» Incentives Govern Marketing

Aztec feast illustration from the Florentine Codex

Image: "Aztec feast illustration from the Florentine Codex, Late 16th century" courtesy of Wikimedia Commons .

Did you ever wonder why so many stores use coupons or why a company will give shoes to a developing nation for every pair you purchase? These are different marketing incentives intended to motivate us into buying more stuff.

Here's another example for you. You know that aluminum ultrabook you just purchased? The one that made all your friends jealous? The manufacturer is aware of that. Your shiny, new computer exemplifies another marketing incentive.

Economists and social scientists each have a different bent when it comes to incentives. We marketers are no different. Our toolkit holds economic, moral, and personal levers we can use to nudge human behavior toward a desired action.

A good marketing campaign makes full use of incentive levers. But it's important to remember that people are clever. We can all choose whether to be incentivized, and part of that decision is how much trust the marketer has earned.

We know why you gave us a punch card for a free sundae. You want us to buy more sundaes! Should we like you and trust you, we'll probably even go along with it. We might even tell other people!

As marketers we must understand how these tools work in order to effectively use them in our own marketing efforts. It's not about "tricking" your customers. It's about making it easier for them to act. Here's how:

Economic incentives. These marketing incentives materially reward (or punish) your audience. Coupons are a clear example, but the reward doesn't have to be money. It could be cupcakes!

Moral incentives. These marketing incentives harness what your audience feels is the right (or the wrong) thing to do. The community admires a moral goal. But should someone work against those things the community deems admirable, that person can expect sideways glances and hushed whispers as he or she walks down the street. This is why you buy fundraiser chocolate bars from your coworker's kids - to feel good. And to avoid icy silence. No one likes to be shunned.

Personal incentives. These marketing incentives work with the individual motivations that drive each of us. Emotions, personal tastes, and desires rule the day here. You might take your picture next to an Italian sports car because, to some people, owning one is like a neon sign that exclaims, "I'm a pretty cool guy. You should pay attention to me."

At this point you may be thinking that correctly using marketing incentives is a challenge. That's right! Human behavior is complex. Here's a fun capstone video with all our concepts and all our complex human behavior nicely illustrated.

Marketing seeks to impact human behavior, therefore incentives govern marketing. Finding the right levers for your brand should always be a core part of your marketing strategy.