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This is part two of a two part blog on how social influences effect consumer behavior (i.e. what drives people to buy ‘stuff’ on a psychosocial level). Part one is on Normative Influences and part two is on Informational Influence.


Part Two- Informational Influences…

Let’s use the following example, to illustrate the difference between Normative and Informational Influences:

You go to a Sunday market with your partner, and you both decide you want to buy a cup of coffee.

There are TWO seperate coffee stands standing side-by-side (stand A & B). Coffee stand A has ten people lined up to buy coffee, whereas stand B has two people lined up to buy coffee.

Because you are driven by Normative influences, you will most likely conform, and line up at stand A.

But! The two people lined up at Stand B, know something you don’t know. Stand B actually has better coffee, better service, their coffee is fair trade, and it’s even a little cheaper.

If you were driven by Informational Influences, you would go to stand B. regardless of the huge line at Stand A.

But hey, it’s a Sunday, you have time, and it’s only a few bucks so who cares (and anyway what’s in a cup of coffee? Coffee, milk, and the cup it comes in). So, let’s just buy from Stand A, because everyone else is. Let’s be driven to make our purchase based on Normative Influences.

However!! If you were going to spend 30,000 on a car, or 600,000 on a house, I doubt you’d be too worried about the crowd when it came to making a purchase decision. You’d become more driven to make a purchase based on informational influences.

Why? Because financial risk has just gone up considerably, and there are more features to consider (engine size, fuel economy, suspension, steering, ABS brakes, alarm, warranty, size, boot space, acceleration, torque, gears, upholstery, colour etc etc). You will definitely base your purchase decisions based on informational influences.

In a nutshell;

● Normative Influence is conformity based on one’s desire to fulfill others’ expectations and gain acceptance (Myers, 2009).

● Informational influence is conformity under acceptance of evidence about reality which has been provided by others (Myers, 2009).

B2B vs B2C marketing…

It’s timely to mention, that generally speaking you can state that B2C marketing is concerned with driving business through Normative Influences (especially low-involvement purchases like FMCG), and that B2B marketer’s are concerned with driving business through Informational Influences (although like all things, cross-pollination does in actual fact happen, and is preferred if your goal is a thorough brand building exercise).

Furthermore, in B2B vs B2C marketing, in both occasions you’re marketing to human beings. B2B however is often a small & focussed target market made up of committee’s, in a higher-risk purchase environment. However, in B2C marketing your target market can number in the millions, made up mostly of individuals, in a lower risk purchase environment.


Myers, D.G. (2008) Social Psychology. Ninth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.













This is part one of a two part blog on how social influences effect consumer behavior (i.e. what drives people to buy ‘stuff’ on a psychosocial level). Part one is on Normative Influences and part two is on Informational Influence.


Part One- Normative Influences

Normative Influences are an individual’s perception of the “norm”. These “norms” dictate how a person decides to behave attributable to perceiving that there is a degree of social pressure, this degree of social pressure can range from strong to weak. A normative influence implies that if consumers do not follow these norms they will be excluded or frowned upon by peers. Consider the Apple I-phone, when I worked in advertising I knew junior staff members who would forego an entire week or two’s salary in order to purchase an I-phone 4 because the entire agency had them and it was the perceived norm to have an I-phone (versus say an Android phone for example).

Normative social influence is one form of conformity. It is “the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them.” This often leads to public compliance—but not necessarily private acceptance—of the group’s social norms.

Bibb Latane’s social impact theory states that the more important the group is, the closer the physical distance is between the group and oneself, and the number of people in the group all affect the likelihood that one will conform to the group’s social norms.


There are three key sources of influence with regards to Normative Influences.

1)      General Sources, e.g. marketers, advertising initiatives, media.

2)      Special Influences, e.g. opinion leaders. An opinion leader might be David Beckham to me and Beyonce to you. Or George Bush to Republicans and Barack Obama to Democrats.

