Who was Lev Vygotsky and why is His Theory Important to Marketers?

Lev Vygotsky made great strides in educational theory.  Today, with so many data-driven and social media tools available to marketers, much can be learned from Vygotsky when thinking about how to better understand customers and influence purchasing choices.

Lev Vygotsky via Wikipedia

Lev was a Russian psychologist who developed Social Learning theory in the early 20th century.  He proposed that learning is a “continuous process focused on the connections between people and the cultural context in which they act and interact in shared experiences.”  Developing the Zone of Proximal Development (which is the area in which the concepts are too difficult for the pupil to master on his own, but with guidance and encouragement from a knowledgeable person, are able to master), he developed the Social Development Theory of Learning.  This states that social influences greatly affect learning, and learning occurs when concepts are modeled.  That’s Lev Vygotsky and his theory in a nutshell.

What about its practical implications to marketers?  According to this theory, which places great importance on social influences of cognitive development, marketing can alter consumer behavior by modifying thought processes, namely through advertisements.  As marketers, we should try to understand what drives consumers to purchase products to increase revenues.

Develop Consumer Profiles

Using qualitative marketing research to create consumer profiles allows companies to more wisely spend marketing dollars.  One technique is to conduct marketing questionnaires.  Employing Vygotsky’s theory in this realm generates more genuine feedback from research, whereas direction questioning results in more superficial answers.

Modify Cognitive Behavior of Consumers

According to The Vygotskian Approach,

“He believed that just as physical tools extend our physical abilities, mental tools extend our mental abilities, enabling us to solve problems and create solutions in the modern world. When applied to children, this means that to successfully function in school and beyond, children need to learn more than a set of facts and skills. They need to master a set of mental tools—tools of the mind.

According to Vygotsky, until children learn to use mental tools, their learning is largely controlled by the environment; they attend only to the things that are brightest or loudest, and they can remember something only if has been repeated many times. AFTER children master mental tools, they become in charge of their own learning, by attending and remembering in an intentional and purposeful way. In the same way that using certain mental tools can transform children’s cognitive behaviors, using other mental tools can transform their physical, social, and emotional behaviors. From being ‘slaves to the environment,’ children become ‘masters of their own behavior.’”

Whether through advertising or direct sales, Vygotsky’s theory may be used as an effective tool for success.  By using a model to demonstrate the product being used or purchased, the advertisement can help the consumer develop a script, which is a group of small bits of information the consumer collects about a product, which are stored in memory, being called upon later.  Your marketing strategies should strive to develop the consumer’s script to the point that the consumer feels connected to the product or company, resulting in sales.

Create Consumers with Internalized Cues

Marketing aims not only to drive immediate sales, but also to create a throng of repeat sales.  You want your customers to possess brand loyalty.  This occurs when the consumer’s schemata, or packets of knowledge about your product, create cues that reinforce future sales.  There are important cognitive processes which occur between the input of information and the output of behavior.  As marketers, we should strive to instill into our consumers familiarity with our product or service.  The more experienced the consumer, the more developed the script concerning your company.  The more developed the script, the greater the sales.  This translates to successful marketing.

This sheds some light on the mental structures that stand in casual relationship to our customers’ actions.    ~Tricia


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Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Education Strategy, Social Media

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