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Exploring the consumer mind

Exploring the consumer mind
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First Published: Fri, Jun 17 2011. 01 15 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Jul 02 2011. 05 13 PM IST
Joseph Eapen is excited about setting up the business for Roy Morgan Research in India. Roy Morgan is Australia’s premier research company that specializes in social and opinion polling. For consumer research, it is said to be the currency for sectors such as finance, telecom, retail and media.
Eapen claims Roy Morgan’s Single Source study—to be launched soon—will be unlike any other study available in India for its sheer sample size. For the record, Eapen was briefly the chief executive officer at Media Research Users Council (MRUC) that releases the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) for the print media.
In the US, A.K. Pradeep, CEO of NeuroFocus Inc., is also gearing up to start his company’s India operations. NeuroFocus applies neuroscience to marketing to study the subconscious responses of consumers towards advertising, packaging, products and brands. Back in India, MRUC has already announced a new consumer classification for its readership survey.
Such bustle in the research sector clearly underscores the value being attached to mining the consumer mind. To study the media habits of the consumer, MRUC has created a new consumer classification, replacing the old socio-economic category, or SEC, that it used for the last over 20 years. In the initial years, consumers were clubbed on the basis of monthly household income. Later, education and occupation of the chief wage earner was also added.
In the new SEC, ownership of durables—from washing machines to laptops—has been included to reflect the lifestyle of consumers that has changed after liberalization.
In fact, occupation is no longer valid. It has been excluded to avoid subjectivity and prejudice creeping in.
So 25 years ago, telephone and car may have been an indicator of wealth, today, equated monthly instalments have made cars, and much else, accessible. Little surprise then that the presswallah who irons clothes for half the residents in the apartment block I live in, as well as the raddiwallah (who buys newspaper scrap from residents), own cars.
Clearly, today lifestyle is not just linked to price points and that is what the marketeers are interested in. So while you may see a young working woman haggle over her autorickshaw bill of Rs 40, she may not dither over spending Rs 4,000 on a Hidesign bag or Rs 16,000 on a BlackBerry phone. In fact, a young news channel reporter who was complaining about the prices of neck ties he now has to sport as part of the revised dress code on television, missed the irony of his diatribe when he was surfing the Net on his iPhone the next moment to look for an iPad on the e-commerce site Ebay.
According to Praveen Tripathi, head of Hansa Research that conducts the readership survey, the SEC needed to change as income migrates downwards, increasing the spending power of the youth. Also the agency now uses a single survey for urban and rural consumers as boundaries of the cities encroach the villages.
Roy Morgan will also investigate a consumer’s relationship with products and brands through its Single Source survey where the same subject (or source) will answer all the queries. The study will also have a segment on values that promises to capture attitudes and opinions.
Research is clearly getting more aggressive as rapid changes in technology impact lifestyles. The consumer is complex, too. He is asking to be wooed and wants brands to show their credentials. Of course, the marketing environment is even more complex. Choice for products and services is unlimited. There’s an overdose of brand messages flashing through multiple media platforms.
Therefore, brands need the staying power that depends on their ability to adapt to these changes. For deep seated insights into the consumer’s brain, they want to lodge inside his mind through memory or sensory experience. Or search for that tipping point in their favour.
And that is exactly what Pradeep’s NeuroFocus will look for. His brand of research gets closer to the where the action is— that is—the brain. Neuroscience helps gain better understanding of the consumer’s subconscious mind. Here the so-called noise is lower and turnaround faster. Pradeep, who has authored The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind, says customers always buy what they want, but it isn’t always easy to predict: It’s not easy to understand one’s own desires and attitudes, much less articulate them clearly.
Even neuroscience has the potential to be used from marketing and design, to entertainment—for stuff like content effectiveness, scripting and casting.
On the value of research in the current environment, Meena Kaushik, who heads Quantum Research, another agency specializing in neuro-linguistic programming, says it’s like an X-ray. There can be diagnosis without X-ray. But you get deeper insight when you have an X-ray.
Shuchi Bansal is marketing and media editor with Mint. Comment at whatwebuy@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jun 17 2011. 01 15 AM IST