Freddie Daniells has a nice commentary on the following blurb taken from the Spring issue of the Marketing Societys Market Leader magazine:
Marketings proximate mission must be to change customer behaviour it is customer behaviour change that leads to top line growth. Changing customer behaviour is the link that connects the CEO and finance directors requirements with marketing.
...Changing customer behaviour should be formally set as the header objective because it gives direction to the whole marketing enterprise.
I agree with Freddie... this approach is rather backwards. Top-line growth comes from providing a product or service that people want to buy. It's about giving them a better choice than their current options. Sure, this can result in an apparent change of behavior... but the change is an effect, a result. You cannot reverse the law of causality. That's like saying "our objective is to make money." But making money is an effect of a primary cause, ie. selling something that people want. You can say, "I want to be loved." But being loved comes naturally as a result of being loveable, or being loving. Wishing will not get you where you want to go... but taking action and initiating a cause will generate the desired effect.
Too many companies (and individuals) are focused on the effect, not the cause. Their objectives are to be "the leading provider of xyz service" or to "generate x million by 2006"... or "to change customer behavior." But really effective companies simply focus on being more attractive than the alternatives. Change always starts with yourself.
For companies to be loved by their customers, they must be loveable. And they must be loving. And if you love someone, you don't expect them to change. You meet them where they are. Good relationships involve mutual giving, mutual evolution, mutual change. As Freddie noted, it's about co-creation.
Sure, Starbuck's changed the way many people drink coffee... by going to a Starbucks location instead of making coffee at home. But "changing customer behavior" wasn't the primary objective... the objective was to offer a compelling coffee-drinking experience. It turned out to be a better (and more convenient) option for many people... but not for others. So Starbucks started offering bags of coffee for those who wanted to make it at home.
The backlash against the RIAA is the best case study of what happens when you try to forceably change customer behavior. Customers will do whatever they want to do. If you can't create a really compelling reason for them to change (other than passing laws to make their actions illegal), then give them another option that's more of a win-win. RIAA should stop fighting the inevitable and work towards a more realistic objective: ensuring a revenue stream for musicians regardless of distribution method. Sure, it requires more creative thinking. But it's better than being hated.
One more thought: the easiest relationships are the ones in which neither party has to change. When both parties' motivations, desires and actions are complementary, and both are marching to the same drumbeat. The key here is to stop trying to be all things to all people, and be true to your own vision. Customers who are in alignment with that vision will be attracted to you. Whole Foods attracts customers who share their passion for healthy, organic food. Apple attracts customers who share their passion for simplicity and innovative design. And so on.
David Cowan (the author of the article in question) comments on Freddie's post that he agrees that companies should not "arrogantly demand that customers fit the way they do business"... but he does reiterate that "behaviour change is what marketing is all about."
What think you?