
Publicly acknowledging to your team that you don’t always understand the customer’s frame of mind is a way to build an effective culture. A culture of humility, inquisitiveness, experimentation, and evidence-based marketing.
The other cultural element effective marketing departments and advertising agencies build is a culture of creativity. To do that, Linda Kaplan Thaler suggests you foster an illogical frame of mind. One way to get illogical, she says, is make sure your team doesn’t go directly from Point A to Point B, from problem to solution. “Instead, look at point A and go in a horizontal fashion. The answer may be a mile away. Don't look down the road for the answer; look to your left and to your right. It's much more random, but it's a process,” Kaplan Thaler advises.
Here is a free interactive worksheet to help you better understand your customers’ frame of mind.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.