In taking this course, I discovered my disciplines are so connected that marketing is almost entirely dependent on sociology. If you splash in design principles (from my associate’s degree), it takes it a step further. How can you incorporate sociology into the use of design in marketing?
Without the construct of the sociological institution of economy, marketing wouldn’t be necessary. Historically, societies began as barter economies, where exchanges of goods took place person to person and varied based on what the hunters or gatherers produced at the time. Marketing was not needed because everyone knew what goods and services each person in the community provided and trade only existed within the local economy. David the blacksmith in the next town over might have cheaper horseshoes than Sven in your own town, but the cost of travel outside of the community markets had to be weighed against the convenience of close supply and demand. We weren’t comparing prices when the technology of the time didn’t allow for it. As economies moved into industrial revolution and beyond, advances in how the message of a person or company’s offerings was able to spread further. In today’s common place market economy, individuals shop for the best prices through a variety of means and will often travel great distances to satisfy their needs as a consumer. In countries where the government closely controls the production and distribution of goods, also known as a command economy, consumer choice has little to do with what products actually move on the shelves. Marketing is therefore almost absent in these types of economies.
In the modern market economy, a product or service needs to get its message to their end consumer efficiently. If you spent all your advertising money on a newspaper ad in an area where very few people read the newspaper, your message would not spread. Without the demographic data gathered from sociology, target marketing would not be possible. In sociology, you look at social stratifications, such as race, gender, age, and class, and social institutions, such as family, education, religion, economy, and politics. In marketing, those divisions are used to gather demographics and develop products and services that are geared towards a specific audience. From our example, instead of a newspaper ad, you may discover that the majority of individuals in an area have a long work or school commute and therefore are frequent radio listeners. A radio ad for your product or service would get your message to who you want rather than the newspaper ad that goes practically unseen.
Social exchange theory is a social psychological perspective that explains social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties. Social exchange theory posits that all human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit analysis and the comparison of alternatives. For example, when a person perceives the costs of relationship as outweighing the perceived benefits, then the theory predicts that the person will choose to leave the relationship. (Rtcearly, 2018). This relationship evaluation not only applies to personal relationships, but also business interactions as well.
Enter the elements of design. The elements of design are often led by consumer appeal. One excellent example looked at Pampers diapers evaluation of the market in Japan. Where the company has had success selling in large quantities with little regard to how large the packaging was in the United States, they were losing sales in Japan with their bulky boxes. Japanese homes are smaller as well as Japanese stores, so shelf space is a commodity. When Pampers saw their two competitors utilizing smaller packaging, they implemented the change in their packaging to stay competitive and sales increased dramatically. (Perreault, Cannon, & McCarthy, 2014). The Japanese lifestyle was evaluated from a sociological standpoint and Pampers used that information to design a product that would fit on the shelves in Japanese stores and in Japanese homes. What can we draw from this example?
People’s behaviors, sociology, are applicable to the design principals and that information is therefore usable when marketing products to specific audiences. Decisions as trivial as what style and color of font to use on your website or poster have statistical implications. A light color text on a black background is more difficult for the human eye to read than dark text on a white background. The human eye perceives white through all three visual receptors of the eye and therefore light text appears busier against a black background and can lead to eye strain. (UX Movement, 2011). Historically, serif fonts, such as Times New Roman and Georgia, were used for books, newspapers, and other long bodies of paragraphed text. With the introduction of the internet, many websites are switching to styling their content with sans-serif fonts, such as Arial and Helvetica, for the ease of reading. Statistically, people now perceive sans serif fonts almost as easy to read as serif fonts, but the consensus of which is actually easier is debated on heavily. (Walker, 2014).
The means of research for marketing is often researched through locational observation, which is the observation of the potential consumer in these sociological environments. If you visit a mall at 2pm on a Wednesday to analyze your potential markets, you would see a variety of people. If you see a well-dressed man buying a diamond ring from a jewelry store, you can make quite a few assumptions. He has a flexible enough job to be shopping in the middle of the day, he has a significant income to be shopping for jewelry on a weekday, and that he is likely in some variety of relationship, depending on what exactly he purchases. Marketing to someone in this audience with a display right outside of a jewelry store would be effective. Placing a storefront nearby would likely bring in customers with similar interests, so stores such as Sharper Image or The Art of Shaving would have success nearby this location. If you see a woman in yoga pants with a messy bun pushing a double stroller with a toddler and a newborn, you can assume that she is a mother, or at least a caretaker of those children. She is possibly at the mall for exercise and directing marketing towards her inside a store would likely not be effective. She’s probably limited on time and possibly income, so a free trial type of offering near the entrance she uses would be an ideal means to grab her attention. Prominent displays outside of stores advertising good deals might catch her attention and bring her into a store she would not have usually gone into, such as a buy one, get one deal from a Bath and Body Works or a sale on all jeans at Old Navy.
New electronic mediums make feedback that wasn’t possible before without focus groups. Utilizing these mediums, such as Facebook and Twitter, casts a wider net in your total marketing efforts. Social networks are themselves sociological constructs and with them you can achieve interaction that is almost immediate. Individuals utilizing these social networks are less candid because people don’t filter online like they do in person. While not ideal, you can’t exactly predict who is going to view your content. A friend of mine has a page for awareness of her daughter’s disability and she recently posted a photo of her daughter and her service animal. Her message was to share how well the two get along, however a group against pit bulls reshared her image and she received hateful messages about how she was an irresponsible parent for putting her daughter in danger by having a service animal of a certain breed. In an ideal situation, you can take advantage of negative exposure and use the features built into the social media advertising platforms to help you isolate your market down to specific likes and consumers. A possible solution for my friend to narrow her market niche would be to close privacy on her page.
As an integrative example, let’s look at the popularity in viral marketing using social media. In sociology, people like engagement and people like memes. In marketing, when people remember you, they will utilize your products or services over your competitors’ products or services. Integrating these two concepts, one can draw the conclusion that if your company does the hashtags, the twitter, and the memes, the people will remember you. Some excellent examples of targeted marketing following these integrative practices are Wendy’s Twitter account, Purple’s creative video advertisements, and Motel 6’s ironic use of hashtags in their radio advertisements. Memes such as Distracted Boyfriend, Mocking SpongeBob, and Blinking White Guy are short, memorable ways to convey a quick, relatable message that is almost immediately consumed by an audience that is comprised of millions of insiders. (Pierno, 2018).
There is a natural relationship between sociology and marketing. Sociological information like social behaviors, buying habits and interactions of consumers are a key point of reference for marketers. When you use sociology to reach marketing goals, you reach a more diverse and ever-expanding audience.
Perreault, W. D., Cannon, J. P., & McCarthy, E. J. (2014). Basic Marketing: A Marketing Strategy Plan Approach. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Pierno, A. (2018, July 16). How Brands Can Use Memes to Connect With Consumers in a New Way. Retrieved from Adweek: https://www.adweek.com/creativity/how-brands-can-use-memes-to-connect-with-consumers-in-a-new-way/
Rtcearly. (2018, January 2). Sociological Theory/Exchange Theory. Retrieved from Wikibooks: https://en.m.wikibooks.org/wiki/Sociological_Theory/Exchange_Theory
UX Movement. (2011, April 28). When to Use White Text on a Dark Background. Retrieved from UX Movement: https://uxmovement.com/content/when-to-use-white-text-on-a-dark-background/
Walker, T. (2014, March 17). Conversion XL. Retrieved from The Effect of Typography on User Experience & Conversions: https://conversionxl.com/blog/the-effects-of-typography-on-user-experience-conversions/