Motivation Research Methods: Uncover 🛍️Consumer Motives🚀

Motivation Research Methods: Uncover 🛍️Consumer Motives🚀

Identifying or revealing consumers’ hidden motives may help marketers to add features in products best appeal to consumers’ motives. Few widely used techniques of motivational research are available. Knowledge of these techniques helps marketers to undertake motivational research to explore consumers’ motives.

Justification of Motivational Research

The greatest strides toward finding out why consumers behave as they do have been made through motivational research.

Research into consumer motivation lets marketers analyze the major motives influencing consumers to buy or not buy their products. We know that motives often operate subconsciously and are difficult to measure.

People usually do not know what motivates them. Therefore, marketers cannot reveal consumers’ motives by simply asking them questions.

They need to undertake structured research to find out consumers’ motives. In other words, we can say that it is evident that the marketing executive cannot infer motivation directly from consumer behavior and that behavior cannot be predicted in a simple way.

Realizing these complexities has led to the use of motivation research as an aid in understanding this important influence on consumer behavior.

Abraham Maslow, while discussing the basic needs that motivate human behavior in all spheres of living, made the point that these motives are more often unconscious than conscious.

While this may not be equally true when we restrict our analysis to consumer behavior, the problem of getting behind the superficial reasons people give in response to direct questions about their buying motives has long been recognized.

G. H. Smith, in his article titled “Motivation Research in Advertising and Marketing,” published in 1954, clarified the problem by discussing three levels of awareness in the range from consciousness to unconsciousness.

Among them, the first level deals with conscious and public material that consumers are willing to discuss with an interviewer.

The second level includes rarely discussed material – motives only slightly outside awareness (preconscious level).

The third level deals with material that is unanalyzed by the individual and not discussed with other people (unconscious level).

It was to gain access to material in the preconscious and unconscious levels of awareness that marketers turned to the research methods of behavioral scientists.

Marketers generally require two types of information regarding consumers – quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative information may be easily collected through secondary data, but qualitative information cannot be easily collected. Information like – why people respond to a particular product or brand or when, how, and where consumers purchase the product are not easy to collect.

Thus, motivation research is to get the qualitative aspects of consumer behavior through psychological methods. Marketers learn consumers’ hidden and unknown qualities, habits, and attitudes through motivational research.

According to Lawrence C. Lockley, motivation research is the currently popular term used to describe the use of psychological and psychiatric techniques to obtain a better understanding of why people respond as they do to products, advertisements, and various other marketing situations.

Such research helps predict how people react in a given marketing situation or receive a new product design. Through various techniques, researchers endeavor to ascertain the motivations behind a purchase, the reading of an advertisement, or the reaction to a brand name.

Techniques of Motivation Research

Motivation research is an approach that draws on the Freudian psychoanalytic model of consumer decision-making.

It assumes that important buying motives are subconscious in that a respondent cannot elucidate them when asked an opinion of a brand or product class. Motivation research (MR) strongly impacted marketing in the 1950s.

Many saw it as a decisive and powerful marketing tool. Major types of motivation research used in marketing are:

  • Experience and Knowledge Technique
  • Traditional or Questionnaire Technique
  • Interview Technique, and
  • Projective Techniques

Let us now discuss the above techniques in brief:

Experience and Knowledge Technique

In this technique, consumer behavior is estimated on the basis of experience and knowledge gained by the marketing executives because of their closer association with customers. This is, thus, based on marketers’ own experience and intuition.

Through experience, marketers come to know the main buying motives for their products and the reasons for such motives to work. Different marketers may be consulted, and results may be drawn from the discussion for the questions.

The results of such endeavors affect the decisions concerning advertising, product designs, pricing, and distribution.

Traditional or Questionnaire Technique

Under this method, a questionnaire is prepared by the marketer with the help of psychologists to conduct interviews with the respondents. Once the questionnaire is prepared, it is sent to the selected consumers for their return to the firm after the questions are duly filled in.

The filled-in questionnaire received by the firm is analyzed, and results are extracted about the consumers’ motives and behavior. This is a formal and structured technique used to identify overt or direct motives.

No matter what kind of sampling method is used or what kind of techniques are used to collect data under this method, the questionnaire must be designed in such a way that information on consumers’ motives can be collected methodically and completely.

The structured questionnaire is tightly designed, and respondents are to answer on the basis of “yes” or “no” or to select one answer from a series.

The problem with this technique is that some of the respondents may not be willing to disclose their actual buying motives just to prove them smart or to protect their self-images.

This is, you know, a basic human tendency to exaggerate their positions to others, and as a result, the findings of such studies may mislead marketers.

Interview Technique

The interview technique is one of the most popular motivational research techniques. Researchers may use both group interviews and depth interview techniques to reveal consumers’ motives.

Under the group interview technique, the interviewer – through leadership that is not highly structured – tries to generate discussion on one or several topics among the six to twelve people in the group. Through what is said in the discussion, the interviewer attempts to uncover respondents’ motives relating to some issue, such as the use of a product.

He usually cannot probe as deeply in a group interview as in a depth interview. Motivation researchers must be extremely well trained in clinical psychology to reveal subconscious motives reflected in the interviews. Their skills in discovering subconscious motives from what is said in an interview determine the effectiveness of their research.

The depth interview technique is the most widely used and popular technique of psychiatry in motivation research. It is described as a casual, conversational, and free-flowing technique of motivation research. Here the researcher tries to get the interviewee to talk freely about anything to create an informal atmosphere.

