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One very useful tool we have to help understand how consumers make decisions is the 5 stage consumer decision-making model. The model proclaims there are 5 specific steps consumers go through in every decision they make.

The steps, in order, are:

  1. Problem/Need Recognition
  2. Information Search
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives
  4. Purchase Decision
  5. Post-Purchase Evaluation

The developers of the theory go on to say that we don’t necessarily spend an equal amount of time at each stage, we may not follow the process in a linear order, and they say we may not even be consciously aware of going through the stages or of which stage we’re in. When you factor all of that in and think about any purchase decision you’ve ever made, you can see where it does apply and is quite a neat theory. You can also readily get an idea of how YOUR customers, or if you’re a business-to-business marketer, the customers of your customer (who are ultimately YOUR customers too if you’re truly practicing the marketing orientation) make decisions. That knowledge can, in turn, help you develop your entire marketing campaign from choosing your target market to developing ad copy and sales presentations to making it easy for the customer to make the purchase to ensuring the customer is happy once the relationship is opened, so they can help influence other consumers when they go through the stages of the decision-making process. Powerfully useful stuff indeed!

On the other hand, if you’re skeptical of this nifty little 5 stage process, you won’t be without a team to root for. Another lesser-known but consideration-worthy theory is that of the “black box.” This “alternate theory” asserts that, though the 5 stage model has some application, ultimately it is very difficult indeed to truly, fully understand how and why consumers make decisions. Or how/why human beings make decisions about anything. The black box theory states that marketers can know what stimuli “go in” to the mind of the consumer and that a decision “comes out”, but understanding the exact process remains a mystery. If you and I both think about some of the purchases we’ve made and then tried to justify them, we’d probably agree.

Who knows who’s “right,” but I do think you’ll find understanding these theories can give you some valuable insight into how your messaging efforts find their way into the world of your customers.

All models are wrong. Some are useful.” – George E.P. Box, Statistics Professor


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Yeah, I know this is mostly a “business” BLOG. But you also recall that I passionately believe that business has the opportunity to BE an inspiration to the world it serves.

Plus, ’cause we all know it ain’t easy, sometimes just a little surprise inspiration can be a very beneficial thing.

So with that in mind, here’s an uplifting news story about a kid who asked his mom to buy a meal for a homeless man. Then the little fellow said a prayer with him.

Nice work, young man! Thank you for your example!



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First, let me point out that I have LOVED Mad Men since discovering this television masterpiece back in 2007. Set in the 60s, it was a great tribute to that era and also a very aptly done salute to advertising’s contributions to popular culture while also pointing out how tough the whole creative process has always been, how competitive the advertising industry is, etc. The show also helps remind us in some not-so-suble ways that the good old days weren’t always good. I could go on and on about how this show entertained me, but if you’re a fan, you know what I’m talking about.

My deep concern – and I had to hold myself back writing about it ever since learning that this was to be Mad Men’s last season -  was that like so many finales to so many shows to whom I’ve been a loyal patron for numerous seasons, this one would end tragically. When I say “end tragically,” I don’t necessarily mean that someone dies or that we’re left pondering what the heck happened, but that it just ends. Like switching off the TV in mid-program. Pffft!

Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, that was not to be the case with the Mad Men series finale. Bravo, series creator Josh Weiner! Bravo, sir!

Overall, I thought a lot of very appropriate things happened in this last episode, including Peggy finding true love. Imagine how all the Peggy fans out there must have cheered at that moment and I…er…uh… I mean they, they dabbed away tears of joy.

Lots of other stuff happened, too, and the ending? I thought it was just superb! If by chance you have not seen it, I shall not endeavor to rob you of the experience. However, if spoilers are your thing, you can read all about it here. If you saw it and just want some additional perspective, you might enjoy that site, too.

Thank you Josh Weiner. Thank you AMC. Thank you Mad Men writers and cast. And Thank You Netflix for democratizing programming in such a way that any of us can have a Mad Men Marathon any time we want to for only 7 Bucks a month!

It’s a great world, a great time to be alive, and it’s all been brought to you by marketing! Next time you see a marketer on the street, salute him or her and thank them for their service to our way of life!

The general raising of the standard of modern civilization…would have been impossible without the spreading of the knowledge of higher standards by means of advertising.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Just a little refresher course on how to know if  marketing we’re observing is “good marketing” or not. I thought I’d do this  by quoting some of my favorite marketing authors…

“The goal of advertising is to sell more stuff to more people more often for more money” – Sergio Zyman

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” – David Ogilvy (Before there was Zyman, there was Ogilvy…)

“The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.” – Claude Hopkins(And before there was Ogilvy, there was Hopkins…) (Thanks to my friend Bob Oros for sharing this one way back in 2008.)


Good marketing gets RESULTS! Forget awards, forget buzz, forget total followers, forget how in love the audience says they are with it. Forget all that and simply consider this: If it doesn’t produce results, it isn’t good marketing.

Tell ’em Dr. Burt and the gang said so!




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Looking for a graduation gift? Just sayin’…

Networking can be the most powerful marketing tool you have. This is because it puts you face-to-face with prospects, enables you to get to know all about how you can help them, then enables you to tailor your introduction to exactly that. When you network, you are the brand to those you meet wherever you go. You are the window through which your brand is viewed, you are what they will “say” about your brand, and whatever feelings they get for you or about you will become their brand association with you. Remember, that’s really all a brand is, whatever the customer thinks of when they think of you.

So with that in mind, just remember that EVERYTHING is branding! Be friendly, be professional, and be mindful that somebody is watching, and building lasting impressions of you, all the time.

I know you get this, but if there are others out there who represent your brand, how about making sure they know it, too?

Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you‘re saying.”Ralph Waldo Emerson




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Jack Welch gave me some of the best business/career/strategy advice I’ve ever received. Now, to be fair, he didn’t do it in one of our intimate conversations. Mr. Welch and I have never had any intimate conversations.  Or any other manner of conversation. In fact, we’ve never even met.

But I do consider him to be a mentor of mine because I’ve read a lot of his work over the years, and even though I don’t agree with everything he says or with every decision he made when he was the CEO of General Electric, I’ve always appreciated his viewpoint.  

One time way back in the 1990s he was featured on the news. They showed a clip of him addressing a class of leaders-in-training at GE University, and a comment he made really stuck with me:

“Don’t let anything get between you and your customers.”

The remark was made almost offhandedly, but it resonates with me to this day. It is not only a simple, powerful statement, it’s actionable!

Don’t let anything get between you and your customer! I’ve used that as a guiding principle to help me make all kinds of decisions over the years, and I’ve shared it with clients who have used it, too. The remark isn’t just a good battle cry to help you fend off competitors, but as a way to decide how to use your resources in any strategic decision. If doing what you are considering doing will bring you closer to your customer, it’s at least worth exploring, if not enacting right away. If it won’t, then you should likely set it aside and go back to focusing your energy on things that will bring you closer to your customer.

Don’t let anything get between you and your customer.” – Jack Welch




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