Creating a deeper understanding of your stakeholders

Published on
October 2, 2013

The placebo effect, an age-old ‘trick’ of deceiving a patient into believing they are taking an effective remedy for a condition, demonstrates the complexities of the human brain and the impact on how we make decisions – and therein lies a powerful reminder for communication and marketing professionals.

In his book How Customers Think, Harvard Business School’s Professor Gerald Zaltman explores the decision-making process customers go through when choosing the products or services they purchase, what they tell companies in market research, and what they actually do at the point of purchase.

For example, many road safety advertisements are based on research that tells us the demographics of at-risk drivers. However, on their own these advertisements have had little-to-no meaningful effect on reducing the road toll, because the psychographic knowledge of audiences is commonly overlooked.

That is, do we understand how a stakeholder’s decisions are influenced by the interactions between the brain (our initial, unfiltered reaction), mind (conscious decision-making), body, and society?

How does peer pressure, the relative anonymity provided by digital and social media, and the attitude of ‘it won’t happen to me’ impact decisions?

In the case of road safety, Australian charity BRAKE has incorporated research into the immature brain development of teenagers to shape its driver education program and help reduce road deaths and serious traumas.

In commercial environments, marketing professionals who can delve deeper than conscious thought processes start to understand how their audiences’ environments impact their purchasing decisions. Often individuals subconsciously base their decisions on social standing, and the perception of how the decision will impact their personal brand.

The usual demographics attributed to audiences such as age, gender, and location are still important. However the extra layer of market research to consider the personality archetypes, such as those popularised by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, will help generate greater brand connections and experiences.

This is especially true when personal or face-to-face engagements decrease due to the digital age – where transactions and decisions are made behind smartphones or computer screens.

The next time you assess or research your target audience, consider if you really know who they are. How do their lifestyles, interests, and opinions impact their working relationships and decisions with your business and brand?

For further information about marketing segmentation, please contact Rob Lovegrove, Group Manager Integrated Marketing Communication on 07 3229 4499 or