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Marketing to Motivate: The Secret of Intrinsic Rewards

by Ethan Whitehill  |  
April 27, 2011
  |  11,244 views

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to effectively motivate your market to buy
  • The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards
  • How to determine your brand's marketing style

Is Your Brand Ready for the Social Shopper?

If we've learned anything in the last few years, it's that the old marketing model is broken. We've witnessed the collapse of our advertising industrial complex, and we've watched shoppers pull out of our stores and retreat to their financial fallout shelters.

But despite the havoc, there is hope for battle-scarred brands. In the aftermath of the "shop-ocalypse," we're seeing the dawn of a strange new marketing partner—the social shopper. She has adapted to the alien economic landscape and emerged with new values, new behaviors, new tools, and, most important, new social systems.

This shopper, in all of her forms (consumer, buyer, user, loyal customer), is telling business she's through with top-down marketing relationships. Her new world order is bottom up, inside out, and sideways. And the marketer is no longer master of mass consumption.

A New Day in Marketing


As a result of this seismic shift in influence, marketers are just now learning what management scholars have known about motivation for decades—that people respond more favorably to intrinsic rewards than extrinsic rewards. For many brands, however, that kind of talk is heresy—against nature, against culture, against history.

Perhaps, then, it's time to take a serious look at a classic theory of human motivation that many business schools teach, but few businesses practice.

Nearly 40 years ago, Douglas McGregor's The Human Side of Enterprise introduced business to two different theories on worker motivation. The first, Theory X, assumes that people inherently dislike work and try to avoid it when possible. The other, Theory Y, asserts that people can, under the right conditions, enjoy work just as they enjoy play.


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Ethan Whitehill is the CEO of Two West, Inc.

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  • by Jesse Kurth Wed Apr 27, 2011 via web

    I market for a B2C firm in a commoditized service industry. We have a hard time communicating the value for our additional cost to prospects who'd rather pay Joe Shmoe up the street because he competes on price. I've read Daniel Pink's 'Drive' and believe the concepts are irrefutable, but I've never ported those lessons to the realm of customer motivation. This might be the key we need. Great thoughts -- thanks for writing.

  • by Ford Kanzler Wed Apr 27, 2011 via web

    Very cool article but suggest this is not "the dawn of a new marketing partner." I doubt human behavior frankly has taken a sudden radical turn. Perhaps it's merely a splash of fresh marketing thinking. Access to new technologies ARE letting people do what they've always done more effectively. A cursory look reveals there have been lots of Theory I brands for decades. The article is certainly correct that motivating customers this way may be effectively adopted by more brands, some in surprising categories. But intrinsic motivation didn't just suddenly become a new wave of marketing strategy.

  • by Mark Koeks Thu Apr 28, 2011 via web

    Great article and I look forward to strategizing around these concepts. Drive is on my "to-read" list already, I'l need to bump it up in priority. Cheers

  • by Grace Phiri Mon Feb 5, 2018 via mobile

    Wow..great article.

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