You are on page 1of 2

Cracking The Code: Self Esteem & Purchase Behavior

By Dr. Sharon Livingston As marketers and researchers, there's nothing more important to us than building and growing a strong brand. And there's nothing more critical to this effort than understanding what truly drives the purchase of our product. This means identifying the core values of our target audience_what matters most to them_and then delivering on those values. The home run is when the key features and advertising messages of our brand tie directly back to what consumers want most to believe about themselves _ in other words, when the act of purchasing or consuming our brand directly supports the consumer's self or aspirational model. When this happens, we say we are delivering "emotional end benefits" to the consumer_helping them feel more attractive, more powerful, more intelligent, more capable, and so on. But how to identify and leverage these emotional end benefits? Traditional research methods often fall short. By relying on direct questions, traditional research comes up against all sorts of conscious and unconscious consumer barriers: social desirability ("How should I be responding to this question?"), suspicion ("Are they trying to get inside my head and manipulate me to buy things I don't need?"), the desire to perceive themselves as purely rational purchasers ("I'm not concerned with image, I'm concerned with value!"), or just simply the difficulty many consumers have in articulating motivation beyond their normal level of awareness ("I don't really know what's behind my dislike_I just don't like it!"). Put simply, these barriers distort the data. The best way to get around these barriers is to use specialized techniques called "laddering" (and certain projective techniques). (NOTE: For a more thorough discussion of projective techniques and some of the innovative proprietary approaches developed by Drs. Sharon and Glenn Livingston based on the thousands of consumer interviews they've conducted over the past 20 years, see the training materials at or read the archived newsletters on our website). Given the challenge of getting to emotional end benefits, this newsletter is designed to review the types of emotional benefits most typically uncovered via the successful use of laddering, and to talk about the relative importance of each. Since the quantification of projective techniques is fairly complicated and not always affordable or logistically feasible, we're presenting our paradigm for categorizing emotional benefits QUALITATIVELY, based on the effect that each of these emotional benefits seems to have on consumer purchasing behavior. We developed this paradigm about five years ago, when we decided to review our reports on over 6,000 focus groups in which laddering exercises and/or projective techniques were used. We selected a large subset where we were able to confirm that the resulting advertising did indeed reflect the emotional benefits we identified in the exercises, and from that subset, we selected products whose performance in the marketplace (after the advertising was launched) we were in fact able to trace. Our goal was a kind of qualitative factor analysis_what are the key emotional drivers for consumers and how do they tie to messaging and marketing success? The results were dramatic and conclusive. Four clear and distinct categories emerged which matched the intuitive understanding of consumer behavior we had gained from the clinical experience of actually conducting so many groups. While we identified over 100 unique emotional benefit descriptors, most fell neatly into just four categories. (We have subsequently replicated this finding fairly closely with quantitative studies.) More importantly, each factor seemed to drive a critical and unique part of market behavior. We have labeled this coding paradigm the "The Livingston Paradigm of Self Esteem(tm)." Learning to recognize where each emotional benefit fits into The Livingston Paradigm will help you take the emotional understanding of your market to the next level - to know not only WHICH emotional benefits are most associated with the brand and its features, but HOW each emotional driver is likely to make consumers behave!

CATEGORY I: SELF ACTUALIZATION AND HEALTHY NARCISSISM: This reflects esteem derived from specific personal accomplishments -- the mastery of one's environment (cooking dinner faster); the realization of one's abilities (learning how to use the computer); the development of one's talents (having all the right art supplies for that watercolor drawing in your head); and recognition from others with regard to these achievements (receiving rewards or applause). This is most often associated with self confidence, pride, creativity, a strong sense of gender identity, and empowerment and control over one's destiny. Self Actualization & Healthy Narcissism provides the feeling that one is fit for, and able to accomplish, the tasks that life demands, and is a very strong emotional driver of purchase. Some examples of Category I emotional benefits are: "I'M IN CONTROL," "I FEEL FREE," "I CAN

