No matter how long it’s been since your last marketing class – or whether you’ve taken one at all – it’s always smart to frequently revisit the key marketing concepts that can impact your brand or business. The most influential marketing theories are not limited to marketing; instead they transcend many different fields and are especially applicable to writers. We need to be aware of how our audience thinks and what motivates them to take action. Here are ten marketing theories worth brushing up on to help make your content even more effective.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
First theorized by Abraham Maslow in 1943, this five stage model can be divided into our most important needs including: physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualization. Maslow believed that we must first satisfy lower level “basic” needs before progressing on to meet higher level “growth” needs. Once our needs have been reasonably satisfied, we may then be able to reach the highest level of self-actualization. This applies to both marketing and writing, because it is our job to create a need for our customers and provide fulfillment of that need. The more convincingly we do this, the more likely customers are to act upon this need.
This theory states that when our inner systems – made up of beliefs, attitudes and values – all support one another, we find comfort and contentment. If things were to fall out of alignment, this results in the discomfort of cognitive dissonance and our desire to regain balance. The most valuable part of this theory for marketers and writers comes from the point that we also have a very strong need to believe we are being consistent with social norms. When our inner systems conflict with social norms, we are more likely to choose the social norm and risk the inner dissonance for fear of social exclusion. Understanding this concept provides writers with the power to persuade customers by appealing to their desire to “fit in.”
Elaboration Likelihood Model
Another very well-known communications theory, this model suggests that there are two ways in which persuasion occurs. First, there is the central route. This is when attitude change stems from purposeful evaluation, also referred to as “elaboration.” Second, is the peripheral route. This is when there is little elaboration and attitude change does not come from inference but rather through association. By understanding the two means for persuasion, we are able to more critically focus the message of our writing and marketing toward establishing one of these means. As a result, we will create change within our customers and persuade them into action.
The Extended Self
This theory states that possessions reflect the identity of the possessor. Ultimately, our possessions contribute to our identity. To effectively market a product – or possession – we must seek to understand how these shape the identity of the consumer. We can then appeal to the needs outlined in Maslow’s Hierarchy or to the need to “fit in” as described in the Consistency Theory. With the idea that possessions are an extension of our own self, the value of having material possessions greatly increases.
Flow (or Optimal Psychological Experience)
Flow is an optimal state of balance between our challenges and skills. We’ve likely all felt it at one time or another; it is that rewarding feeling when we stretch ourselves to overcome an obstacle and are able to do so successfully. Flow is also enhanced by symbolic elements, concrete goals and immediate feedback. Flow is enjoyable, not because it’s easy but because it’s fulfilling. When crafting a marketing message and addressing a need for your target audience, carefully consider how you can create this sense of “flow.” This might be by helping them become more effective, organized or by enhancing their natural skill set.
This theory is very broad in that it refers to the study of relationships. A large focus of every successful business is relationship building. This theory describes the patterns and motives of people’s interactions which lead to the relationships they create. As a writer, understanding human behaviors is a huge advantage for better connecting with them through content. We are better able to motivate and incentivize certain actions by creating this “network” feeling.
The concept of the theory is that intentions toward behaviors can be predicted with high accuracy. Taking into account attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control, we can better understand what drives people to behave in the way they do. We can also predict when someone will likely deviate from an expected behavior. In both marketing and writing, planned behavior is an important concept because it gives us a baseline for how our target audience most commonly acts in certain situations. We can then aim to promote or change this behavior through our messages.
Institutional theory is closely tied to “company culture.” It suggests that the actions of businesses and the outcomes of these actions are influenced by the knowledge systems, beliefs, and rules that characterize the context of the organization. Put another way, the words and actions we choose should directly reflect the image we want to portray of our business. This is critically important for writers as they have the power to shape a brand with their content. Always review your words while reflecting on the image you’re trying to create to be sure the two align.
There are many more complex ways to summarize this theory, but most simply put it states that a successful business must be able to put itself into the “shoes” of its rivals and reason from their perspective. While we may never know with full certainty what our competition is thinking or planning to do next, the strongest businesses think strategically and make educated guesses. For writers, this is an important theory because we must be able to anticipate our competition’s next move and put it into words before they do.
This theory maintains that to be successful, businesses should determine customers’ needs and wants, and satisfy them more effectively than their competitors. This seems pretty obvious, right? However, so easily we forget this very basic idea that to offer the best service, we must be the best at identifying the needs of our customers and identifying the most effective way to meet these needs.
Overall, these ten marketing theories provide valuable insight into the behaviors of our target audience and our competition. As writers, we should continue to grow our understanding of these theories to increase the effectiveness of our messages. When quality writing is combined with the power of marketing, it produces results that truly stand out!
Information obtained from the American Marketing Association (http://www.marketingpower.com).