Motivational marketing: Same-old-same-old or B2B marketing 2.0? (Compendium)
As the topic is new, nuanced, chunky, weighty and controversial, we will be exploring what we are calling Motivational Marketing in three successive blogs. In this three part series, we will present:
- Marrying classic marketing to classic behavioral science: game-changer or more of the same?
- Case study: Motivational Marketing in action and how to achieve it
- Applications of Motivational Marketing to marketing’s thorniest problems; Responses to the devil and his advocates
As always, we genuinely look forward to your comments and questions as they will only improve everything about this new concept. (Alert readers will know I published an earlier blog on this in December, 2020 but this series is an advance. I acknowledge contributions of my colleague, Alessandra Khosa, throughout this paper).
To get started, we’ll need to step back and begin at the beginning, with marketing’s sine qua non: customer intimacy.
Customer intimacy—the holy grail of marketing
Customer intimacy -- knowing not only what your customers want but why they want it and what else they’re expecting – is the holy grail of marketing. Three broadly defined routes help determine customer intimacy: data-mining, customer and market research, and a subset of both, neuroscience. All come with proponents and detractors, plusses and minuses – too robotic, too subjective, too speculative -- and honestly rare is the marketer who correlates findings across these disciplines. If you are content with your approach and determination of customer intimacy for your business, splendid for you, you’re dismissed. If you have doubts or concerns, perhaps you’ll want to read on.
Self-determination theory—a key to unlocking customer intimacy?
Recently attempting to find richer, more predictive, customer behavioral models, we were reading broadly when serendipity brought us to Self-determination Theory (SDT). Struck by its potential for game-change in the pursuit of customer intimacy --and in the practice of b2b and b2c marketing, in general -- we provide a little background.
SDT is a discipline of behavioral science concerned with intrinsic motivations behind the choices that people make, without external influence or interference. SDT is grounded in an optimistic view of human nature, that we have a natural, inherent drive to seek out challenges and new possibilities. This drive is universal, innate and psychological, and so global and pan-cultural; the result is that we feel good – fulfilled, rewarded, alive -- when we achieve goals.
Natural, inherent drives that compel us to seek out challenges and new possibilities, our intrinsic motivations, according to SDT, lead us to initiating activities for their own sake, because they are interesting or satisfying in and of themselves. This is opposed to doing an activity to obtain an external goal or pursuing an extrinsic motivation. SDT defines three main intrinsic needs which, if satisfied, allow optimal human functioning and growth:
- Competence: we seek to control outcomes and experience mastery.
- Relatedness: we desire to interact with, be connected to, and experience caring for others, sharing with others.
- Autonomy: we desire to be the causal agent in our own life and act in harmony with our own, individual sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Parallels in pillars of western thought
SDT instantly brings to mind other pillars of western thought – notably Maslow’s classic pyramid of needs and even more fundamentally, Aristotle’s four causes and the concept of areté as put forth in the Nichomachean Ethics; correspondences with which are worthy of a separate paper. All describe hierarchies of logic, aligning reason and emotion, desire and aspiration. It is a powerful moment, however, when we also realize how SDT, a behavioral science discipline with rare commercial applications, fully aligns with the classic marketing and messaging framework called the Values Ladder. While different terms are used, nonetheless, it is clear:
- Control and performance (Values Ladder) link perfectly to competency and mastery (SDT);
- Personal and professional satisfaction (Values Ladder) highly correlate with SDT’s relatedness and human interactions;
- Pride, excellence and fulfillment (Values Ladder) are nothing if not the thrill of autonomy and volition achieved, according to SDT.
- Going forward, to signal the correlations of both disciplines and their common sources of motivations, we will identify the three categories of needs as Competence, Satisfaction and Achievement.
Going forward, to signal the correlations of both disciplines and their common sources of motivations, we will identify the three categories of needs as Competence, Satisfaction and Achievement.
Why the marriage of the Values Ladder to SDT matters:
While marketing and behavioral science have long-established, hand-in-glove relationships, specifically pairing the Values Ladder with Self-Determination Theory is unique, a first. Yes: Both share strong provenances in Western thought. Yes: correspondences of both are grounded in systematic connections of behavior, marketing, philosophy, psychology, and culture. Yet, to date, the Values Ladder is most commonly employed for message development, while SDT is most commonly applied to effecting social and behavioral change, e.g., identifying and eliminating barriers to exercising.
Now, however, the marriage of SDT with the Values Ladder reveals there is a natural bridge between hierarchies of messaging and hierarchies of needs; between customer-centricity and intrinsic customer motivations – by which we mean those motivations that would even bring customers to you on their own, so long as you insightfully prime and encourage their engagement.