ACCOMPLISH,""I'M INTELLIGENT "I HAVE INTEGRITY," "I'M FINANCIALLY SUCCESSFUL," "I FEEL PROUD,""I'M CREATIVE," "I'M RESOURCEFUL, "I FEEL ALIVE," "I HAVE A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR," "I ENJOY LIFE," "I FEEL SECURE/SAFE," "I'M PHYSICALLY HEALTHY,""I'M FLEXIBLE AND ADAPTABLE," "I GET RECOGNITION AND PRESTIGE," "I'M PERSISTENT,""I'M ASSERTIVE," "I MAKE RATIONAL DECISIONS," "I TRUST MY OWN PERCEPTIONS," etc. CATEGORY II: INTERPERSONAL LOVE AND ROMANCE: This is about esteem derived from adult, oneon-one, romantic love relationships; "I am a worthy person because I love and am loved by someone I hold in high regard." Some examples of Category II emotional benefits are: "BEING ATTRACTIVE WILL HELP ME FIND A PARTNER OR IMPROVE MY CURRENT RELATIONSHIP,""I'M ACCEPTED," "I BELONG," "PEOPLE LIKE ME," "I FEEL LOVED," "I FEEL CONNECTED TO OR CLOSER TO MY SIGNIFICANT OTHER," "I FEEL SECURE IN MY SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIP," "I HAVE BETTER LOVEMAKING OR INTIMACY WITH MY PARTNER," "I'M A COMMITTED PARTNER," "I'M A GOOD FRIEND," etc. CATEGORY III: NURTURANT AND PARENTAL ESTEEM: This focuses on esteem derived from taking responsibility for the well-being of offspring (or significant others we care about). There is an awareness that a dependent's sense of self esteem can be enhanced or diminished by one's ability to "be there" physically and emotionally for him/her/them. In addition, associated esteem and pride are experienced from the appreciation of accomplishments of these same others, "My daughter/son the doctor." Some examples of Category III emotional benefits are: "I'M A GOOD PARENT," "I AM A GOOD PET OWNER," "I AM RESPONSIBLE," "MY FAMILY CAN COUNT ON ME," "I AM RELIABLE," "I AM TRUSTWORTHY," "I AM A GOOD TEACHER," "I'M A NURTURER, I FEEL GOOD ABOUT MYSELF WHEN I TAKE CARE OF OTHERS," "I'M MAKING SACRIFICES TO HELP MY FAMILY/OTHERS WHO ARE IMPORTANT TO ME," "I CAN TOUCH OTHERS AND HAVE A MEANINGFUL IMPACT ON THEM," etc. CATEGORY IV: ALTRUISM AND SOCIETAL ESTEEM This reflects esteem derived from the belief that one has contributed to the broader well-being and welfare of society. This is similar to Steven Covey's notion of the desire of healthy individuals to "leave a legacy" for the upcoming generation, or the notion that one's purpose on the planet in some way transcends one's own needs and those of immediate loved ones. Some examples of Category IV emotional benefits are: "I AM ALTRUISTIC," "I TAKE CARE OF THE ENVIRONMENT," "I FURTHER THE DEVELOPMENT OF OTHERS (LARGER SCALE)," "I IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES," "I GIVE BACK TO SOCIETY," "I'M HELPING TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS," "I CARE ABOUT THE WELFARE OF OTHERS," "I'M CHARITABLE"...etc. BEHAVIORS AND TYPICAL PRODUCT FEATURES ASSOCIATED WITH EACH CATEGORY: Categories I & II are generally associated with image benefits, e.g. "sparkle," "invisible," "slimming," "exciting," "fun." In contrast, Categories III & IV tend to be connected to practical, measurable benefits, "long lasting," "effective," "biodegradable." Categories I & II are attached to exciting, highly charged actions, images and emotions. There's often a quick rush associated with immediate gratification of wants and needs. IN MOST PRODUCT ARENAS CATEGORIES I & II LEAD TO TRIAL By contrast, the sense of personal satisfaction for Categories III & IV seems to be longer term and more serious. They are more sedate and profound, but initially less motivating. IN MOST PRODUCT ARENAS CATEGORIES III & IV LEAD TO REPEAT PURCHASE The best branding and messaging strategies lead with promises linked to Categories I and II, and provide support (give reasons why), with functions and form that are relevant to Categories III and IV. In doing so, the positives of both image and practicality are incorporated. Of course, the most potent campaigns utilize image benefits that can be readily explained by or linked to rational product advantages and differences. In other words, product concepts which offer clear logic and support for why they are "fun" or "exciting" or "slimming." We hope we've given you some food for thought on how identifying emotional end benefits and linking these to product features and messaging can be a powerful tool for developing strong and successful brands. Next month we plan to discuss each category in more detail, along with specific examples. If you'd like to learn more about how to use projective techniques and laddering to unearth emotional drivers of purchase, we are now offering a two and a half hour instructional video on multimedia CD-ROM called "Using Projective Techniques in Qualitative Research." You'll find an in-depth segment on the CD about the Livingston Paradigm of Self Esteem™. We'd also appreciate it if you would visit our web store and give us feedback on the training CDs which you will find there. (There are CDs on Projective Techniques, Focus Group Back Room Effectiveness, Name Development and Testing, and Managing Group Dynamics for Focus Group Moderators and Team Leaders).