Consumers are Selfish and deservedly so, Because they have Money

Consumers are the “Most Selfish animals on the Planet” and deservedly so, because they have money and a willingness to buy.  As marketers, we need to  satisfy those selfish needs better than anyone else can.   We need to make them love our brand more than they love any competitors’ brand.  With that tight and deep emotional connection, it will make our brand more powerful and drive value for that brand.

“By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.”

Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand

People have always ask me “why do we need to bother making sure that the consumer loves the work we do?  Isn’t it more realistic that we just get them to like it?”   My answer is that “if you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand?”   Consumers are incredibly selfish and deservedly so, they are stuck on their current favourites and can’t imagine anything better, they have no time in their lives to hear your sales pitch, yet in contrast they are bored out of their minds, desperately wanting something new in their life.  As marketers, selfishness is a good thing, because it just makes it more obvious the need we are trying to satisfy.  So give them something they’ll love, not just something that they’ll “kinda like”.

When a consumer walks into a mall, the selfishness hits its peak.   They have money and motivation and so many needs they don’t even know where to start, constrained only by how much room they have on their credit card.  They are forced to make choices between needs and between brands that might satisfy those needs.  They put themselves and their needs as their #1 priority.   Until they find exactly what they want, they are blinded by desire, willing to be fussy and demanding.  Satisfying the Consumer Selfishness starts with understanding the needs of your consumers and then matching those needs up to what your brand does best (see below for the zone marked with the green check mark).   Once you find this winning zone, you need to make it seem even bigger.   Most purchase decisions are 50% rational and 50% emotional, yet marketers get stuck by putting only the most boring undisputable facts into their sales pitch.  That won’t be enough to satisfy the most selfish.   Instead, winning brands find a way to dial it up by driving into the deeper emotional need states, so the immediate connection starts off in a deeper zone.

Losing brands try to go head to head where your competitor can satisfy that need better than you can.  (see the zone marked by the red X)  The zone where both your brand and the competitor can satisfy that consumer in an equal zone, you need to find something where you do it better–execution, attention to detail or going the extra mile to satify that selfish consumer.  Here, execution matters more than anything–so you better love the work you do.

Consumers have a love of their favourite things.   Whether it’s their favourite coffee they get on the way to work every day, their favourite running shoes that let them run faster or their favourite restaurant where the waiter knows what they want.  Consumers move along a Love Curve, going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally Brand for Life, where it becomes fully embedded in the heart of the consumer—demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings.  Consumers become outspoken fans of the brand, ready to speak on the virtues or defend it from attack.   All marketers should push their brands along the love curve, leveraging that deeper connection with consumers to become a more powerful brand.

Consumers are busier than ever, making it harder than ever to break through.   Whether it’s working late, trying to balance everything or doing too much, they have so little time.   People are multi-tasking, texting while driving or on the TV while watching TV—which is up 35% this year.  Traditional ways with a 30 second ad and a billboard aren’t having the same effect in today’s world.  The average consumer is exposed to over 6,000 advertising message per day.  The consumers’ brain sorts through the clutter until finds something that might fill their needs.  Imagine your boring logical message, well thought and all, breaking through to that consumer.  Even with the fast paced life, most consumers are bored with life and just want something to entice them.   The simplest way to challenge boredom is to like everything you do unconditionally, but if this bored consumer meets up with a boring brand, it will be rejected very quickly.

Marketers Play It Far Too Safe to Find True Love.   Brand Leaders choose the safety of logic and facts instead of getting too deep or going all emotional with their consumer.  And, most brands end up liked but never end loved.   My Mom Wanted Me to Be an Actuary.  Apparently, an Actuary has one of the longest life expectancies, can make quite a bit of money and they live the ideal work-life balance.  Sounds like the perfect job, but I just couldn’t do it.   What’s lacking in the life of an actuary is the ability to have fun at work or drive all your passion into your work to create something big.   You can make a real difference.   So if you’re not going to be an Actuary…then stop acting like one when you’re the Brand Leader.  We can’t afford to keep doing just the usual, we can’t get stuck in logic and we can’t just satisfy needs.   We need to push to go beyond greatness at every touch point with our selfish and bored consumers.  We need to cultivate a deep emotional relationship with our consumer and we need to entice craving and desire.

Here’s my simple challenge for you:  If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect the consumer to love your Brand.

About Graham Robertson:  I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do.   My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  I do executive training of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability.

Graham Robertson

Graham Robertson is one of the voices of the modern brand leader. He started Beloved Brands, knowing he could make brands better and brand leaders better. Graham believes passion matters in marketing, because the more loved a brand is by consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand will be. Graham spent 20 years in brand management leading some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, General Mills and Coke, rising through the ranks up to VP Marketing. Graham played a major role in helping Pfizer win Marketing Magazine’s Marketer of the Year award. He has an MBA from the Ivey Business School, ranked the #1 International business school by Business Week. As a Brand Coach, he can help you create a winning positioning statement for your brand, write a brand plan everyone can follow, find advertising that drives growth and train your team of Brand Leaders on everything marketing. The client roster for Beloved Brands includes the NFL Players Association, Reebok, Pfizer Capital One, 3M, Sun Products and Earls. Graham’s weekly blog ( has a vast following with over 3 million views, and his public speaking appearances inspire brand leaders to love what they do.

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