Armed with this knowledge, the marketer is empowered as never before. What is possible? What is new on the horizon for marketers and marketing? As we see it, these potentials are there for the taking:
Fusing the Values Ladder with SDT and connecting customer intimacy with what’s fundamental to being human, the marketer now sees how the new marriage literally places the customer, the individual —indeed, their humanity -- at the center of everything they do. With customer intimacy, marketing’s most fundamental, even primal sine qua non, the heart of the profession, now fully in the marketer’s grasp, marketers can finally, assuredly drive customers to their brand and develop their natural inclinations towards it. Innovation does, indeed, happen at the intersection of established fields.
Additionally, with intrinsic motivations—the Competence, Satisfaction and Achievement that drive us to succeed, feel pride, conquer challenges – front and center, the marriage of the Values Ladder to SDT ensures marketers understand their customers as real people first. They know exactly what brings customers pride, joy, success, personally and/or professionally. They know what drives customers to them, what is the source of their loyalty, why they prefer you, why they refer you.
Not least, the marriage of the Values Ladder and SDT allows you to know what they want before they know it. You can empower them to access, command, react and reply to your brand --- when, how, and how much they want. This affords the marketer unprecedented control, power and surety of performance. What a great time to be a CMO!
We are calling the marriage Motivational Marketing: B2B Marketing 2.0
We are calling the marriage of the Values Ladder with SDT Motivational Marketing (MM for short). We believe MM is marketing’s next gen: B2B Marketing 2.0. Making it possible for every marketer to identify and define customer motivations in their categories; and to begin to manage these, with surety and confidence singly and/or by cross-referencing with other methods, e.g., data mining, MM will leave guess-work behind. It will change the landscape of marketing as we know it because innovation born at the specific intersections of the two disciplines means sharper, more dynamic, more empowered choices, decisions and programs. E.g.,
- Literally unmasking your customers’ and consumers’ motivations, MM will uniquely offer customer intimacy upfront as the single, unifying principle for your teams, campaigns, product development, customer loyalty, surprise and delight; everything.
- All developments and programs—from product (re-)designs to social media messages to events and online communities— every single brand touchpoint can and should be sourced from MM and aligned in terms of Competence, Satisfaction and Achievement. These should drive what you keep, shed or evolve about your brand, your marketing, your communications.
- MM should help you better focus your teams, internal and external, and empower them with purposeful direction and true customer insight.
- Here’s more beauty: MM can and should always be sui generis, bespoke and differentiating to your brand and your marketing, deriving as they do from your customers’ intrinsic needs vis à vis your brand. There are no pat answers, no standard, off-the-shelf fixes. Your marketing can and should surprise and delight your customers as you respond to their motivations, and provide them an empathetic brand with offerings that exactly suit their needs, and even anticipate their needs, for professional and personal Competence, Satisfaction and Achievement.
- Opening a window into your customers’ souls, MM will make B2B marketing way more secure, focused, exciting, sharper, even cooler. Welcome to B2B Marketing 2.0.
More work to do:
This is a lot to take in, we realize. This is a new concept, a new discipline, that needs more exploring, explaining, articulating and refining. You may very well be unconvinced. You could ask, How is this really different? Isn’t this an over-promise? I know just as much about my customers, if not more, from my own mar-tech. C’mon, isn’t this all for consumer marketing, not B2B marketing? Isn’t this really same-old, same-old market research that is, as it always has been, fraught with subjectivity?
In the next two blogs, we will show how there is a specific method to probing for intrinsic motivations and how the application to “bring results to life” can be striking, even spectacularly winning. Does this purveyor know they’re the first, documented example of Motivational Marketing in action? No, of course, not. But this just shows what is possible when a brand is in intimate contact with their customers’ intrinsic motivations and what it looks like when they bring these motivations to life.
We mean it: we would love your comments and questions.
Could it be that the most highly revered brands succeed by placing the passions, lifestyles and deeply felt needs of their customers — their intrinsic motivations and their very humanity — at the centre of all they do?
In this blog, we look at a mini-case study of 'motivational marketing in action':
- Bespoke research we created to uncover reasons behind one brand’s success.
- Overall findings from the research RE motivational marketing 2.0’s wide-ranging potential.
- Detailed, immersion exploratories into the brand and its category.
Background and purpose
In part one, we introduced the new concept of motivational marketing (MM), which is a fusion of classic marketing theory (values ladder) and classic behavioural science (self-determination theory). We argue that MM puts marketers in immediate touch with their customers’ intrinsic motivations and, therefore, provides a fail-safe source of genuine customer intimacy. As this is admittedly a big claim, we wanted to put our initial theories and hypotheses to the test.
We set out to apply the principles of MM to a consumer brand: a purveyor of high-end cycling clothes, which we shall call HighKit, which we know to enjoy strong, even passionate, international loyalty. We began with a consumer brand because we assumed (not entirely correctly) that motivations in a popular category would be easier to unpack and uncover than in B2B. New motivational research specific to B2B and professional audiences is in progress, and will be reported on in due time.
Our research pilot, which might best be described as 'MM in action,' was designed to explore these questions:
- Could the reasons for HighKit’s fandom be explained in terms of the MM’s marriage of the values ladder and self-determination theory?
