Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How a heart attack can "sell" butter. Consumer insight alert.

I was being a consumer the other day. Grocery shopping with my husband for a few things. I had put a certain butter that I use (goat butter) in my basket and was on my way out of the store when we passed one of those sampling setups.

A large, overweight man was at the table and he had little baguette slices with butter on them to sample. Being hungry, I nabbed one. He went into his "sell" on the fresh-made butter. No unnatural junk or preservatives, made with cream and salt...blah blah. And it was GOOD butter. But I had my goat butter and wasn't interested in the cow variety.

Well this man says, as I am walking away, "I can't eat the stuff anymore myself, just had a heart stent put in yesterday. 80% blockage in an artery."

Seriously, mister? You're trying to sell me full-fat BUTTER and you just admitted it is killing you.

He sees the horror on my face and follows up quickly with: "Not that the butter is what caused it. I have always had very low cholesterol. This was genetic."

So what do you think happened next? Did I, as a marketer, explain to him how he needed a new selling story?

Nope. I put my goat butter down and bought his butter.

After we got home, my husband, also a marketing guru, asked me what in the heck I was thinking. So I pondered the emotions and my actions.


Rational: It was good butter and it was all-natural

Emotional: I COULD NOT walk away from that man selling his butter and having no more sense than to tell us his arteries were blocked and he couldn't eat the stuff any more. It's hard enough to take a "free" thing for most people, which is why those sampling tables are used, but to take that freebie AND know this guy was honest to a fault and also sick, just did me in. I couldn't walk away without buying. I didn't really want the butter. But GUILT made me buy it. I felt sorry for this guy. He just said a really stupid thing and he was sick and I ate the sample and....on and on.

And THAT is great insight. It's psychology 101. Yet we, as marketing professionals, would never sell that to a client or to ourselves even. We refuse to want to see the truth in why people buy. And I am not saying every person would buy from guilt as I did, but a good many would. And they could never tell you that or foresee it. No focus group would get to that. No interviews. No fancy marketing models. Heck most people couldn't figure out their feelings like I did to get to the reason why.

Sometimes it's just that instinct, that feeling we get that KNOWS why people tick and what they'll do. Sometimes the best marketing process to use, is in your gut. And not in your head.

Anybody want the name of the butter, I'll be happy to send it to you. It was really good.

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