Consumer behavior study indicates strong regulatory focus needs strong messaging

8 Jan 2017

Consumer behavior study indicates strong regulatory focus needs strong messaging


In the healthcare space often you see consumer healthcare products come out for reason to buy. A good example is tooth paste or the oral dentifrice market in India. The estimated market size is 800 crores and it is growing almost at 18 % CAGR. But the usage of the toothpaste is a mere 85 gms per person, one of the lowest in the world. So that shows that our volumes are high but per capital usage per person is low. This is despite the Indian Dental Association (IDA) recommendation to brush twice a day. So somehow through the regulatory focus matches those of consumers, for example to brush the teeth regularly, the argument for brushing twice is not strong enough.

Last year Prof Anirban Som from IIM Trichy published a similar study in the Australasia Journal of Marketing, where he felt that the current research contends that regulatory fit by itself may not be sufficient for attracting consumers to purchase a product. Consumers will show a favorable attitude towards products that match their regulatory orientations only when the information related to the products that match their regulatory focus has a strong argument quality. The effects of regulatory fit will be reversed if the argument quality becomes weak.

So going back to the toothpaste market, if a Brand A says that adding salt to the toothpaste makes it better but is unable to follow it up with strong information as to how it makes it better, then they are creating a weak argument for salt and this might work against them in essence creating a market for probably a competitor, Brand B who is not using salt. So Brand A has spent all this effort in marketing to create a market for Brand B.

That means brands who make these claims need to follow it up with a strong reason as to how the claim would be supported. This is mostly true of consumer care but can be true of so many other industries. Airlines for example have been telling us to switch off electronic devices in flight. But surely now the argument grows weaker every year as they offer free WiFi on board the flight, so in essence there is no strong information to suggest otherwise. So people do tend to use their electronic device in flight despite the regulatory advise against it.

But this is also depends on what the customer seeks from his brand. Some individuals want to maximize their gain. But then there are others who want to reduce their loss. And messages work both way, but the information to support either gain or loss have to be strong.

What this study tells us is that

  1. Customer will more likely make a purchase if his regulatory focus matches that of the brand
  2. But weak information or action to support the regulatory claim might result in a reverse behavior where the customer buys a rival product with a weaker regulatory claim
  3. In both cases it depends on the values driving the customer IE Maximize Gain vs Minimize Loss


So the message to marketing and branding leaders is

  1. If the focus is to ensure regulatory compliance, for example brush twice a day for cavities free teeth, then the information provided should be strong, to ensure that the customers continue to connect the benefits with their regulatory focus
  2. That means all reading material, website, digital messages, bill boards etc have to convey the same very strong argument
  3. Failure to do so will create a negative bias for the brand and might potentially create a market for competition that may not have a strong regulatory focus.
  4. Finally it is important to get a 360 degree view of the customer, this way it would be simpler to determine if he wants to maximize returns or reduce risks

Do check out this video where I discuss influencer marketing and how it can be used to create a better marketing message for customers.


doc (241 Posts)

Strategic transformation and business development professional, with the ability to convert complex processes to simple concepts. A keen India watcher, with a passionate fervor for promoting and writing about Desi brands. Speaker, Writer, Story-teller, Head Banger and Manchester United Supporter.

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