- cared for,
- envied (in a positive and healthy way), and
- more in control of themselves or their environment (without the aspect of harming others in the process).
Youth buying process is the same process as older persons… no matter what your ad agency has told you.
Have you wondered why advertising to young persons is so consistently outrageous (and often all but pornographic), yet seldom drives long-term sales success? Wouldn’t you think the companies buying these ads would recognize their mistake, when Alpha companies continually beat them?
“Madison Avenue” obviously doesn’t know how to make you an Alpha… no matter what they say works. The problem is that most ad agencies have recognized the power of “emotional” marketing; but they have missed the fact that pandering to low-level drivers of decisions (most often meaning “sex” or “abuse of others”) has little long-term benefit. In fact, it makes them vulnerable to competitors who don’t use such tactics.
This mythology about how younger persons make buying decisions is creating great harm to the marketplace.
Someone recently asked me if what they saw as the “ego-satisfaction” focus of most of the TV commercials on the Super Bowl is an example of the Alpha Factor model applied to advertising. What we saw was breasts being bared, people being hit in the crotch with glass “snow balls,” and a series of people making themselves feel better than someone else by being mean or coarse or both.
The answer is, “NO.” What we saw was a lack of any understanding of the Alpha model and how to create long-term self-sustaining success. These commercials were more like something high school boys come up with at two in the morning after chugging six-packs of cheap beer followed by vodka chasers.
The real ego-satisfaction elements
The Alpha model that is at the root of Alpha-dominant company thinking has at its core two elements of ego-satisfaction (”self-satisfaction” and “personal significance”). These are the core benefits customers are buying, even though functional product attributes are often cited as the competitive differentiators.
These two ego-satisfaction elements are played out by helping people feel…
The kind of advertising we saw in the Super Bowl commercials pointed to none of those.
Correlation of function and ego-satisfaction
Beyond that, these commercials missed a critical factor in successful marketing: a correlation between function and promised benefit.
The key to successful Alpha marketing is the clear correlation of ego-satisfaction and functional attributes. Function (product attributes or product performance) proves that the ego-satisfaction being promised will be fulfilled.
Consistency of buying process
Obviously, many otherwise smart marketers have become more than a little confused. The truth is that there is little difference in the buying process that leads to loyal purchasing behavior, whether you are talking about persons in their early 20s or in their late 50s. The kinds of things they buy may differ, but young people want ego-satisfaction proven by functionality eery bit as much as do older buyers.
Apple’s line of products is a great example of how a company following the Alpha innovation model attracts both young and old. It has never pandered. It has instead designed a line of products that fulfill ego-satisfaction through their design, functionality, and communications. The young were the first to embrace it, but older purchasers have made it the success it is. They were not alienated by wrong-headed communications, and the result has been that Apple has finally become the Alpha it always had the potential to become.
In reality, there is far more similarity between even the types of things the young and old buy now than there was even 25 years ago. They like generally the same kinds of music. They are familiar with most of the same cultural media and content. Food tastes are very similar. And, most importantly, they make buying decisions in basically the same way.
Study after study (even with audiences in their late teens to mid-20s) shows that persons under 30 are far more motivated to loyal purchasing behavior by Alpha-style marketing communications rather than this kind of pandering. For anyone older than 30, Alpha-style advertising is even more effective in motivating long-term purchase loyalty.
In fact, there is so little difference in core thinking between persons born in the 50s or 60s and today’s youth that differences have had to be created. For instance, the so-called “post-modern” thinking of youth today is nothing but a new name for exactly what the 60s were all about. Before that it was in the twenties. Before that, it was in the late 1800s. And so on, back as far as recorded history can take us.
In the buying process, it is and always will be a process of finding something that meets at least minimum functional performance and then weighing how much various qualifying products provide “self-satisfaction” (how I feel about myself) and “personal significance” (how I think others perceive me). That is the essence of the Alpha model for marketing and innovation.
The only noticeable difference in buying process is in the level of influence peers have upon decisions. Younger persons are far more likely to be swayed by peer pressure (especially in things that are purposely designed to seem “weird” or “wacky” to anyone older) than are older persons. The trouble for marketers is that the things that create interest among younger persons only seldom translate into long-term loyalty, while marketers who recognize the universally common Alpha principles are able to attract both young and old (albeit at different points in the life of the product).
I feel sincerely sad for those leaders who have cheapened their products with the money they could have used to strengthen them and to give them sustainable success by understanding the Alpha model. I hope that some of those advertisers might discover the real path to success in creating self-sustaining loyalty, because some of the products being advertised were viable ones. They just got lost in the mythology of how people buy things.