3)      Groups as influences. Here we can break the groups in our lives into three sub-categories a) associative (groups we hang out with/are involved with/associate with), b) aspirational (groups we aspire to be like/ associate with) and c) dissociative (groups we strongly desire not to associate with e.g. emo kids or ad wankers who own I-phones so you go out and buy Android to prove that you aren’t anything like them.)

These three sources of normative influences can affect brand choice, conformity (behaving like the group behaves, this is generally more about brand choice than the product itself), compliance (doing what someone asks you to do) and reactance (doing the opposite/opposing what the individual or group wants us to do.)

Normative influences create congruence. Congruence is basically the process of people or things locking in together, a “becoming one” type concept. Brand choice congruence is the effect of normative influences on the likelihood that consumers will buy what others buy.

So… these normative influences can force decisions such as whether or not to buy into a product category (Do I buy hair gel or hair wax?) and then which brand they may choose to go with (Okay I’ll buy hair wax because Dave and John do. But do I buy Dax-Wax or Sweet Georgia Brown wax? I better check with Dave and John.)

Another important point to explore is as to whether or not the product/brand is for public or private consumption. For example, I bought an Audi once because it’s a product/brand that you will see me interact with out in public. Thus, social norms of a group I aspired to be like drove me to buying an Audi because they might see me using it. But do I really care if I buy a brand/product which I’ll only be using in private? Like, Peanut Butter for example or perhaps a brand of underwear (under wear might be a bad example because in some cases I hope certain people will see it… eventually). Again the I-phone 4 in the ad agency is a good example here. Everyone sees your phone, it better be Apple. No one sees your underwear generally speaking so hey- wear what you want or even better why even wear any at all? J

Using Compliance Techniques- making the great unwashed buy your cool “stuff”


A compliance technique is basically a means to an ends – the end being that a potential customer inevitably buys into your product or brand. The average sales manager will have seen these one hundred times before. Use these, but use them strategically and ethically:

  • Foot in the door technique; Get a consumer to agree to a small favor.
  • Door in the face technique;  Shock consumer with big request, than contrast to small request
  •  Even a penny will help technique; Ask consumer for a favor so small it hardly qualifies .e.g. Can I have one minute of your time?
  • Ask Consumer to predict Behavior; e.g. How are you helping the environment? Do you recycle? Our product is made of recycled parts.
  •  Provide freedom of choice;  e.g. Vodafone displays a range of cell phones, thus giving the consumer a sense of freedom through empowerment to choose.

Okay so that’s Normative Influences. Next week I’ll write up part two on Social Influences and how they effect Consumer Behavior (a blog on Informational Influences and how they effect brand/product choice.)

Happy to be keeping you clever

O W Lovell

Thanks to:

Wikipedia (sorry, yes I went to wiki for a concise definition on Normative Influences)

and also;

Hoyer & MacInnis (n.d.). Consumer Behaviour (4th ed.).

Creating a positive brand image takes marketing programs that link strong, favorable and unique brand associations to the brand in a person’s memory. And when measuring customer based brand equity it really doesn’t matter how they are formed; all that matters is their favorability, strength and uniqueness.

Its important to recognize that consumers can form brand associations in a variety of ways other than your marketing activities; from direct experience; through information from other commercial or nonpartisan sources such as Consumer Reports or other media vehicles; word of mouth; and any assumptions made about the brand itself e.g. its name, logo, identification with the company, country, channel of distribution, or person, place or event.

Ultimately you need to recognize the influence that these information sources can have on your brand/s and learn to manage them as well as possible by designing communication strategies which adequately account for them.

Strength of Brand Associations

The more deeply a person thinks about product information and relates it to existing brand knowledge, the stronger the resulting brand associations will be. Two factors which strengthen association to any piece of information are its personal relevance and consistency with which it is presented over time.

Consumers form beliefs about brand attributes in different ways. Brand attributes are those descriptive features that characterize a product or service. Brand benefits are the personal value or meaning that customers attach to the product or service attributes.

