The market as a psychological force field for constitution


As marketing experts’ experience shows, consumers have changed their behaviour and are becoming increasingly difficult to tackle.
Target groups defined using socio-demographic characteristics are less and less useful to marketing strategies. For years, rheingold has worked with the model of Verfassungsmarketing as a way to analyse multiple and schizophrenic consumer personalities and derive effective marketing strategies based on these findings.

Verfassung according to context

A person does not behave the same in all situations – it makes a difference whether we are sitting at a desk, standing in a queue at the bakery or in front of the wedding altar. These contexts dictate our psychological Verfassung and mood. They determine our behaviour and actions. Products and media are integrated into Verfassungen like these and help shape them as well. Verfassungsmarketing begins with the mood, state or conditions in which consumers and business customers place themselves when coming into contact with certain products or services.

It is therefore considerably simpler and more expedient for marketing and communication to orient themselves around such Verfassungen than it would be to set out in search of target groups that are dissolving more and more. This is about offers for psychological Verfassungen and the lifestyles and images associated with them. This is what makes Verfassungsmarketing a royal road to modern consumers today!

Managing the customer through Verfassungsmarketing

The market is seen as a field of psychological forces. If a person (customer, consumer) steps into this field, he or she is subject to these conditions and forces. Equipped with this knowledge, a company can intervene, navigate, change course – that is Verfassungsmarketing. The concept of the Verfassung thus opens up new points of approach to marketing and advertising strategies for marketing professionals.

The tendency to think along lines of the target-group categories that are still common today, on the other hand, gets in the way of developing efficient strategies for marketing and communication. It is still an obvious fact that every product, service and medium has and must have one or more target groups. Still, the focus on target groups in marketing is an expression of a zeitgeist of days gone by.

This focus comes from a time when gender, age, marital status and income were synonymous with specific shopping and consumption habits. Men of a certain age bought and consumed differently from women, single people differently from families, and wealthy people differently from people on low incomes.

Customers do not operate in target-group categories

But these categories are no longer useful today. Wealthy people shop at Aldi, older people are keen for trendy products, and women buy men’s products.

Research has responded to this development by including additional psychological characteristics in the sociodemographic concept in an effort to rescue the traditional target-group model. Target-group profiles identified in this way feature a more or less strong psychological background, such as ‘smart shoppers’, ‘milieus’ or even or ‘style groups’.

Buyers are multiple personalities

But even these approaches are also reaching their limits today if they seek to circumscribe groups of buyers and non-buyers in terms of very specific products and media: Often times, the profiles identified do not differentiate well or are too general.

Current rheingold studies show that there are fewer and fewer constant behavioural patterns that completely shape groups or people! Consumers today are schizophrenic, multiple personalities who develop different behavioural patterns depending on the context involved. Men take on women’s tasks, while women sometimes behave like men; families are sought and at the same time called into question and dissolved again; older people desperately want to be young, while the young seek to be established and famous in ways that used to be reserved to the older generation.

Total adaptation in everyday life

The model of Verfassungsmarketing views consumer behaviour through new ‘glasses’ different to the traditional target-group models and comes up with a number of exciting insights in the process: For instance, the fact that one and the same consumer uses a variety of different chocolate products parallel to one another no longer seems chaotic or senseless.
It usually turns out that the various products serve different Verfassungen and the use motivations associated with them.

Chocolate competes with salami

Psychologically speaking, the Milka chocolate tablet satisfies completely different Verfassungen to, for example, the Ritter Sport tablet, which in many respects competes more with chocolate bars than with classic tablets. Both brands are thus direct competitors to a much lesser extent than would be assumed under a market view oriented purely around product areas and their target groups.

As a concept, Verfassungsmarketing widens the view for actual competitors that are often found outside of the supposed target groups of a specific product area. Suddenly, the Mars bar is in competition with the mini-salami by Bifi or the cheese roll from the baker’s shop. Or a car purchase is seen in competition with holiday planning or home renovation. The concept of the Verfassung thus opens up new points of approach to marketing and advertising strategies for marketing professionals.

Contact and information

rheingold institut


rheingold GmbH und Co. KG
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50672 Cologne, Germany
Phone: 0221-912 777-0
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rheingold@rheingold-online.de