Mind the Gap Between Aspiration and Behavior

Mind the Gap Between Aspiration and Behavior

If you don’t know the behavior driving velocities off the shelf, you can’t really optimize marketing, promotions, channel strategy or much of your 4P playbook.

As I write in Ramping Your Brand, most of your revenue as a CPG brand, especially as an early-stage one is coming from a minority of your consumers.

These are your frequently repeating customers, anywhere from weekly to monthly. They aren’t necessarily a completely unified tribe, but often you can find occupational or lifestyle groups that wildly over-index as fans…for explainable reasons.

These reasons boil down to values-driven behavioral impulses that make your brand appealing to routine use…or not…

Values that drive CPG brand selection and habituation are mostly subconscious values. Things like gender socialization, class orientation, deep-seated, culturally inculcated anxieties around weight, nutrition, etc.

They are not what we tweet-fight about online. Social media posturing relies on ideologies, consciously held moral and spiritual ideals that are very hard to enact, hence the need to constantly exhort everyone to do them all the time. Think church. Ideologies decay quickly into hypocrisy and corruption. Then we’re left with the actual, unconscious values that no one is really discussing. Or, by inversion, they’re discussing the aspirational opposite of what our deep-seated values really are.

Whether you like it or not, your brand will live on a continuum from lofty aspiration to totally subconscious, normative values. Your symbolism will largely govern where you sit. But your marketing can nudge you around as well.

Aspiration is a very dangerous place to anchor your brand in, especially fi the loftiness of them is stratospheric.

Why? Well, many of us pretend to have aspirations we don’t actually act consistently on and, in some cases, we are so deluding ourselves, we will never even attempt to fulfill said aspiration. Think gender equality in the workplace. We’re fighting about it precisely because what is subconsciously driving behavior currently is male dominance, not gender equality in the workplace.

Look, America is one of the most fantasy-ridden societies on Earth. We consume more media per capita than anywhere else on Earth as well. We spread more conspiracy theories per capita than anywhere else either.

It is a byproduct of a hyper-individualistic culture that is ideal for selling innovation that undercuts tradition, established habits, established brands, etc.

Knowing which values consumers are more likely to act on in your category helps you understand the values to tap into with product design and marketing. And it allows you to ignore the ideological aspirations that only drive the behavior of very tiny niches consistently. Regenerative agriculture is a great example of a noble ideal that consumers will never seriously be able to act in during the weekly process of purchasing hundreds of CPG categories. No certification label will make it any easier.

If you want more on this topic, please listen to the latest episode of Startup Confidential.

Dr. James Richardson

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