In general direct experiences create the strongest brand attribute and benefit associations and are particularly influential in consumer’s decisions. See the table below (fig 1.0) which illustrates how consumers evaluate the importance of different reasons for brand choice.

Fig 1.0

Company influenced sources of information such as advertising are often likely to create the weakest associations and thus may be the most easily changed. To overcome this hurdle, marketing communication programs use creative communications that cause consumers to elaborate on brand related information and relate it appropriately to existing knowledge. They expose consumers to communications repeatedly over time, and ensure that many retrieval cues are present as reminders.

Favorability of Brand Associations

To choose which favorable and unique associations to link to your brand, you will need to carefully analyze the consumer and the competition to determine the best positioning for the brand. You will need to create favorable brand associations by convincing consumers that the brand possesses relevant attributes and benefits that satisfy their needs and wants, such that they form positive overall brand judgments.

Thus, favorable associations are those that are desirable to consumers- convenient, reliable, effective, efficient, colorful- successfully delivered by the product, and conveyed by the supporting marketing program. Desirability depends on three factors: how relevant, how distinctive and how believable consumers find the brand association. Deliverability also depends on three factors: 1) the actual or potential ability of the product to perform, 2) the current or future prospects of communicating that performance, and 3) the sustainability of the actual and communicated performance over time.

Uniqueness of Brand Associations

All brands need a unique selling proposition (USP) which will give consumers a compelling reason why they should buy it. You may base your USP on product-related or non product-related attributes or benefits. In some categories non product-related attributes more easily create unique associations- for example the idea that Heineken is a suave, cool and popular young professional in their latest TV ad- The Entrance.

While strong and unique associations are critical to a brands success, unless the brand faces no competition, it will most likely share some associations with other brands. In actual fact shared associations can help to establish category membership and define the scope of competition with other products and services.

Consumers may consider certain attributes or benefits prototypical and essential to all brands within a category, and a specific brand an exemplar and most representative. For example they may expect a running shoe to provide support and comfort and to be able to withstand repeated wearing, and they believe that Asics, New Balance or some other leading brand best represents a running shoe. Another example is that consumers might expect an online retailer to offer easy navigation, a variety of offerings, reasonable shipping options, secure purchase procedures, responsive customer service and strict privacy guidelines, in which case they may consider to be the best example of an online retailer. Thus in most categories varying degrees of isomorphism can occur.

Thus, in almost all cases, some product category associations will be shared with all brands in the category. Note that the strength of the brand associations to the product category is an important determinant of brand awareness.

To conclude, to create the differential response which leads to customer based brand equity, marketers need to make sure that some strongly held brand associations are not only favorable but also unique and not shared with competing brands. Undoubtedly unique associations help consumers choose brands.

The Four Steps of Brand Building

I have mentioned the four steps to brand building very briefly during my first blog called Fairy Tale Branding. But here the fundamental questions to ask yourself when brand building:

1)      Who are you? (Brand Identity)

2)      What are you? (Brand Meaning)

3)      What do I think or feel about you? (Brand responses)

4)      What kind of association and how much of a connection would I like to have with you? (Brand Relationship)


Stay Breezy.

Oliver W

PS I will be discussing the building blocks further in the next couple of weeks so keep your eyes peeled for an article titled The Great Pyramid.  My next few posts will more than likely explore Local and mobile advertising and/or logos.


Thanks as always to:

Keller, K L (2001).Strategic Brand Management: Building, measuring, and managing brand equity (3rd ed.).New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

1) When a person goes into a shop to buy a product, will they be able to recognize your brand as one which they have already been exposed to? Yes? No? Maybe?

2) In which situations do they see themselves using your brand? For example are your sausages for the BBQ only? Or are they used for a mid week quick and easy dinner?

The two questions above address the concepts of 1)Brand Recognition and 2)Brand Recall.

