Incorporating psychology research in marketing has started to reach groundswell, and for good reason: there is a science behind the way people make decisions. But there are many more factors at play than just getting inside our customer’s head. To create marketing strategies around the reasons customers say ‘yes’ requires a broader scope than just psychology.

Thinking from a broader perspective

I’m arguing that behavior in the marketplace is influenced by more than just individual psychology. Behavior is also influenced by the following three elements:

1. Culture

Psychology and behavior are often derivative of culture. Culture doesn’t have to be bound to the country you’re from – it can also relate to your socioeconomic group, a religious affiliation, or even your corporate culture. I think of culture as ‘how things are done’, typically driven by methods used by your groups or tribes.

2. Social dynamics

An element of the decisions we make have their root in others’ opinions of us. Right or wrong, it’s reality. We do seek acknowledgement and acceptance from others in our tribe, and that drive impacts our behavior. As we interact with others, patterns of behavior begin to emerge. As humans, we learn to respond to these patterns in different ways: a decision you might make on your own may look different when you are being watched by a group of people. I think of social dynamics as the influence of others on the choices you make.

3. External environment

Often, the choice we would like to make in a certain scenario isn’t available, leading to us settling on the next best option. Our physical environments can push our natural tendencies, resulting in choices we wouldn’t normally make under different circumstances. The decision will happen in an environment created by current circumstances or scenarios. Which means that the choice which was made, wasn’t necessarily rooted in an individuals ideal outcome, it was the best choice given the circumstances and options.

Understanding the bigger story around why a customer says ‘yes’ is a study in anthropology.

Capturing the whole story

By focusing only on psychology, a significant portion of the story is missing.

Understanding the bigger story around why a customer says ‘yes’ is a study in anthropology. To many, the term anthropology conjures up visions of ethnographic studies of indigenous tribes, but the scope is actually much broader. Anthropology includes human behavior, social influence, culture, and product ecosystem. And the reason why I feel it’s especially potent in the marketing space is because anthropology explores the feedback loop occurring between behavior and the environment.

A multi-disciplinary conversation

When we’re developing our marketing strategies, we need to understand all the influences involved. Customer psychology is one piece of the puzzle: sales happen in the market, which is a dynamic environment. If we’re promoting products or services, we need to make sure we’re thinking with this broader context. Marketing requires far more than just a list of product features and benefits; the forces involved in creating a sale are multi-dimensional.

By operating from an anthropological angle, we’re able to explore and understand this broader scope and design for the multi-dimensionality. This broader perspective allows us to understand consumer behavioral patterns in the right context, leading to more effective brand experiences.

Effective marketing is effective anthropology: products and services need to perfectly map to human behavior, as well as cultural patterns, social influences, and the environment in which the opportunity will be presented.

If you found this insightful, I hope you’ll let me know. Your comments are encouraged, opinions welcome, and my favorite reminder of all? Sharing is caring!