What's smilar, what different?

What fashions our behaviour is the thought that precedes it. And that thought in turn is shaped by our cognitive abilities. That in turn, again, is partly fashioned by the context within which we operate.

What's interesting about what dictates our behaviour, the way I described it, is that, this is pretty much generic. I mean, its applicable to most of us, if not all of us. The implication on the marketer is that he can pretty much decipher how consumers would behave (read, generic behaviour) within a certain context. What differentiates a certain behaviour from another is the difference in our cognitive abilities and its usage, and the varied contexts within which we operate.

Note that our cognitive faculties get better (in general, I admit) as we grow older. And then our attitudes are shaped more by what we know, than what we feel. In branding terms, that means, brand attitudes are shaped by beliefs based on what we know, than what we feel. Not so when we are young. Brand attitudes are shaped more by what we feel, and what we feel 's got more to do with emotions rather than rational analysis.

The Steve McNair-Sahel Kazemi murder-suicide is a tragic case in question that illustrates generic behaviour (as against specific ones) driven by an overdose of emotions. Its about how cognition dims to minimal levels within certain contexts. The case also demonstrates how gender differences are wiped clean when people respond in an emotionally unstable state. On a specific note, it dispels our preconceived notions about women and crime.

Note what Louis B. Schlesinger, professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice states, 'Both men and women who commit murder-suicide are often motivated by jealousy, though often to a pathological or even psychotic degree. These cases are rarely committed in the heat of the moment; there’s a pre-homicidal context that leads to a homicidal break.'

Carol Oyster, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin adds, 'Discussing women and crime might be a misnomer. Twenty-year-olds are not cognitive adults. The decision making isn’t fully mature until about 24.'

Variables are what's behind consumer segmentation. Generic behaviour on the other hand is what unites people in a manner we can bunch them in the same group. Its easy to assume that visible variables, like gender differences mean varied behaviour. It isn't necessarily so. Men and women can behave alike as much as behave differently. For the marketer the challenge is to know where the similarity starts and where it ends. Note, this is not just applicable to gender as a variable. Instead it cuts across all variables. For example, as much as young and the old behave differently, at times they are alike.

Successful products are ones that can tap into similarities as well as differences. Visible and invisible ones. The hard part however, is knowing when to bunch and when to segment. When to respond to similarities, and when to differences.


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