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Every marketing and advertising initiative is based on a theory of human behavior and motivation. This theory is called radical behaviorism, developed by John Watson and B.F. Skinner. Skinner published his main work in the 50’s, at a time when advertising and marketing developed their theories. Human and animal behavior could be influenced by outside forces at will: the right ‘conditioning’ delivered by the right ‘stimuli’. Based on this theory, marketers developed campaigns/initiatives that answered one question: How can we deliver the perfect stimuli to get a desired response?

While behavioral psychology continues to flourish, behaviorism is no longer a popular orientation or theory. But, the majority of marketers still seem to read Skinner and Watson at night, hoping to find the right stimuli, the holy grail of behaviorism. And, so they spend gazillions on brand associations, brand image refinements and other lost causes just to find that hidden treasure. Never to find it. If all our advertising and marketing is not about delivering stimuli, what is it about?

People-based values

In general, people buy products and services when they add value to their lives. The same is true for marketing: if it gives me any value, I will use that marketing. If it doesn’t, I will ignore it. Google text ads help me find things quicker, making my life easier. Result: A win for all stakeholders. Banner ads don’t enhance my Internet experience, they often devalue it. Result: Average CTRs of less than 0.1%

The behaviorist marketing theory only looks at the benefits and costs of the marketers. I would argue, we need to find ways to measure the costs and benefits for the people we market to. We need to align both stakeholder metrics and find new ways to measure real marketing effectiveness.

How about this? Next time you develop and plan a marketing campaign, just ask yourself: What is the value I’m delivering to people? At what cost do I deliver this value? What is the benefit-cost ration to people I want to communicate to? It will change your marketing dramatically.