A Parable of Consumer Decisions

by John Cloonan | Oct 4, 2021 | Behind the scenes, Blog

Have I ever told you my story about the consumer decision process? It’s not as dry as it sounds, although this is copied directly from my lecture notes. Settle in as I tell you the tale of the newly hygienic. 

Picture it: it’s a hot summer day, and I’ve been working outside all day, and I didn’t bathe this morning. I recognize that I have a problem – I smell funky, and I need to wash myself.  

I realize that I don’t have any soap, so I also recognize that I need some soap to wash off the funk. I do a little search for information. I think about the kinds of soap I’ve used before in my head. That’s an internal search. I flip through a magazine and look for soap ads. That’s an external search.  

Using the information I’ve gathered, I evaluate my alternatives, in this case probably while standing in front of the soap display in my local grocer. Then I buy soap. Hopefully, I bathe.  

Now what else might influence my decision process? Social factors like culture, social class, what other people think, what my family thinks. Maybe my mom always bought Ivory. Maybe I have an unexplained attraction to Irish Spring because I’m Irish. 

Situational factors – maybe I’m not buying the soap to wash my body with, or not for right now, so I might need soap that stores well. Maybe there’s a sale, or an in-store coupon. If I go with a friend, I might buy the new trendy soap rather than the Ivory my mom faithfully bought every month. Individual differences – maybe my personality leads me to buy a certain soap, or my lifestyle requires that I buy only bath-sized soap. Maybe I’m motivated more by scent than easy-rinsing or cleanliness. 

Outcomes – this soap-buying experience was influenced by prior soap-buying experiences and will influence future soap-buying behavior. I may learn that a certain type of soap while appearing to clean, just masks my funk. I may be dissatisfied and complain (Take note – a good marketing plan can turn complaints into opportunity). Even if I believe that Ivory is the best soap ever made, yet run into the fact that it just doesn’t clean that well, it can create an uncomfortable feeling between knowledge and belief.  

Who will I choose? Only time will tell. But this recently bathed man can tell you that all of these steps are integral to the consumer decision process. Make sure you’re tackling each one so your “soap” comes out on top. 

Marketing Guy & Strategic Polymath | Website | + posts

John’s the founder of Audacity Marketing. When he’s not racing motorcycles, he’s building marketing strategies for Audacity clients and anyone else who’ll listen.

John’s worn all the marketing hats, from consultant to agency owner to executive to university professor. He’s held leadership roles in industries from staffing to behavioral health to capital-C consulting. He’s branded or rebranded over 100 companies.

John buttresses 25+ years in marketing with an MBA from Georgia State University.

John lives with his girlfriend Suzanne, his dog Seamus, and his daughter Annie when she shows up from college.