Brain Chatter: Getting To Know Customers' Fears and Beliefs

March 9, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai, Content Editor

Yes, that is a blurry slide photo from a keynote. But just focus on the words. 

"We are preconditioned to stay above the surface."  

At this year's Dx3 event in downtown Toronto, The Tite Report attended the Why We Buy: Behaviour is the Science keynote presented by MotivIndex and Estee Lauder's SVP of Conceptual Innovation Robin Albin.  

Whether it's selling food or creating content, the question that stumps a lot of people is, "what do the customers want?" 

MotivIndex, a consumer research company focusing on ethnographic research, suggests that there are four layers to this kind of insight: 

1. Behaviour: the concrete action taken by a customer. 

2. Alibi: the rational justification for buying. 

3. Fear: any insecurities, feelings of FOMO or consequences of buying. 

4. Belief: the lens in which customers view the world and its categories. 

Now go ahead and draw a line in between numbers two and three - this is that surface we mentioned before. 

It's super easy to answer one and two. In fact, these are often self-reported pieces of info. You barely need to break a sweat to get this information about consumers, phew. 

But as you begin to dive beneath the surface you start to get into murkier waters. We guarantee you'll want to keep your eyes open for this part. This is the part that will help you solve the right problem for customers, hopefully before they even know that they need it solved. 

This is why: 

Fear and belief are the two things that tap into a customer's sense of self.

Where do they fit into society's groups and what do they aspire to be through the things that they buy?

People can't be clustered. As much as brands would like to target 'millennials', 24-year-old Sara from the city is going to be different from 26-year-old Hank from the city's burbs. 

According to Albin, these are the types of mistakes that make brands falter in launching successful products. 

"Focus groups are an artificial construct."

People are way more complex than the targeted groups we like to fit them into. If anything, when we do that, we're only feeding our confirmation bias - or in other words, our tendency to go for the info that supports our existing thoughts. When we do this, we don't gain any real insight into the "why" of what people do. But that's where the money is.

Thinking twice about your consumer group now? Here are some tips: 

1. Find the right problem to solve.
Sometimes we go for the obvious problem, like "customers don't have time anymore." That's basic. Take that as an entry point to dig deeper. 

2. People buy based on emotions, not logic. 
We'd all like to think we are logical beings, but really emotions are the stronger pull. Tap into that.

3. That said, those feelings and beliefs don't always last forever. 
Think about it: do people stay the same forever? No! Aspects of their lives change and then so do their needs. Be nimble enough to go with the ebbs and flows. 

4. Look for the breadcrumbs. 
Not everything is a glaring sign and it's not all about big data. Sometimes it's the little clues and hints along the way that are the biggest indicators. 

So don't be afraid to go beneath that surface. The stories and reasons that exist in that space are far more telling than your average consumer report. 


Dx3 continues in Toronto until March 9. If you want to keep digging beneath the surface, check out more info on the Dx3 schedule page.

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