Brand recognition is the consumers ability to confirm prior exposure of a brand when given the brand as a cue. Generally brand recognition is more important if the consumer is making a decision at the point of purchase where brand name, logo, packaging and so on will be physically present and visible. If consumer decisions are made away from the point of purchase, on the other hand, then brand recall will be more important. For this reason creating brand recall is very important for service and online brands: Consumers must actively seek the brand and therefore be able to retrieve it from memory when appropriate.

Establishing Brand Awareness

So how do we create brand awareness? Increasing brand awareness means increasing familiarity with the brand through repeated exposure, although this is generally more effective for brand recognition than for brand recall. The more a consumer “experiences” the brand by seeing it, hearing it, or thinking about it, the more likely he/she is to strongly register the brand in memory.

Anything that causes consumers to experience a brand name, symbol, logo, character, packaging or slogan- including advertising and promotion, sponsorship and event marketing, publicity and public relations, and outdoor advertising- can increase familiarity and brand awareness of that brand element. And the more elements you can reinforce, usually the better.


Improving brand recall will also require linkages to appropriate product categories or other cues which lead to purchase or consumption. Jingles, logos, symbols and characters aid brand recall. The way you pair the brand and its product category with advertising and slogans will help determine the strength of product category links. Strong links between the brand and the category or other relevant cues may become especially important over time if the product meaning of the brand changes through brand extensions, or even company mergers and acquisitions.

Product Category Structure

To fully understand brand recall we need to understand product category structure, or how product categories are organized in memory.

The beverage market is a good setting to examine issues in category structure and the effects of brand awareness of brand equity. The diagram below illustrates one hierarchy that might exist in consumers minds.

Consumers first distinguish between flavored and non flavored beverages (water). Next, they distinguish between non alcoholic and alcoholic flavored beverages. They further distinguish non-alcoholic into hot drinks like tea or coffee, or cold drinks like milk, juices, and soft drink. Furthermore alcoholic beverages are distinguished by whether they are wine, beer, or distilled spirits.Consumers will often make decisions in a top down fashion. Finally, consumers might then choose a particular brand within the product category in which they are interested.

The depth of brand awareness will influence the likelihood that the brand name will come to mind, whereas the breadth of brand awareness describes the different types of situations in which the brand might come to mind. A good general example is soft drinks- soft drinks have great breadth of awareness in that they come to mind in a variety of different consumption situations. For example a consumer may consider drinking Coke anytime anywhere.

Summary of Ideas

We create brand awareness by increasing the familiarity of the brand through repeated exposure (for brand recognition) and forging strong association with the appropriate product category or other relevant purchase or consumption cues (for brand recall). It is important to understand the product category structure of your market so that you can begin to examine the breadth of usage and depth of recall that your brand holds within its respective market.

Heavy Reading I know- refer back to this post every now and again when discussions on advertising, brand promotion or brand awareness pop into your mind or the office.

Now you know.

Ollie W


PS Next article I’ll look at brand image and ideas which will influence how you strategically position your brand.

Thanks to:

Keller, K L (2001).Strategic Brand Management: Building, measuring, and managing brand equity (3rd ed.).New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

As I mentioned in my previous blog advertising can typically be grouped into two categories: above-the-line and below-the-line advertising. Above-the-line advertising is typically marketing that is done by ad agencies and includes television, radio and press promotion. Below-the-line advertising is typically conducted by the company itself.

Direct Mail Marketing

While direct mail can have mixed results, when used properly, it can be an effective means of advertising. Direct-mail campaigns should be professionally designed, and copywriters should be hired to create compelling messages that your intended customer’s can’t ignore. The costs for direct mailings are directly dependent on the size of your campaign but generally are lower than most above-the-line advertising techniques. The key to a successful direct mailing campaign is of course to have a database of relevant names and addresses- otherwise you won’t be doing much mailing at all. It never hurts to have an interesting piece of mail designed too- for example a 3D pop up envelope.

