Beneath the surface: The hidden world of individual buying behaviour

Kyle Findlay, Constantin Michael and Jan Hofmeyr
TNS, South Africa


"…many very little living animalcules, very prettily a-moving"-Anton van Leeuwenhoek, 16931)

Branded markets lead dual lives, and many marketers only focus on one of these lives. For decades, the business world has focused on aggregate-level measures that describe its markets in familiar and reassuring ways. But, aggregate-level constancy belies the chaos2)that lurks just beneath the surface at the respondent level.

Much, although not all, of the business world tends to focus mostly on the aggregate level where decisions are made and actions are taken based on tried-and-tested metrics. The aim of this paper is to refine and improve what we already know by describing more nuanced understandings of closely guarded concepts. Marketers tend to think in binary, black and white terms. A good example of our industry's dichotomous mindset is the use of the term "brand switching" which implies a zero-sum game – a customer either uses your brand or they use a competitor's - when the reality is much messier and might be better described by terms such as "brand experimenting" or, perhaps, "brand rotating".