The Psychology of Obstacles in Brand Marketing

The previous post, Branding Psychology Insights: How Consumer’s REALLY View Your Brand, discussed three important ideas:

  • Your consumers are concerned ONLY about their end result
  • Your product/service is your consumer’s bridge/obstacle to the end result they desire
  • Your brand, the face & name of your product/service, must be synonymous with that end result

We all face obstacles. Obstacles are a part of life. Obstacles contribute to our growth, more than most of us are aware of. And just for clarification – an obstacle, is anything that hinders the progress to a desired goal.

The thing with obstacles, is that they don’t just show up as one big dragon we have to slay. Sometimes there are several dragons we need to get past. Sometimes there are obstacles within obstacles. That’s when we’re truly tested on how MUCH we want our end result. Your consumer goes through these same obstacles on their journey to their end result.

When they choose your brand, your product/service, they are relying on you to get them there in the best way possible (whether ‘best’ means fastest, cheapest, easiest, safest, etc.). That’s when they shift from being a prospect, to being a customer.

Keep in mind: the ‘obstacles along the journey’ concept really only comes into play when the consumer doesn’t have the ability to get their desired end result ‘instantly’. Where ‘time & effort’ are factors. Of course, some products/services provide their consumer with instant satisfaction – food items are an example. If someone’s thirsty, they buy a water bottle and drink it. Simple. However, if you’re selling a course where there’s a learning process, or if you’re providing a service where in the long-term your customer will be able to improve their financial health, their physical health, or their relationships, these things take time and effort. 

These are also the things that are part of the most fundamental human needs. In some way or another, we’re all looking to have these 3 needs met, and constantly improved. These end results will most likely require some degree of time and effort. In other words, they hinder progress.

Question for thought:

After choosing your brand, after becoming your customer, what are ALL the possible obstacles your customer will face on the way to their desired end result? 

And how are you helping them get past all those barriers to their goal?

There are two kinds of obstacles on that journey:

1)      Expected Obstacles

2)      New Obstacles

Expected Obstacles

These are the obstacles that are within the consumer’s awareness.

These are the obstacles that the consumer KNOWS about – the ones that they will CREATE for THEMSELVES. These are personal obstacles. Expected obstacles can be: resisting temptation, sacrificing something, not procrastinating, paying an annual or monthly subscription fee, etc.

staircase

If your goal is to get to the top of the staircase, if that’s your desired end result, you know your obstacles are the stair steps. They are within your sight. You know even before beginning that journey that you’re going to have to keep climbing, one step after another.

The interesting thing about obstacles is that they sometimes increase our sense of commitment to a particular goal. The more dragons we slay, the more invested we become in rescuing the princess, or getting to that gold, or whatever the end result we want is.

Every step on the staircase gets easier to conquer… and as you climb higher you become more invested in getting to the top. Once you’ve climbed halfway or above halfway on the staircase, it’s unlikely you’re going to turn back. The negative emotional impact of turning around and quitting keeps increasing. Eventually, we much rather suffer our way to the end result, than suffer the sense of defeat after quitting.

Once we get past the halfway mark, it’s almost intrinsically ‘automatic’ to keep going… meaning that our motivation automatically sprouts from within. If you’re on a diet and you see a piece of chocolate cake and you resist it, conquering that obstacle automatically strengthens your determination for your end result. Before even beginning the diet, resisting these temptations were obvious obstacles that you were already mentally prepared for.

If you’re a student studying for a particular exam and you tell your friends that you’ll meet them later, a huge obstacle for any student, your determination to succeed on the exam will automatically rise. The best part is, the next time these obstacles show up, it’s EASIER to get past them again because you’ve already done it once.

Key Insight: You need to get your customer past that halfway mark at the VERY LEAST, so you diminish the majority of chances of losing your customer in the process.

If you want to be exceptional however, a market leader, you won’t just get your customer to the halfway mark and move on to something else…. you’ll take your consumer to the top. Your consumer already has obstacles that they EXPECT to have to push through, before starting the journey.

Do you know what those expected obstacles are for your consumer? Can you identify them?

New Obstacles

These are obstacles that your consumer doesn’t know about. These are the obstacles your consumer is hoping they won’t have to face by trusting your brand, your product, and your service. News obstacles are usually the limitations in your product or service. These are company flaws that businesses usually DON’T advertise.

