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  • Writer's pictureOli Shawyer

Decoding goals...

I recently put down Phil Barden's Decoded - the science behind why we buy what we buy. Using a suite of case-studies and examples, Phil sets out to how explain how we receive information, the value systems we use to process this information, and how we assess the usefulness of products in order to achieve our goals.

It's an incredible read.

And whilst it covers off deodorant, fruit juice, chocolate, hair care and beer products galore, a number of concepts introduced throughout the book have significance for sport, and one that I took particular interest in - the role of goals in motivation.

As all Clubs and Leagues look towards 2021 and defining a potential proposition and offering that works to stimulate maximum demand by delivering real value, it got me thinking about participants, spectators and attendees' purchase behaviour, and just how important it is to understand what motivates them to get involved and buy in the first place.

Most that work in the consumer behaviour domain knows that motivation is a main driving force behind all purchase behaviour. But through many recent neuroeconomic studies, the nature of motivated choice has revealed that wanting and reward in the form of achieving a goal, as opposed to liking something, is actually what drives our willingness to pay for something.

To understand people, one needs to understand what leads them to act as they do. And to understand what leads them to act as they do, one needs to know their goals. – Roy D’Andrade.

As Phil outlines in his book, we go to university because we want a career. We partake in a South African safari because we want excitement. We drive to the nearest food outlet because we are hungry. Goals are the key concept to understanding why we buy what we buy, do what we do. The more relevant a product or service is for an active goal, the higher the expected reward, and hence the more we are prepared to pay. You can like something, but if it doesn't service an ability to address a goal, you're unlikely to purchase it. It's this gap alone which gives insight to why a brand or product so many people claim to like, but so often fails to survive.

Products and services (i.e. brands) are instruments with which consumers achieve goals. When people have a job that needs doing, because they have a goal they need to achieve, they ‘hire’ a product or service to do it.

When it comes to participants, spectators and attendees of footy, particularly when looking to revisit the potential offering to them, we should always be asking ourselves - do we know enough about what goals these people are pursuing when setting out to play footy, to purchase and use a ticket or membership? Do we know what they want to get done, and hence how playing a game, attending a game or having a membership, can be the instrument to getting it done?

And whilst the term ‘goal’ initially sounds like we might make a decision only after reflection and having thought things through thoroughly, like majority of our thinking and behaviour, the setting and pursuit of goals aren’t often driven through considered, conscious deliberation. But it's often automatic, intuitive and quickly processed (beyond our cognition). And with that comes the reality that there are two levels of jobs for which we employ products and services for:

  1. to meet explicit goals that are category specific (i.e. such as moisturising skin, reliability of a car, removing stains), and

  2. to meet implicit goals that are more general and that operate at an underling psychological level (i.e. energising, being safe, having fun).

When it comes to marketing and product development, typically we efforts have focused on the category specific, explicit goals such as tangible benefits and price. But to increase relevance and willingness to pay, the key is to increase goal value on both levels.

The best in the world are brilliant at doing it, but we should always be asking ourselves what we can we further learn and apply about our audiences' implicit goals to help us provide more wanted and demanded products and services. How can we better understand current and prospective participants, spectators and attendees motivations to better serve them and address their dominant implicit goals for:

  • Securitythe panic and fear system – aims to avoid fear and to strive for being cared for and for sociability (attachment, trust, togetherness, care, tradition, etc). Main goals of this system is to avoid danger, avoid change, keep the status quo, avoid uncertainty, strive for stability and not waste energy.

  • Autonomythe rage system – aims to avoid defeat and anger by being superior to others (status, performance). Main goals of this system is to be high in the hierarchy, outperform others, assert oneself, increase power and influence, expand territory, get and stay in control.

  • Excitementthe seeking system – aims to avoid boredom by seeking stimulation, change, innovation etc. Main goals of this system are to seek new and unfamiliar stimuli, break out of the familiar, discover and explore one’s environment, and be different from others.

As we continue to address the challenge and unpredictability that comes with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, there is only one thing more certain than that of the change that will continue to come - and it is that understanding what people want and why is key to success. The more we continue to think about and explore what our audiences' problems are, and what their goals are, as opposed to ours as Clubs, Leagues and sport practitioners, the more we can provide them with solutions by way of products and services that help them achieve their goals today and tomorrow.


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