In my work as a marketing consultant, I run into two types of clients: little-vision companies and big-vision companies. Little-vision companies want market research and advice that is tactically oriented. They have immediate marketing problems and need information to help them make tactical decisions related to product, pricing, advertising, distribution, and sales. Their focus is on the next quarter, or the next six months, or the next year. While they are caught in the day-to-day struggles of running a business, they will achieve only incremental improvements taking a little-vision approach. There is nothing wrong with incremental improvements. Every company can use incremental gains, but the marketing problems and challenges faced today are insignificant when compared with the challenges companies will confront in the future, especially if they maintain a little-vision approach to marketing. Ultimately, little-vision companies end up chasing their customers, trying desperately to keep up with them as they change, shift, and evolve.

Big-vision companies, on the other hand, are looking two, three, or five years out. They understand that tactics follow strategy. They know they have to have a strategic vision so they can create their future. Big-vision companies are not stuck on tactics or paralyzed by uncertainties. Their foresight yields exponential growth. By understanding why people buy, they can anticipate the shifts and bends in the consumer market. Hockey player Wayne Gretzky, when asked what made him play better than anyone else, responded that the other players skated to where the puck was, but that he skated to where the puck was going. This is a metaphor of how big-vision companies operate. They anticipate where their customers are going to be in the future and are waiting for consumers when they get there.

By understanding why people buy, they can anticipate the shifts and bends in the consumer market.

Only big-vision companies can successfully implement brand building and strategy. Little-vision companies define their brands too narrowly and too specifically for the here and now. In comparison, big-vision companies take a long-term view of the brand and its customers. Therefore, they create a brand strategy that is encompassing, timeless, and emotionally compelling. Big-vision companies understand that why people buy remains stable over time, and it is the secret to understanding consumer behavior today as well as how it will change in the future. Little-vision companies ignore completely the why, but instead focus only on consumer behavior—the who, what, where, how, when, and how much. Consequently, they will forever be second-guessing consumers and trying to catch up to them. Figure 10.1 outlines the characteristics of big-vision and little-vision companies.





Long range, next two years, five years, ten years

Short term, next quarter, next year

Why people buy

What, where, how, when, how much

Exponential growth

Incremental improvements

Future vision

Rear-view mirror

Anticipate the market

Chase the market

Figure 10.1: Big Vision versus Little Vision

Gap Inc. exemplifies how a company can go awry when it fails to infuse its marketing and branding programs with a "why people buy" strategy. Gap Inc. was doing great as an apparel retailer selling basic, high-quality casual clothes with youthful zing at a good value to a wide-ranging consumer market. It faltered when it launched the Old Navy brand. Old Navy had the same basic "why people buy" values as the Gap brand did. Old Navy was everything that Gap was, only cheaper. Old Navy and Gap became synonymous from the consumers' perspective, with Old Navy's less expensive positioning and perceived lower product quality dragging down the more high-quality, value-oriented price positioning of Gap. The company perceived that it created a point of difference by keeping Gap stores in malls and making Old Navy stores freestanding. But that was wrong! Consumers don't care where the stores are located. They just want to buy products when they think about them. Gap Inc. today is doing serious work to extricate its core Gap brand from Old Navy and establish each brand uniquely based on a "why people buy" strategy.

For too long, marketing executives have focused almost exclusively on studying consumer behavior. However, they have been using left-brained tools that track the past and provide only tactical direction. While marketers know they need to get out in front of their marketplace and anticipate the changes that are occurring there, they do not know how to do it. It really is quite straightforward. You just have to ask the right question and be open to the implications when your customers answer you. That question is simple: Why do people buy?

My wish for you, and the reason I wrote this book, is that you incorporate the "why people buy" approach, thinking, and strategy into your marketing plans.

Why People Buy Things They Don't Need. Understanding and Predicting Consumer Behavior
Why People Buy Things They Dont Need: Understanding and Predicting Consumer Behavior
ISBN: 0793186021
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 137

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