- Could MM help us uncover the insights that drive people to the brand, as well as the intrinsic motivations the brand triggers, thus generating a profile of what true customer intimacy looks like?
- Could HighKit’s popularity effectively be due to their (independently) practising principles of MM? To the fact that the brand honours the passions, lifestyles and deeply-felt needs of their loyalists by placing their intrinsic motivations and their very humanity at the centre of the brand?
The second major purpose of the research had to do with the research itself. Effectively, it is a study of a study. We wanted to determine whether MM, as captured in the values ladder, could serve as the strategic framework to plan, conduct and analyse the research:
- Would the values ladder work as the overall model for structuring and planning the research, as well as for probing specific consumer motivations?
- Would this approach (one thoroughly driven by alignment with MM’s key principles as captured in the values ladder) represent something new to research, or is this really same-old-same-old?
- Could the values ladder distinguish MM research as a special discipline, requiring specific designs and techniques, to apply to future MM studies, including those in B2B?
Independent of the company, in order to avoid influence or bias, we recruited a small sample of self-declared, passionate cyclists and HighKit enthusiasts from the US, Europe and the UK: 10 English-speaking men and women, ages 35-55, participated in hour-plus, in-depth interviews via Zoom, in the autumn of 2020.
Method and research design
As MM is literally a fusion of classic marketing and classic behavioural science, research into MM, we reasoned, would need to maximally address both disciplines. Based on this hypothesis, we designed and conducted the pilot with three special considerations and assumptions in mind:
- We would need to explore brand and context in equal parts: More than a single brand exploration, MM research would require an equal and prior exploration of the context or environment in which the brand performs. Capturing the totality of the experience of brand in context, in a sort of dynamic yin/yang, would put the richest possible range of intrinsic motivations on display: aspiration, reason, joy, fear, denial, exhilaration, hope, etc. So, in this pilot, we explored the brand HighKit within the larger context of cycling, in balance roughly half and half. The passions the sport incites should literally provide the context for exploring how HighKit interconnects with cycling and the motivations and emotions it engenders in its enthusiasts.
- We would need to exploit the values ladder as a strategic framework for the research design: Our most important assumption. The values ladder, capturing both marketing and behaviour, insights and motivations, would provide the strategic framework for planning and conducting MM research, including structuring and developing the discussion guide for participant interviews. Beginning atop the values ladder, we believed we could start with an exploration of end values — the ultimate 'why?' — and proceed to probe what we’re calling the SDT’s 'motivation stack' in support: achievement and fulfillment; satisfaction and relatedness; and competence and control. We also believed we would need to do so for both brand and category, and this is exactly what we did for HighKit and for cycling in this pilot.
Through classic probing and continuing dialectics, repeatedly asking participants questions of 'why?' and 'so what?', we were confident we would enter the magic realm of genuine insights. The same process should uncover the intrinsic motivations at all levels that draw people to the category in the first place and that bind them so tightly to the brand, e.g. for helping them fulfill ambitions, for enabling their achieving success.
We would need to avoid jargon at all costs: To find the best conversational language to explore the 'motivation stack', we would need to avoid the behavioural and scientific jargon that self-determination theory constantly employs. Ingoing, we knew we could not ask people about 'competence' or 'relatedness. ' Full disclosure: a lone, quick foray into trying jargon out with our interlocutors sent us packing. One quickly pulls a hand from the flames!
Overall research findings and implications for MM 2.0 going forwards
Although it was an admittedly small pilot study, we were able to glean from it significant findings and implications for the discipline of MM and its future marketers; for the management of individual brands; and for the design of continuing MM research. As always, further research will enhance and refine these initial learnings.
For MM and marketers
- Through the discipline of MM, customer motivations and customer-centricity can be made manifest, making it possible for every marketer to identify and define their customers’ motivations in their categories; and to begin to manage these with surety and confidence, leaving guess-work behind.
- Taking motivations and customer insights forward into the company, expanding out into brand campaigns and activations and beyond, becoming immediate next steps. Making marketing more straightforward, purposeful and exciting.
- Far from being 'same-old-same-old,' MM’s marriage of the values ladder and SDT arguably does define marketing’s next generation: innovation born at the intersections of these disciplines means sharper, more dynamic, more empowered choices, decisions and programmes. What a great time to be a CMO!
For brand management
- The pilot clearly unveils what’s possible when a brand is in intimate contact with their customers’ motivations and what it looks like when they bring these motivations to life. It is indeed true: the brand that honours the passions, lifestyles and deeply-felt needs of their loyalists does place their intrinsic motivations and their very humanity at the centre of everything they do.
- Brands that are truly 'switched on' to their customers’ motivations for category choices, and that deliver them material and emotional support, are effectively 'enablers of happiness.' (Recall, according to SDT, that fulfillment of one’s “motivation stack is the source of all true happiness.) Is there any wonder any more where serious brand loyalty sources from, or why? An insight about insights.