Most people climb with their eyes on the end result (the top of the staircase). They don’t look down. All of a sudden, there may be new obstacles to get past – the toys on the stairs, the spill that hasn’t been cleaned up, etc. The new obstacles are scary. They’re unexpected. The unknown is always a fear for humans.

If your customer has put their trust in your brand by agreeing to take your path to their desired end result, the last thing they want is that trust to be broken. All they can do is take your word and hope that there won’t be any new obstacles.

It’s not the expected obstacles that are usually the deal-breakers for people to get on the journey to getting what they want, it’s the new, unknown obstacles. Because when a new obstacle shows up… that’s when things get interesting…

maze

An interesting paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrates how when we encounter a new obstacle, we react to it by thinking about the problem on a more global scale.

Our awareness expands.

Here’s an experiment to put this in perspective:

There was a difficult maze given to participants in a study mentioned in this paper. A computer tracked the eye movements of these participants. When some participants hit a ‘block’ in the maze where their path to the end goal was interrupted, they responded by becoming AWARE of the entire maze.

Their focus shifted from that one path… to other potential paths to their destination. They began looking for other options and alternatives. Those who didn’t experience any obstacle, happily kept going. It’s natural for us humans, when we hit a barrier, to think about problems more globally.

What does this tell us?

If your consumer is on a journey to their end destination, that journey is already an obstacle.  And usually at the beginning of every maze, the consumer has several paths to choose from. If I want to search for something on the internet, I have the option of choosing to use Yahoo!, Google, Bing, etc. I’ll choose the brand I trust the most, that has always delivered, that I know will give me the least new obstacles in my search.

That decision process on which path to choose, is the definition of marketing.

Because that’s when your company comes along, and through your exceptional brand positioning skills and marketing strategies (that you learned at Brand Marketing Psychology), you convince your prospect to choose your path to their end result… and become your customer. You convince them to choose your brand, your product/service, to get them to their end result.

A question for every brand/business owner to ask themselves is:

  • How clear and FREE OF OBSTACLES is my consumer’s path to their destination… when they choose my brand?
  • What barriers will they hit?
  • What flaws does my product/service have that will make my consumer stop and question their progress?
  • Is there a point they will hit on our path, where their awareness will expand and they will begin considering other options?

If you promised them that they’ll get to their end result in 30 days and in 30 days they’re only halfway there, it’s only natural that their awareness will broaden. They will search out alternatives – your competitors.

How do you retain those consumers?

Sometimes it’s not your product/services flaw. Sometimes the customer might not have used your product/service in the most efficient way. So you might think it’s their issue if they didn’t use it properly… But who is the consumer going to blame? They will never blame themselves.

It’s ALWAYS the company’s responsibility to retain the customer. When they began the journey, they didn’t expect to face these barriers, otherwise they wouldn’t have started. These are new obstacles.

Your Brand Marketing Strategy:

Remember that there are always obstacles within obstacles. The obstacles that the consumer will face on their journey to their end destination, will either be the obstacles that are expected and/or the obstacles that are new. In both cases, it’s usually your company’s fault in the mind of the consumer.

And that’s a GOOD THING. Why? Because now you know how your consumer is going to react, how they think, you know their psychology… and now you can act strategically.

The most strategic way to deal with this is to tackle both potential obstacles. If it’s your fault, if your product/service has flaws, IMPROVE IT. Keep getting feedback and improving it. If your consumer returns your product, ask why. If the consumer is having to conquer their own personal obstacles, HELP THEM through it. Hold their hand and help them cross that bridge.

Are they procrastinating? Provide a schedule – charge them a small fee for it, or give it for free as a bonus. Whatever you do, establish that strategic relationship, where they feel you’re looking out for their best interest, but at the same time, you’re ensuring their focus remains with your brand, your company. You’re ensuring that they don’t even bother looking at other competitors because their awareness hasn’t grown in that global sense because you catch them at a point before it can get to that level.

Get them to their destination no matter what it takes. That’s when businesses thrive through recommendations and especially because consumers become loyal and are open to any other follow-up product/service you have to offer.

Sam Pardhan

Hi, I’m Sam. I enjoy growing brands and businesses through sophisticated marketing methods. Over the years, I have contributed to the profitable growth of my own and many of my client’s companies through the exact principles I write about on Brand Marketing Psychology. It is my hope that these marketing insights will also serve you in catapulting your business and marketing success to new heights.

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