Selling the Wireless Dream – it pays to create problems!

‘Wireless’ has become the buzzword of today, no longer causing us to think of our favorite radio shows, but instead to focus upon the freedom and convenience that new wireless technology can provide. This change in concept is largely due to the skill of the marketers who have dedicated themselves to finding the best way possible to sell the wireless dream to the consumer. What they have discovered, through trial and error, is that the people who most wanted wireless solutions in their lives needed to be told that they wanted them and that a description of what the technology could do was, to many, useless unless put into an everyday lifestyle context.


It’s important to bear in mind that one of the key aspects of consumer psychology lies in the decision-making process. This comes about as an attempt to ‘solve problems’. A problem, in the consumer psychology sense, can be described as “a need or desire that is, as yet, unfulfilled.” For example, a businesswoman may want to reach her office in under thirty minutes by car, but is subject to constant traffic delays which slow her down. In this instance, a service that could offer a personalized daily route planner to steer her clear of any traffic hold-ups would be of particular value, as it would fulfill a need by solving her particular problem.


Clever marketers will manipulate consumer needs to create problems that ultimately lead to increased sales. Understanding the mechanics of how problems manifest themselves is important in understanding the process of how this manipulation works.


Problems can be major or minor. Major problems such as unemployment have an impact upon minor problems and push them into the background. This, of course, means that unforeseen changes to the economy can consequently have a huge knock-on effect upon product sales, no matter how many consumer problems they may appear to solve during times of economic growth.


Consumers will often create their own problems by drawing internal comparisons upon what their life is and what they want it to be. Discrepancies will undoubtedly be found in some areas and, once the consumer has pinpointed these, a psychological balancing act will take place to determine whether the weight or difference is great enough to justify action being taken. If justification is made, then either consciously or unconsciously the consumer will begin to search for solutions, usually in the form of a product or service.


There are two primary types of problems in consumer psychology: active and inactive (Gratton, 2004).   An active problem is one that requires immediate attention; for example, you have a toothache and you need to relieve the pain without delay. With an inactive problem on the other hand, the consumer may not be aware that their situation is indeed a problem; for example, they may not realize that they could double their modem speed by using a particular plug-in device.


Maslow taught us through his hierarchy of needs theory that active problems follow a strict order of internal significance. In other words, once we have satisfied our primary instinctive need for food, warmth and shelter, our psyche is free to attain higher levels of satisfaction such as those relating to self-esteem and a sense of belonging. The search for attainment of these higher-level needs initially falls into our category of inactive problems, as they are not considered a necessary part of our internal life-style model and exist, for the most part, on a subconscious level. Necessity is born only when our inactive needs are stimulated and enhanced by both our external and internal perception of the world around us. Our search for fulfillment of these needs then becomes an active problem when their characteristics become seen as necessary to our life-style.


Furthermore, active problems are often effectively stimulated and reinforced by marketers in their drive to provide prospective purchasers with the perfect lifestyle-model, that is, a glimpse into the perfect lifestyle where the attributes of your product are seen to be key to finding a better way of life. The power of the life-style model lies in its subconscious link to the feelings of fulfillment and acceptance being sought by the consumer. Good technology marketers know that inactive problems are the ones most commonly used to introduce new products into the marketplace. Indeed, the marketer will often create a problem for the consumer that is initially inactive, but then gradually grows in significance to the consumer through repeated media exposure routes, until it becomes an active problem that requires immediate attention.


Find out more by reading my book ‘Marketing Wireless Products’. The book comprehensively explains how, by fully understanding consumer lifestyle elements, we can help to build an effective bridge between product development and on-shelf success.


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