Door-to-Door Marketing

Door-to-door marketing takes selling to a personal level, and this is one of the most common forms of below the line advertising. This technique requires highly trained sales staff that know how to build customer relationships and can walk that fine line of being persistent without being annoying. Most door-to-door marketing campaigns are set up to pay on commission, so upfront costs can be kept low and salespeople have more incentive to make sales. An example of door-to-door marketing would be mobile phone packaged sales. An agent goes through their territory, knocks on doors and then tries to sell a data plan if the person is interested in learning more about what they have to offer.

Exterior Location Marketing

Exterior location marketing involves driving interest to an event or sale through the strategic use of employees placed outside the location. Typically, these methods include sandwich-board style promotions or even dressing up the employee in a costume to draw more attention to the location. These employees may stand alongside the road, getting the attention of passing drivers. While this technique is not often employed, it can be beneficial for small companies, restaurants and auto dealers.

Email Marketing

Email marketing can also be a form of below-the-line advertising if your company conducts the campaign on its own. You are communicating directly with the consumer through this form of marketing and can direct them to a landing page where they can learn more about what you are offering. This in turn gives you the ability to measure campaign effectiveness. Email marketing is generally inexpensive, and results can be good if the email list is targeted and fresh and follows double opt-in guidelines Double opt-in refers to the process where consumers have to confirm their subscription to an email list before emails can be sent to them. Don’t spam people- there are laws against it. You will need their permission first- having a function on your website where people sign up to a mailing list can be an easy way to achieve this.

Social Media Marketing

Social Media marketing is a great way to communicate with anyone who has a social media account on facebook, twitter or myspace (for example). Social media is a great way to target people interested in your brand and update them on sales promotions or any other activity you wish to inform them of. Don’t over do it though! Whereas it’s appropriate for a person to update their face book page every 15 minutes- a brand should maybe give updates every few days or even once a week. Remember Social Media requires people to choose to want to follow your activity- so by the time you’re engaging with a customer at this level you have most likely successfully implemented other media- such as above the line activity or other below the line methods. Social Media is free to use and very easy to use. If your brand doesn’t have a facebook page get one yesterday! Assuming your B2C, B2B it probably isn’t so important.

Catch you Later.

Ollie W

Next post: A look at building customer based brand equity- business school models and examples.

Bread and Butt

This blog defines and discusses the neologism of above, below and through the line advertising. Because the bigger half of anything is to understand the vocabulary used, a logical start is for us to put definitions in place for these terms.

Mostly the business world is made to sound more complex than it really is through the use of confusing jargon and non-descript terminology.

View this article as a brief educational piece for new comers to the world of branding, and perhaps a refresher course to those who are already here but didn’t get time to do their homework for one reason or another.

Above the Line Media

Above the line media are mass media formats such as television, cinema, radio, print (newspaper and magazines), out-of-home (billboards, bus stops). It is the advertising method of choice when the target group is very large and/or difficult to define.

Below the Line Media

Below the line media are generally targeted and specific forms of communicating with customers such as email, internet games, smart phone applications, direct mail (posting information out to a specific person), face-to-face selling and social media.

Below is a chart I’ve taken from the DARE website which outlines the differences between above and below line nicely:

Above-the-Line Media… Below-the-Line Media…
Are tailored to reach a mass audience Are targeted at individual consumers, based on their expressed needs and preferences
Establish brand identity or reinforce emotional concept surrounding a product or brand Issue a “call-to-action,” inspiring specific customer activity or tailored messages about a product or a brand
May or may not drive customer response Drive individual responses
Are difficult – if not impossible – to measure with any accuracy Are highly measurable, allowing marketers insight into their return-on-investment, as well as those tactics that are (and are not) working
Cater to the mass market Establish one-to-one relationships between consumers and marketers
Source: V12 Group

Through the Line (Integrating Media)

Through the line is when you successfully point customers to your Below the Line media from information given to them in your Above the Line media (or vice versa). For example, a Radio ad for a Sportswear distributor might mention a new product line in store that will be discounted if you go to their website and sign up to their mailing list. Or a Newspaper ad which encourages potential customers to “like” their face book page. Assuming you sign up to the mailing list or “like” the face book page the advertiser has successfully driven you through the line. In essence, through the line is an action whereas above and below the line are general terms for some of the tools that marketers use when building brand equity.