- The values ladder does indeed work as a strategic framework and critical organiser for planning, conducting and analysing qualitative, in-depth research. Special techniques and approaches bespoke to MM research, such as those we have applied, will be required of future studies.
- For example, research designed to study a brand in the context of how consumers use it, is hugely important in MM studies as the intense richness of motivations for customer intimacy and consumer loyalty can only be seen when the brand is fully 'in action.'
Detailed findings: Cycling
The following findings track with the values ladder framework, beginning atop with the 'why?', the key insight, and proceed to SDT’s 'motivation stack': achievement and fulfillment; satisfaction and relatedness; competence and control.
The 'why?' of cycling, at the end of the day, is complicated and complex. It is a 'bone-crushing addiction'. Lung-bursting rides are usually daily, and last two to three hours each. At the end of all this, you then 'drag yourself home, legs on fire, and throw up your lunch.' Still, enthusiasts call cycling 'my life' and they routinely juggle work and family and weather extremes to pursue it.
Why ever do they do this? Deeper probing points to freedom - freedom from and freedom to. Freedom from means escape from daily work, boredom, life, ageing, weight gain, and corrective surgery. As if cycling is really escape from the devil peddling in fast pursuit behind. Freedom to, more variegated and compelling, means freedom to discover yourself in self-fulfillment and self-realisation. Cyclists set goals for themselves, post results, compete with others and themselves. They find joy in saying 'I did it', conquering the time, the hill, or the distance. Whatever challenge they put before themselves is worth all.
The ultimate insight? Cycling opens the soul to legitimate, hard-won feelings of delight and joy, to greater-self-knowledge, even to greater self-love. Contrast the struggle, pain and agony with the final release of tensions - the thrill of supreme accomplishment, and the catharsis, the literal cleansing and purification from agony to exhilaration that follows. “When I see my daughters after a ride, I cry, I feel bathed in happiness and joy,” revealed one participant. These are moments of near-religious rapture that stand out over a lifetime: 'whys' that are compelling enough to drive this extreme behaviour.
Achievement and fulfillment
Cycling perfectly accommodates our human need and nature to excel. “The biggest limits are your own imagination; when I exceed my limits, they’re seared in my mind.” There is a palpable, unmistakable thrill to cycling at this level that caps achievement alone. Said another: “I’m so proud of myself for finishing races, going fast, seeing phenomenal nature, meeting new people on rides, competing. You have to push beyond the limits of yourself and this is when exhilaration comes. Pure joy.”
Satisfaction and relatedness
Cycling provides high levels of satisfaction on individual and community levels. Solitary cycling is good for “being meditative, reflecting on things, being alone in nature.” The social aspect of cycling, an inherently a communal experience, is what drew some to cycling in the first place. Many belong to cycling clubs, some of which are women-only, as cycling is reportedly a 'macho sport.' Covid has sent many cyclists to software linking their home bikes to individual and community experiences.
Competence and control
Cycling is customisable and grows to fit individual needs for challenge and mastery. “I love the overall challenge, reaching a century (100 miles) gets in your blood, you go fast, get better, ever greater distances.” Speed is important for cyclists, and they are often practitioners of other speed-sports, like skiing and surfing, and other extreme sports like climbing and triathlons. One participant said: “I started cycling downhill to substitute snow-boarding, but then I realised uphill was a greater challenge with greater effects.”
Detailed findings: HighKit
"I absolutely love this brand,” said one participant, who offers his riding club shirts with his company’s logo alongside the HighKit logo. Top-of-mind associations with the brand confirm participants’ high regard: 'leader', 'exclusive,' 'inspiring,' 'pioneering,' 'edgy,' 'cool,' 'have made cycling cool.' While loyalists all have high praise for HighKit’s quality clothing lines, most see the company as more than a purveyor of products: “HighKit is the whole world of cycling in one place,” said another.
The reason for these glowing reports? In our view, HighKit gets cyclists! HighKit deeply understands the psyches of cyclists and delivers on all levels of why they chose to cycle in the first place. Technically speaking, HighKit seamlessly aligns their branding, marketing and communications to their users’ 'motivation stack'; their hand-in-glove co-ordination of cyclist insights with their product and service delivery is top-drawer marketing in action. User and brand are effectively mirror images, bringing to life a perfect profile of customer intimacy - and our first documented case of and for MM 2.0.*
HighKit thoroughly, profoundly understands cycling’s 'why?' While they surely know the gruelling, grinding nature of the rides, they choose to honour instead why cyclists cycle – the joy, the camaraderie, the release; the near religious power of cycling’s payoff in pleasure, thrill and exhilaration. In all their communications, HighKit features not the pain, but rather the lure of escape and freedom that cycling affords (“clean, professional imagery;” “cyclists looking attractive, going fast;” “a man and a woman in beautiful cycling gear, the moment captured of enjoyment, pleasure and fun.”