The researcher may ask general, non­directed questions and then probe the interviewee’s answers by asking for clarification. It may last for several hours. Such techniques may yield a variety of information on respondents’ buying motives.

Here “the respondent is encouraged to talk at length in the subject area of interest and to express whatever thoughts or feelings come to mind.” Generally, no list of questions must be asked in a prescribed way.

The interviewer usually asks no direct questions, but he talks with the consumer in a free atmosphere so that the interviewee may express his views intensively. It is possible for a skilled interviewer to go deep and reveal motives buried below the conscious mind.

The focus is on letting the respondent lead the way in order to find out what is important to him and why and to give the opportunity for unanticipated responses to be made. It is a time-consuming technique and requires a lot of patience on the part of the researcher.

One of the depth interview techniques is the open-end questionnaire. Here the researcher starts the interview by asking a formal question.

After the question is thrown to the respondent, the interviewer waits expectantly for the respondent to react. To help the interviewee, he may repeat the respondent’s answer or make a brief assenting comment to probe more deeply.

Projective Techniques

The projective techniques have two principal characteristics. They are: (1) their specific purpose is not apparent, and (2) the projective device is ambiguous – that is, it contains no specific meaning; it can be interpreted in two different ways.

The object is to find out what meanings the respondent will read into it. The underlying assumption is that in responding promptly, the consumer will disclose something of himself – his thoughts, feelings, values, and needs.

The fundamental principle which is assumed to be at work is that of projection, or unconscious imputation to others of the characteristics of oneself.

The free association may also come into play so that the resulting chain of thoughts is related in meaning and revealing about the respondent. These techniques provide the subject with a stimulus situation that gives him an opportunity to impose upon his own personal needs and his particular perception and interpretation.

The respondent projects the inner aspects of his personality whilst interpreting the circumstances and unconsciously reveals the covert aspects of his motives and behavior, which could not be revealed through the normal questionnaire method.

The major projective techniques used in marketing are;

  1. the word association test;
  2. the sentence completion test,
  3. the thematic appreciation test,
  4. paired picture test;
  5. the cartoon test; and
  6. psychodrama.

Let us now have a look at them in turn:

The Word Association Test

This is a method wherein a list of stimulus words is read to a respondent who answers each one with the first word that comes to mind. The information is required to say immediately what other words come into his or her mind.

In this way, a whole series of individual words can be gone through. The test may be written or verbal. It may require words with similar meanings or opposite meanings, and so on.

Marketers may use this method, particularly in selecting the most appropriate names for the products that they have planned to launch.

Sentence Completion Test

This technique is considered as most useful and reliable of all the projective tests. In the motivational aspects of marketing research, the test is used to uncover emotional responses to products or marketing activities. The reliability of this test depends on the skills of the researcher.

Here the respondents are given incomplete sentences on the product or service in question, and they are requested to complete those.

For example, a small car manufacturer wants to reveal the motives of people who buy and ride small cars. He may select a group of respondents and give them an incomplete sentence like “people who drive small car ………… ” and request them to complete this incomplete sentence. The way respondents complete the sentence will reflect their motives.

The Thematic Appreciation Test

This test uses a series of pictures of people in some unstructured doubtful form of action. The respondent is shown these pictures one at a time and asked to narrate the picture’s story.

An analyst with skill in such tests then interprets the answers. Seeing a picture of a lady, one may say that she is an active lady with high interpersonal ability.

Paired Picture Test

In this test, for example, two individuals are shown in the pictures opening television sets of two different makes. One picture, for example, shows a woman opening a popular brand of refrigerator, and another picture shows a similarly dressed woman opening a refrigerator of another brand.

The respondents, after that, are asked to tell any story about these two individuals opening television sets and women opening the refrigerator. The difference in interpretation tells the different attitudes they have about the set of pictures.

The cartoon Test

This test presents people conversing. There are balloons over each of the pictures of the individuals conversing.

The balloon of one individual is filled with a comment affecting the other individual whose balloon remains blank. The respondent is requested to fill in the empty balloon. The way the respondent fills in the balloon reveals his motive.

The Psychodrama Test

Here respondents are arranged in pairs and allowed to play different real-life roles. For example, in pairs, one may play the role of a husband and the other wife. They are then requested to discuss some real-life purchase problems. The way they play their respective roles gives the researcher an indication of their buying motives.

Criticisms of Motivational Research Techniques

In marketing research, motivational research techniques are utilized to provide qualitative rather than quantitative information. Though these techniques can be reasonably effective, they are far from perfect.

Marketers who want to research consumers’ motives should obtain the services of professional psychologists who are skilled in the methods of motivation research.

One of the criticisms of motivation research techniques is related to the size and composition of the sample of consumers interviewed in such research.

By direct questioning, no correct answer is expected, especially in sensitive areas. Another criticism is that most of the motivation research techniques originated in the offices of clinical psychologists dealing with people of unsound minds. Thus, they may not apply to most consumers of sound minds.

Though motivation research techniques are subject to criticism, they may be applied in marketing practices successfully, provided the test results are verified and the test is conducted on a representative number of samples.

Where the nature of the product and the marketing mix permit, it is good practice to incorporate the findings of a motivation research study in actual selling or advertising campaign and conduct a test to determine the relative effectiveness of the new advertising appeal compared with that previously used.

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