Thursday, January 18, 2018

Quotidian Consumption

It is theorized that habits are formed as a method of saving energy.  The mind attempts to find patterns in any activity, with the goal of creating a habit, and within a few repetitions is generally successful in so doing.   This is well-supported by the rat-maze experiments, in which the brain activity of rodents decreases with each repetition of the same exercise, and it’s evident in human begins as well through their daily habits.

Consider your own morning routine: there is very little decision-making effort in deciding what to do between the time you wake and the time you arrive at work: you do what you do every morning, in the same order, unless there is an intentional effort to change your patterns or something external prevents you from following your common routines.   It is as if you are on autopilot: these tasks require no thinking, and are generally not recorded in memory, so long as everything goes as usual.

Quotidian patterns lead to quotidian consumption, at least on the product level.   If you brush your teeth every morning, there is very little thought as to whether you will consume toothpaste – you simply will consume it, and repurchase it when you run out, as a means of perpetuating the routine and avoiding the expenditure of mental effort that would be required to question whether the task should be done differently, or at all.

On the level of brand, the consumption routine is less influential than the purchasing routine – another procedure that tends to run on autopilot.   The daily task of brushing one’s teeth requires the consumption of toothpaste as a product, and the monthly task of buying more toothpaste involves the selection of the brand of the product to be used.

Or more accurately, it often does not involve selection, but repeating previous behavior mindlessly in the environment of the store – going to the same store, going to the same aisle, reaching for the same space on the shelf where the brand is expected to be found.

There is, of course, and interrupt sequence: if the brand is not found in its usual spot, there’s a temporary need for mental engagement to locate it in a new location, which will become the patterned location after a few iterations.   But even then, the mind is focused on the task of finding the familiar brand, and both cognition and sensation are attuned to that task. 

While there is a chance this will provide an opportunity to consider a different brand, the more common behavior is to take the easiest route to success: to use superficial sensory input to find a known pattern in an unknown location, rather than the cognitive task required to select an entirely different brand.   Thus, even when there is an interrupt sequence that requires additional mental effort, the degree of effort expended is minimized by the nature of the decision undertaken to overcome the obstacle.

Particularly for products that are part of a quotidian consumption cycle, it is exceedingly difficult to become the brand of choice or to get the customer to change their preferred brand.   It is likewise difficult to accidentally disrupt brand loyalty unless a conscious effort is made to do so – which may, perhaps, support the notion of routinization-and-minimization pattern among vendors.

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