- “I hate work. When I cycle I’m free. HighKit provides me a very clear image, a door to escape to freedom and passion, a way out.”
- “You imagine you’re cycling with the right people, there is freedom, nature, it’s addictive, it’s about performance.”
HighKit captures this rapture in images that every participant found alluring, nearly spell-binding. They could feel the pull, the draw of these images that signal to them the “door to escape.”
- “HighKit made cycling iconic, beautiful, contemporary, alive.”
- “Cycling is cool, so are their clothes.”
- “They know why I cycle. They even make this clearer to me. I see why I cycle better through HighKit.”
Participants could imagine themselves in the images. They want to be those people. “I use one of their images for my computer home-screen,” said one loyalist. This is a successful marketer!
*As for HighKit and MM 2.0, as noted, we consciously conducted this survey independent of the company. We were looking to study a company we thought was 'getting things right.' Indeed, they were and now through the lens of MM, we can document why.
Achievement and fulfillment
Functionally combining design and technology in their offering; emotionally delivering empathy and understanding in their service, communities and imagery, HighKit creates a world that honours cyclists’ challenges and encourages their victories.
- “I got into HighKit’s world of beautiful images and products, it’s filled with nice people, nice dress, nice places, the dream of every cyclist. Everything is beautiful, I got hooked.”
- “Cycling is about freedom, power and strength. It’s all about yourself, your self-fulfillment and achievement, pride. HighKit helps me feel the power of sport, it gives me a sense of self.”
Cyclists feel at home and at ease with HighKit, their pride and their achievements having been acknowledged and rewarded by HighKit.
- ”HighKit has done the right marketing, the right products, the right positioning for top cyclists. They understand the nature of the cyclist, use the right words and images to reach out to us.”
- “They offer status, exclusivity in the club. Aesthetics, quality and high value for a high price. Everyone wearing HighKit clues into this.”
Satisfaction and relatedness
Cyclists feel a deeply gratifying, almost personal connection to HighKit by virtue of their customer care service (“amazing sales and service follow-up; free repair service is hugely important”) and their organising and sponsoring local riding clubs.
Customer care delivers individual satisfaction:
- “If you lose weight you get your next purchase half price if it’s a smaller size, they encourage me to lose weight.”
HighKit organises and sponsors local riding clubs via apps that offer the satisfaction and relatedness of community:
- “If you’re a member of the riding club, they do a good job of inspiring you with a newsletter with moody photos, it’s rallying. You want to come out and ride with the group.”
They believe HighKit understands them, cares about them, speaks directly to each of them, even anticipates their needs.
- “I’m a riding club member, I booked a HighKit ride when I went to LA, it was there when I needed it, like they knew I might need something like this.”
- “Once after I fell and scratched my clothes, I sent them to the repair service. Two weeks later I got my jersey back with a patch and a hand written message –from Josh – ‘this is your jersey, now go ride.’ That comment got me! I’m a HighKit customer forever. I kept that note.”
Competence and control
Everything about HighKit’s high end cycling jerseys raises cyclists’ confidence and sense of mastery. They’re practical and beautiful (“stylish, appealing colors, not ugly;” “you can stop for a coffee and feel confident, you’re not dressed like a clown”); their high design and technology (“top and beautiful”) anticipate elite cyclists’ needs for all day rides (pockets, zips for keys and cards; concentrate on ride conditions, not gear”); no Adam’s ribs, their clothes distinguish men’s and women’s shapes and sizes (“one of the first cycling brands that is flattering to women’s body shapes; not unisex.”) “The cool jerseys actually encourage me to ride more because of their design and functionality.”
Summary snapshot: Bringing it all together
This summary snapshot quickly shows how HighKit aligns to the category of cycling, and addresses each critical level of insight and motivation with a seamless, even beautiful, integration of products and services. MM2.0 not only confirms HighKit’s success, but parses and articulates exactly why and how they are successful. Having put us in touch with the intrinsic motivations of HighKit’s customers, MM2.0 has uncovered a fail-safe source of genuine customer-intimacy, which the brand continues to employ tand build out to engage, inspire and delight. Your call whether we’re on to something or not.
Is MM truly transformative, or is it simply old wine in new bottles? In part three, we examine how MM can help you tackle some of marketing’s thorniest problems (creating a motivation-based marketing plan, balancing 60/40 efficiencies, maximising your martech and tech stack) and even help you market yourself, CMO! Do you need MM to accomplish all these tasks? No, surely not. But, why not? Why not employ all the help you can get?
So, how can MM help you solve a number of your most vexing marketing problems and go on to new heights? Here are four ways:
Note: Our ongoing and parallel task is to develop a case study specific to B2B: to demonstrate MM’s applicability in this sphere and how it is similar to, and different from, B2C applications. This work is in progress.
