Marketing Strategy: Delving into the Human Behavior

Some of us may be curious: why marketing, why not PR?

Although they are different in some aspects, neither is complete without the other. At college, I learned that the difference between marketing and PR lies in their objectives, audience, and channels. Other than that, they are basically the same.

In this article, I want to share my knowledge of the human-mind marketing strategy. As I said earlier, marketing and PR are two different things, although they belong to the same category.

Here, I want to emphasize the target: people.

Why people? A simple example: have you ever wondered why we buy things we actually don’t need?

Well, that’s marketing messing with your head. We don’t even know that we are already under a marketing grip. Once we do, it’s already too late and there is no turning back! (Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating way too much!)

I gave this article the title “Delving into the Human Behavior” but I won’t tell you how to do it. Instead, I will share a story about it. I can’t show you the way in this simple writing, yet I can show you how it’s done. I’m using an example from the book written by Dan Ariely (one of my favorite authors), “Predictably Irrational”. This is an amazing book that shows you another perspective of how marketing works in our society.

Let’s take a look how The Economist, a London-based newspaper, applies a strategy to exploit human behavior. The Economist published an ad offering three subscription plans. The first offers an Internet subscription for $59, the second a print subscription for $125 print subscription--a bit expensive but reasonable--and the third offers a print and Internet subscription for $125. Wait, what? Why the third offers both Internet and print subscription at the same price as the second offer, which only offers a print subscription?

At first glance, we may think there must be a clerical error on the part of the Economist. If you are looking for a print subscription and see this ad, which one will you choose? No doubt, it will be the third option. You may think, “I don’t know if $59 for an Internet subscription is a better deal than the print-only option at $125, but, hey, I certainly know that the print and Internet option for $125 is a better deal than the print-only option at $125”

There’s nothing wrong with thinking along that line. Why? Because most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context. I must say, this is a very good strategy to trick people into buying the third offer. But, what’s in it for the Economist? Here’s how it’s done. Initially, the Economist’ first offer was the third option, the Internet and print subscription. The Internet only subscription was the second offer.

The marketing team started to think: What must we do to make people choose the Internet and print subscription instead of the Internet only subscription? The answer: a decoy.

Dan Ariely conducted an experiment by giving this problem to 100 students at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He let the students choose among the three options to see which one they leaned to. The result? Let’s have a look at it:

  1. Internet-only subscription for $59: 16 students
  2. Print-only subscription for $125: zero student
  3. Print-and-Internet subscription for $125: 84 students

I think everybody who’s been given this choice will choose the third option (well, most of them, based on their need and interest, of course). Now that we know the result, let’s take a look at another experiment by Ariely on the first strategy used by the Economist: the two options. The result?

  1. Internet-only subscription for $59: 68 students
  2. Print-and-Internet subscription for $125: 32 students

How did this happen? It’s because of the decoy, the print-only subscription. The absence of a decoy in the second experiment made people choose differently. The decoy tricked people into choosing something less while there was another option that offered more, even though it was a bit expensive. An interesting thing to note here is that the marketers at the Economist knew that we didn’t know whether we wanted an Internet subscription or a print subscription. But they figured that of the three options, the print-and-Internet combination would be the one we would take.

Now we could say that marketing is not only about selling, it’s about delving into the human behavior. In order to make people dance to our tune, first we need to understand the human essence: how they think, how they act, and how they make a decision. From the example above, we can conclude that people not only tend to compare things with one another, but also tend to focus on comparing things that are easily comparable, and avoid comparing things that cannot be compared easily.

There are so many marketing strategies applied by big companies out there. PR can also apply a similar strategy. I hope this writing will help people open their mind and discover other perspectives about how marketing can be done in different ways and that it’s not just about selling, selling, and selling. Thank you, Praxis, for this opportunity. :)

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