What Motivates Action in Modern Marketing?

Motivation in Modern Marketing

In the “Age of the Customer” many of the traditional marketing models like AIDA are no longer as effective. The new generation of digital natives are motivated by the same desires, but the drivers of action start in a very different place.

I grew up in the advertising business, making “Brand Onions.” You always started in the middle with the “Inherent Drama” of the product and worked out through the features and benefits to the personality and story of the brand. In this model, the big peas of the Le Sueur vegetable company became the Green Giant. This was a fine model in the age of mass marketing, where brands controlled the conversations and push stories were the mode of communications.

In the new customer age, and especially in a world of digital natives, consumer’s stories come from each other more than they come from mass marketing. At the center of the “Brand Onion” is something the customer cares about vs. the product that you care about as a marketer. This reality requires a different approach to marketing models and market research.

Instead of starting with your product and your need, you need to start with consumer conversations and their needs and then see if there is a legitimate way that your brand can “lasso” the things your customers most deeply care about.

MINI, for example, started out by making ads about the size of the car and the benefits associated with size (like better gas mileage). But when excitement about the launch of the car began to dissipate, they needed to dig more deeply. We found that at the center of the conversation among advocates of the brand was a deeper motivational territory: a desire to use their MINI as a symbol of their individuality. The brand was recommended as a way to celebrate creativity and self-expression. The resulting action was that people loved to customize their minis and then share the results with others.


Instead of running traditional ads, MINI and their agency BSSP, created an event “MINI takes the states” that allowed owners to invite their friends and celebrate the culture of MINI creativity.Sales rose by 22%.

In the new age of marketing, there limitless opportunities to find new avenues to growth by foregoing the traditionally brand centric, brand monitoring world of insights and instead exploring and embracing digital strategy fueled by customer motivations and customer passions. Just as with politics, it is consumer-to-consumer advocacy – not media Gross Rating Points – that is now the measure of success.

More on Tribal Marketing next time.

David Rabjohns