Follow the YouTube link below to see a good case study on a strong real world example of how to integrate marketing communications well…

Have fun.

Ollie W

PS My next blog will be up in the next day or two. I will spend more time discussing Below the Line Advertising there.

In times of recession people spend less money overall and become far more selective about where they spend the little money they have. This rationale tends to expose and amplify brand weaknesses. As consumers are far less forgiving and far more price-conscious, they abandon brands that fail to provide clear, meaningful and relevant value.

This article will focus on the importance of building clear, meaningful and relevant brand value through storytelling. When organizations, causes, brands or individuals identify and develop a core story, they create and display authentic meaning and purpose that others can believe, participate with, and share. This is the basis for cultural and social change.

Stories are about collaboration and connection. They transcend generations, they engage us through emotions, and they connect us to others. Through stories we share passions, sadness, hardships and joys. We share meaning and purpose. Stories are the common ground that allows people to communicate, overcoming our defenses and our differences. Stories allow us to understand ourselves better and to find our commonality with others.

The Super Organic

Unique to human beings is the concept of the super organic, which was coined by an American anthropologist named Stanley Kroeber in 1972. In summary, life forms in the organic world develop their knowledge systems in the form of biological adaptation and this knowledge is transmitted to the next generation genetically, however the tools of human survival and ways of living must be transmitted in otherways. Most commonly oral and pictoral histories have been the means whereby the experiences of a society or individual have been passed on to succeeding generations. Commonly stories are used.

Invented Traditions

Going forward it is important to understand the notion of invented traditions, that is the way historical events are reconstructed to satisfy an ideological goal in the present. An obvious (perhaps scary) example is the story telling capacity of the late Kim Jon Il- who used the tools of the North Korean media to tell his citizens that he averaged 11 hole in ones every time he stepped out onto the golfing green, or that he was born under a double rainbow on a sacred hill.

The notion of invented traditions isn’t Government specific however. Successful traditions have been created by brands such as Marmite, Weet Bix and the All Blacks/Rugby Union in New Zealand. And in the United States good examples are those of Coke and the Boston Red Sox/ baseball.

Originally not all of these invented traditions were entirely manufactured by specific people with a media planning schedule- however in modern day these brands embrace their organic histories and integrate them into their stories assuming they inject a positive/desired meaning into their brands.

Dramatic Structure/ Story Structure

When discussing story structure in his Poetics the Greek philosopher Aristotle put forth the idea that “A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end”.

Later Gustav Freytag elaborated upon Aristotle’s credo and proposed that drama should be divided into five parts, which some refer to as a dramatic arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement.

To learn more on dramatic structure/how to tell a good story according to Freyburg click here: 

Story telling and Brand Building

Fundamentally when you tell the story of your brand you should aim to guide customers to answering the following four questions favorably:

1)      Who are you? (Brand Identity)

2)      What are you? (Brand Meaning)

3)      What do I think or feel about you? (Brand responses)

4)      What kind of association and how much of a connection would I like to have with you? (Brand Relationship)

A Brand Strategist should be aiming to maximize the breadth and depth of awareness. Brand awareness gives the product an identity by linking brand elements to a product or product category and associated purchase and consumption situations.

The depth of brand awareness measures how likely it is for a brand element to come to mind, and the ease with which it does so.

Whereas the breadth of brand awareness measures the range of purchase and usage situations the brand applies to. For example do I have Coke with rum AND whiskey? Or just rum?

A Good Example

A good example of a Brand which successfully got it’s story into the hearts and minds of New Zealand consumers in 2010/2011 was DB Breweries. Through the integration of TV and cinema ads and some clever print executions DB Breweries increased sales for several of their brands in 2011. All directly attributable to telling a darn good story (and very few budgetary constraints I might add).

Check out one of the DB Breweries cinema ads here to see how it’s done.

Happy story telling.

Ollie W