Make 'em Buy or Make 'em Miserable!
by Mike Banks Valentine
This weekend I watched a program on television called - I kid
you not - "Buyology". This show is about marketing and sales
of products in the free world. I found the show utterly and
completely fascinating -- not because I'm a web marketer, but
because it seemed entirely like science fiction, or just
It seems there are people out there who spend their workdays
studying "consumer behavior" and how to influence that behavior
without our conscious participation and knowledge! As a search
engine optimizer, my job is to make small business web sites
rank well in search results at the major search engines. The
goal of that activity is to attract online buyers of my clients'
products to their web site. Fortunately, that's where my job
ends and the web site takes over. I generate traffic and the
site supposedly generates sales.
In the real world though, there are people dedicating their
professional lives to making certain that consumers not only
purchase specific brands, but fall in love with those brands,
entice them to buy those brands next time, and indeed to feel
they can't survive without those products! The program showed
a "marketing anthropologist" following a woman through the
grocery store observing her buying habits and asking questions
about the purchases made.
This woman bought Cascade dishwashing detergent exclusively in
a specific size package. When she discovered that size of the
product missing from the shelf in the supermarket, she couldn't
bring herself to buy the larger box, or -- GASP! -- to switch
brands so she could get that same size box! Asked why, she said,
"I've always bought that brand in that size, I grew up with it!"
This is the ultimate customer as long as Cascade doesn't change
the size of that box or alter their packaging. Maybe it's a guy
thing, but I honestly don't get it! SudsyDish liquid works too.
Now I'll be the first to recommend changes to a web site if I
believe it unlikely to sell products once I generate sufficient
traffic for a client because the "buy now" button is misplaced
or because the site seems unprofessional. Thank goodness though
that I don't find myself studying consumer behavior to determine
brand awareness or loyalty! I admit that server log files and
traffic analysis software serve similar purposes online and can
be used to determine visitor paths through the site and tell how
they searched keywords to make their way to a client web site.
CRM software makes similar attempts to categorize and study
consumer behavior but I find it creepy that there are consumer
spies viewing my shopping behavior in the department store via
security cameras as the Buyology TV program showed me. Session
cookies do the same thing online but I can tell my browser not
to accept them. My favorite online humor site is called
futurefeedforward and they offered a wonderful column this
week, "Wal-mart Tags Shoppers with Subcutaneous Cookies" from
the year 2009. View the story at http://futurefeedforward.com
There's another article, "Ad Pox Cured by Branded Products"
at FutureFeedForward that suggests a solution for branded
product loyalty guarantees. Consumers will become ill if they
can't get their beloved brands and are rapidly cured once the
product is purchased again. In other words, "Make Them Buy It
or Make Them Miserable!" This comes to us in the year 2064.
Gaining search engine visibility for small business web sites
seems so much nobler, (ahem!) than selling cigarettes to teens
with cartoony camels and determining consumer behavior while
spying on them with video cameras in the isles of supermarkets.
I think we actually enjoy far more privacy online than we do
in the real world. My job is to get people to visit client
web sites. I'll leave it to the consumer anthropologists to
figure out how to make them buy once they get there. Sheesh!
Mike Valentine does Search Engine Placement for the Small
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