1. Creating an overall marketing plan: Managing motivation, anticipating needs and integrating your offering all at once
Whether working alone or in cross-discipline team collaborations, as a marketer you are responsible for everything from product (re-)designs and social media messages, to events, activations and online communities. These activities are often one-offs, created in silos to put out fires or fill sales gaps with, let’s face it, less than ideal results for the resources and spend they take to create.
However, what if all your developments and programmes - every single brand touchpoint - were sourced from and aligned with your motivation stack? What if everything you initiated emanated from intimacy with your customers, facilitating their core needs for achievement and fulfillment, satisfaction and connections, competence and control?
We have only to recall HighKit’s shining example of what it means to put motivations and desires at the centre of your brand, driving all you do to develop and support this. HighKit brought their intimacy with cyclists into the brand’s total offering, seamlessly interweaving this into product design, community support, communications campaigns, etc; all with HighKit’s deep understanding of the intense emotions cyclists crave at their core.
So, what would MM mean for you? How might MM work for you in your marketing planning? Imagine this scenario:
- Customer intimacy should serve to organise and unite your entire organisation. It should drive what you keep, remove or change about your brand, marketing and communications. It should help you focus better on your teams, both internal and external, and empower them with purposeful direction and true customer insight. It should help you get out in front with communications campaigns (think back to HighKit) that demonstrate how you’ve been anticipating your customers’ needs already for some time.
- Facilitating their achievement and self-fulfilment, admittedly a tricky dimension, speaks to how you inspire customers and keep them focused and excited. This covers everything from push emails to providing forums to share successes among peers - recall HighKit’s motivating emails and the Strava reporting app.
- The empathy you demonstrate towards your customers’ professional and consumers’ personal satisfaction, whether individually or collectively, speaks to how you orchestrate everything from your brand personality, advertising, events and communications to community groups, such as HighKit’s much-appreciated community app.
- Discussions of performance and competency will have direct implications, such as on design and content (both current and future) of your products and services. HighKit’s jersey designs that promote their cyclists’ competence is a mini-case study on point.
Same old, same old? Or something new?
There is, of course, nothing new about creating an annual marketing plan. What is new, however, is the nature of the drivers that MM offers: intimacy and insights into your customers’ motivations as the unifying, coordinating principle of your marketing plan. How powerful, how different is this from the focus of most marketing plans? What other drivers allow you to manage motivations, anticipate needs and integrate your offering all at once? If MM isn’t mission critical, it is arguably a route to something more dynamic, engaging and compelling for your loyalists, and loyalists to be.
2. Balancing efficiency in 60/40
In Effectiveness in Context, Les Binet and Peter Field recommend a 60/40 balance (50/50 for B2B) of long-term brand building and short-term sales activation. The aim of this is to achieve maximum growth and loyalty. As Field states: “the trick is to find a powerful, emotional insight that is relevant in the category and execute it in an unexpected way.” With your motivation stack at the centre of all you do, defining the 60/40, or 50/50, balance of brand and activation campaigns may potentially be more ground-breaking, business-building and differentiating!
- The new goal: To employ your motivation stack as the unique model for fully integrated brand and activation campaigns. Take your motivation stack forward into long-term brand campaigns that are grounded in customer intimacy (in other words, your ‘why’). Take your stack into short-term activation campaigns that engage customer needs for achievement, satisfaction and competence. Together, this deployment simultaneously empowers customers’ self-motivation and self-determination.
- The new normal: All developments, programs (brand, social media messages, events, and activations) and every single brand touchpoint is sourced from and aligned with your motivation stack. See it as a musical scale that you play up and down in continuous harmony.
- The new media reality: Instead of a stand-off between short vs. long-term media, play to their individual strengths and make them more seamless. Use digital media that’s well suited to activation campaigns to trigger intrinsic motivations. Use traditional media, TV, radio and print, to create long-term memories. With the motivation stack as the common thread throughout, think of your media as one campaign, one unified experience, one face to your consumers and customers. Each element amplifies aspects of your brand in harmony and synergy with the others.
However you choose to balance your 60/40, or 50/50, or even if you don’t, we believe MM brings specific benefits to this task.
As the one template for your brand and activation campaigns, unifying long-term and short-term activities, your motivation stack will act as a strategic roadmap for all marketing and communications. It will integrate, amplify and reinforce messages and bridge media. It will fix common problems of data-driven campaigns alone, wherein brand development is often lacking and wherein digital commerce marketing is often data-rich but insight and action poor: questions of ‘who’ and ‘why’ are missing vs. ‘when’ and ‘what’ customers buy. This leaves ‘how’ and ‘where’ you prioritise campaigns unanswered.
Motivations will drive messaging
Your motivation stack will also ensure that your customers’ motivations (bespoke, unifying principles for your brand) will drive brand messaging and development as well as the types of activations you employ and the select media platforms you choose to prompt their behavior.
