Why motivation still matters

SaintsteveI have particularly enjoyed the Fast Company piece which identifies the 2012 battleground: Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon. They are on a collision course with one another. What makes this confrontation so interesting is that all have a phenomenal reputation in their core markets. They all have ready access to investment – and may even be sitting on piles of cash. But the fight is going to be about customer data which all have found ways to harvest and repackage. It is curious working in a market research agency every day when such audacious land grabs are under way. Is the writing on the wall for research? Well no it isn’t. You see however much data you have about human behaviour. And however brilliantly you data-crunch networks of human relationships, nothing replaces simple motivation. What human beings think they are doing. Confused, conflicted, in denial or clear headed, customers need to tell us what is going on in their lives. Without which marketers are working blind. Bear in mind that most of the social network content which is claimed to reveal motives is actually advertising – personal advertising. People are selectively presenting certain facets of themselves. Their data trails don’t tell you why they did what they did. Or what they plan to do next. I don’t deny that all four of these companies offer huge opportunities for targeting and tracking. But the challenge for marketers is how much of the budgets to spend on insight generation. Data trawling at whatever scale doesn’t compete with simple motivational research.  Interesting isn’t it how so many of the tributes to Steve Jobs focussed on what motivated him rather than what he achieved?

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