Friday, August 29, 2014

Is consumer's time utility time or pleasure time?

Even though consumer might not me working his/her time is not entirely free. Part of the time we consumers sill have obligatory duties (housework, taking care of kids etc.), part of the time we have other chosen activities (we meet friends, have hobbies etc.). Only a fraction of the time is really free. We are able to use just the way we want to. Sometimes we do not want to do anything, sometimes we want to get something to do. It is essential to be able to choose. I realized that the free time could thus be divided into utility time (time to do something useful) and pleasure time (time to enjoy). Both of these can be free time, the method of managing thoughts just differ.

We choose quite differently, if the time available is meant to do something or just enjoying. Many people feel strong urge to vacuum and clean the house on Friday, so it will be nice and clean on the weekend. Others might just want to relax in the sofa after a hard week at work. Both groups might order pizza for dinner, but for very different reasons. The first group due to lack of time, and the second group due to lack of will and energy (and because they earned it). These examples illustrate the different natures of time and it is easy to understand that during utility time, choices and interests might be quite different, than during the enjoyment time. The nature of time also affects what kind of marketing arguments are the most powerful. The figure below illustrates a clear connection between pleasure time and entertainment and utility time and usage of fact media.

It is not easy to guess whether people are using utility or enjoyment time. I expected that the time people read newspapers was utility time and Facebook time was enjoyment time. But, as you can see from the figure below, these differences are not that big.  I asked people whether they agree with statements about the nature of time, when they used their chosen media. I used statements “I wanted to enjoy my time” and “I wanted to use my time usefully” to describe pleasure/utility time. Most of the media usage was pleasure time (50%). Only 15% was utility time and 35% felt the time was both utility and pleasure time. What about your product? Is it meant for utility or pleasure time? And what about you as a consumer – do you recognize the effect of the nature of time on your consumption decisions?

Friday, August 22, 2014

How I became interested about consumer choices

My interest in consumer’s choice begun, when I was working in Turun Sanomat newspaper (3rd largest newspaper in Finland) as a research manager. At that time we made dozens of marketing campaigns every year and we did a lot of research. I wrote nearly 100 research reports yearly. In spite of this magnitude of research data, I wasn’t able to answer the fundamental question of how consumers make their subscription decisions. When we asked them in group discussions, deep interviews, telephone interviews or questionnaires why they did not subscribe, the only answers we got (repeatedly) were that the newspaper was too expensive or they did not have enough time. These answers are quite easy to give, pretty rational, but unfortunately rather uninformative and slightly untruthful. People do have money for many other similar things and they have quite a lot of time for other things they really value. This contradiction bothered me a lot.

I also realized that, even if I could find the “real” motives for subscription or non-subscription there would still be many other things influencing the choice. This a beginning of a journey about consumer’s choices, what things affect the choices and how these choices can be affected with marketing.

Since I am no longer working for Turun Sanomat -newspaper, but have a research company on my own (Miratio, ), I have expanded my thoughts way beyond newspaper subscription choices. I have tested my ideas empirically in several studies and fields (the results I shall share with you later on). I sincerely hope this blog will provide interesting thoughts and practical help for all who are interested in the choices people make. Most of the posts will apply the findings to marketing, positioning, branding or product development, although some posts will just describe phenomenon related to consumer’s choices.  I have mainly been thinking about marketing people, but the ideas also apply for social decision makers. Consumers themselves might find the pondering useful and find out how they themselves make decisions and what marketing tricks has influenced them. I also wish to hear your comments in order to develop my thinking further.