Creative campaigns will be unique to your brand, your customers
Your creative campaigns will always be unique to your brand and marketing all while stemming from customers’ needs vis-à-vis your brand. Herein lies the beauty. There are no straightforward answers. No standard, off-the-shelf fixes. Brand and activation campaigns can and should surprise and delight your current and potential customers as you respond to their motivations. You can be an empathetic brand with offerings that suit, or even anticipate, customer needs for professional and personal competence, satisfaction and achievement.
Operational insights will help refine motivations, drive business and growth
Once enacted, interactions with both brand and activations will provide operational insights to refine your understanding of customer motivations. You should be looking at what drives in-market mentalities, shortens conversions and allows you to see what activities best trigger these. ROI should tie directly into the best trigger-combinations for creating conversions (Binet and Field offer a number of brand examples such that exemplify effective marketing that leads to business growth). In an ideal future, they will be able to include all activity, brand and activation in a fully integrated way that drives even larger growth.
3. Maximising martech and the tech stack
The adoption of martech has become an essential aspect of marketing. That being said, according to the survey, Four Keys to Getting More from Your Martech (January, 2019), marketers are unhappy with the business outcomes and ROI of their martech investments: 40% of marketers declare they are “not happy” with their martech and 75% think they are only utilising 60% of their martech potential.
The survey cites multiple reasons for martech’s under-utilisation and lack of full exploitation such as:
- The complexity and (in)compatibility of martech offerings. There are reportedly over 7,000 suppliers, with 91 being the average number of tech stack suppliers per large client.
- A lack of strategic readiness among marketers and their teams to make the most of their martech.
- The focus on technology rather than the human element - people, customers and consumers.
The result is a great deal of confusion: do we have the right data? Are we tracking the right customers? How should we maximise the content we have? As the study concludes: “marketing must prioritise the human aspect to drive long-term outcomes. To achieve the full potential of what technology can enable, it has to be based on the reality of what customers want and what users can do with it. Marketing must become ‘disruptively human’ and understand the full range of rational and emotional variables as the customer sees and describes them.”
Our experience: Marketing (human side) and martech (data side) rarely interact and obvious connections go unforged
It was a pause-inducing moment when we asked practitioners if they ever do consumer or customer research to augment their technology, that we were told, “No, we have not experienced this sequencing.” Added another: “After 20 years of this tech going on, nobody has a blank piece of paper, although the reality is people jump to solutions without thinking what it is they want out of it.”
In spite of the fact that MM and the motivation stack are entirely geared to uncover “the reality of what customers want”; in spite of the fact that we speak exactly the same language of customer journeys, insights, reason and emotion, personalization, content and experience; in spite of the fact that we aim to uncover the same intimacy and create the same marketing and communications results, obvious connections have not been forged.
The opportunity for innovation to emerge from the intersection of established fields has sadly, until now, gone missing.
Let’s resolve to take the mystery out of martech and put humanity back in!
Recall again key learnings from the HighKit case: MM allows you to honor the passions, the lifestyles, the deeply-felt needs of your consumers by putting their motivations, their very humanity, at the center of your brand. MM makes it possible for every marketer to identify and define customer motivations in their categories. AND, to begin to manage these, with surety and confidence, leaving guess-work behind.
We have previously argued that branding and martech should become BFFs. To expand further, our full recommendation is that MM and your motivation stack should precede, keep pace with and help direct the creation and evolution of your martech stack. Surprised? These are the steps we strongly suggest:
- Conduct MM prior to building a martech stack and continue to apply learnings throughout the process as you attempt to erect a stack that gets you closer and closer to your customer’s wants and needs. Use results from MM and your motivation stack as a template to better design, refine and create personalized content for your systems. As customers declare they want richer experiences and more personalization, for example, MM and the motivation stack are the perfect, ready source.
- Use the data you collect to loop back and advance your qualitative and quantitative understanding of your customers - use it as a means to provide depth of insights, enhance journeys and confirm hypotheses.
- Create the customer-centric scenario that is possible for your brand with both your “stacks” - motivation and martech - working in parallel, in tandem, as mirror images or straw men, together in dialogue and in counterpoint with each other.
- Finally, stop relying on tech alone for a human experience! As the buying experience becomes ever more customer-led, be open to the differentiating and business-building power of MM that puts the human element within your immediate grasp.
Do you absolutely need MM to build your martech stack? Surely not. But why not? Creating and curating robust martech remains a huge challenge, so why not employ all the help you can get? Has moving forward on this ever been clearer?
4. Marketing yourself, CMO
B2B Marketing recently published a survey on the evolving role of the CMO. The survey confirms the essentialness for CMOs to be, among a growing list of other things, customer-centric. Given the fact that this is a common challenge that all CMOs face regardless of category or market, we are confident in saying that the discipline of MM is guaranteed to help the CMO meet and overcome these identified, professional challenges. MM will:
- Help you get the c-suite’s attention.
- Promote cross-functionality and integration vs. silos.
- Provide a solid CRM platform and the martech stack that builds on it.
- Provide ever more personalised connections.
