Alan Zorfas argues that marketers too often react to competitors' moves in the marketplace rather than on customers' motivations. Marketing tactical decisions became a dance where a a firm leads with a sales promotion or incremental product innovation and the remaining firms then follow with a suitable move. This dance leads to Zorfas' money point:
...I could argue that the vast majority of marketing activity compensates for the lack of (customer) knowledge. ...We affix on competitive moves. They add a feature, we match. They lower their price, we match. We add a feature; they match…and so on. The paradox here is that the more we try to one-up our competition—instead of connecting with consumer motivations—the more we commoditize our categories.
Zorfas' argument rests on the misguided concept of motivation as promulgated by Maslow.
Motivation as a singular concept does not exist. However, motivations exist. Specifically, it exists as intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and apathetic motivation.
Drawing from Zorfas' context, intrinsic motivation occurs as customers perceive that a firm's product will offer a specific benefit or somehow be useful in their lives. For example, a Swiffer mop would appeal to customers whose houses include hardwood floor. To the degree that a customer perceives a Swiffer will somehow make his or her hardwood floor cleaner and/or brighter, then the customer is likely to purchase a Swiffer.
Extrinsic motivation represents influences outside the customer's mind that encourage or discourage an activity. For example, if Proctor & Gamble offers a $1 off coupon on the purchase of a Swiffer, then the $1 coupon represents a form of extrinsic motivation because it exists beyond the customer's mind. Similarly, if Giant Eagle grocery store creates a bundle package with Swiffer mops and the separate mop heads, then the bundle also represents a form of extrinsic motivation.
Finally, apathetic motivation exists as a condition where customers do not care. They are buying your product because other people think it is a good idea to purchase it. If left to the customer's own devices, then the customer would not buy it.
Measuring these forms of motivation is not difficult. Indeed, three questions coupled with a question related to intent to purchase the product should provide sufficient insight into customers' motivations. In turn, the marketing department should be ready for that kickoff meeting.