- Help you and your marketing team make these big, seismic shifts:
The reality: daily, manifold obstacles that get in the way of marketers being fully customer-centric
Let’s face it, the marketer’s role, and the responsibility of the CMO, have never been more in flux or under pressure. The marketing role has been morphing fast for well over a decade, with an emphasis on analytics, ecommerce, marketing logistics, technology strategy and adaptation. New roles have emerged in the c-suite –growth, digital, experience and customer officers – which prevent the CMO from acting as the single voice of the customer and conductor of brand experience. As CMOs continue to have the shortest tenure of those in the c-suite, there is little incentive for them to consider anything beyond immediate successes.
On top of this, traditional partners are struggling to contribute. Agency partners are admittedly staffed with younger, less experienced people, as if those 40+ can’t understand social media. Activation agencies struggle to achieve more than tactical reputations. Research houses, trying to find their real role, have even taken to offering ad campaigns.
All things being equal, do you even have the tools and resources to become customer-centric?
In the midst of this confusion, ask yourself, CMO, do you do daily battle without two of the most fundamental, profound and important arrows in your quiver: true customer intimacy and a grasp of your audiences’ intrinsic motivations?
Without both, however, it is impossible to comprehend what drives customers to your brand or to develop their natural inclinations towards it. Perhaps data, traditional research or even neuroscience can provide you this information? If so then you’re home free. But if not, or if not with the rigor, certitude and robustness you’d like, could you use some support and assistance? Could you use a serious dose of MM in your professional life?
In both this blog and the previous two, we have presented MM as a science-based solution available immediately at hand during a myriad of marketing urgencies. But this is where it gets personal. From the outset we have said it’s your call what MM is: is it new magic spun from traditional, classical marketing? Something that helps you both personally and professionally on a daily basis? Or is MM simply old wine in new bottles? Hardly a re-charged, advanced approach to marketing and certainly no B2B Marketing 2.0.
To put these questions in some final perspective, let’s step back for a few reflections and cast our sites forward to horizons not yet realized.
Final reflections and conclusions
MM begins innocently enough: a conversation where you get to know your customers, your consumers as people and what makes them tick. In the HighKit case, we first explored why cycling is so important to customers: how does cycling fulfill, challenge and delight them as individuals?
From this point we proceeded to ask how and why HighKit is customers’ go-to brand. The answer quickly became abundantly clear: it hits every motivational high note. Notably, in its evocative, insight-driven imagery, HighKit seems to reach into and stir their very souls as it beckons them to get up and ride their bikes. For any brand so confidently, and yet so elegantly, attuned to their consumers’ humanity, it is as if further implications, the next campaigns, creations and applications are close to hand, merely awaiting discovery.
A natural arc from insights to pure business development
We are well aware there is much planning and hard work to be done. But there is a natural arc, a consequent flow from insights and motivations to all things large and small about your business: product and service design, brand development, team spirit, social media messages, events, and communities. The trajectory continues towards a perfectly balanced and integrated 60/40 mix and finally to a more humanized martech stack.
Ask yourself, what aspect of your business wouldn’t be enhanced by engaging with and delivering on your customers’ intrinsic motivations? What could possibly be off-limits?
Having delved deep into the insights, you should emerge with your customer’s truth. From this point, you can build upwards and outwards. As one of our cyclist interlocutors reminded us, “the only limits are your imagination. And if you exceed your limits, the results will be seared in your mind.”
So, we ask you, marketer, to use your imagination. Go beyond your limits and scroll forward to a new horizon waiting for you.
Imagine, marketer, that you have enabled your consumers and customers to make their own choices about your brand offering. It’s not about herding them or driving them as much as encouraging them by knowing what they want before even they do. They easily access you across channels most convenient to them, whenever they want to, or need to refer to you. They have a personal relationship with you, almost as if with a friend, as they feel you genuinely understand them, talk immediately to them and care about them.
Pipe dream or possibility?
All this is genuinely possible, but it will not just happen on its own. It will depend on what we believe is the new discipline of MM, and it will bring with it these five permanent changes, which we borrow and adapt from Momentum:
- It won’t be called marketing, but rather motivational marketing, marketing 2.0. or even just MM - a transformed, empowered and empowering form of marketing.
- It will be customer, buyer and brand-focused, not tech, sales or product-focused. It will be human to the core.
- It will blend automation, data and human insight. The motivation stack will drive the tech stack and the two stacks shall advance together.
- It will be holistic, multi-channel and multi-tactic, long and short-term, united start to finish by MM and the motivation stack.
- It will be deeply personalised, real-time and relatable, as MM offers you a level of customer intimacy that you’ve not previously experienced. Your consumers’ very humanity has just become your profession’s new ‘roots and wings.’
It's still your call, but I know where I’m standing.
We end on a note that applies to all marketing, whether it be B2B or B2C from Steve Jobs: “get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves.” Although we are aware his preferred route to achieve this so-called clairvoyance was famously not through qualitative research, we fully believe he would approve of our outcomes.