An Example of Understanding Consumer Thinking

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A church in my community provided me with one of the best examples of understanding the consumer, which I've ever experienced.

Once a month a church in my community provides free lunch, open to the public. When you go into the dining area you are initially met by a man who is loud, amiable, and obviously enjoying his position. He greets you with a handshake, making sure you know that, "Everything is on the house". He then orders your meal for you and directs you to a seat.

After this someone comes with beverage choices and finally, someone brings you your plate. When you are almost finished another person asks if you'd like more or if you'd like some food to go.

When I was there the cook came out and asked several people how the food tasted and if they had gotten enough to eat, stating, "We don't want you leaving hungry." On top of this, the food was well prepared and really tasty.

There was no evangelizing or proselytizing. There was no announcing the next church event or service times. There was no program you had to sit through as payment for your food. It was just good people, serving good food, and showing they cared about others.

How does this show an understanding of the consumer? Their target market is the less fortunate, the lonely, the unchurched, and the elderly. These types of people want to be respected. These types of people want to know that someone cares. These types of people want to have somewhere to feel safe and socialize and at certain times of the year they want a nice warm place to stay for a few minutes.

Conversely, they don't want to feel like they're at a soup kitchen where they have to pay for their food by sitting through a program being shoved down their throat. They don't want to be treated like they are less fortunate, lonely, depressed, or outcast.

The bottom line is these population segments want to feel validated. Everything this church does during these free meal days, from a warm friendly greeting, to serving the person at the table, to offering takeout, says they understand this need for validation and are working to fulfill it. They want people who don't normally get to go out to eat or who don't get to have some of the nicer comforts in life, to have these experiences. They obviously want to validate the people who come for the free food.

My guess is that this church sees an increase in visitors after every free meal because they understand what the consumer of the free meal is thinking. They provide much more than a free meal, they provide validation exhibiting a great understanding of consumer psychology.

Marketers can learn a great deal from this example. Take the time to really understand what your target market wants and then provide superior service that fulfills their need, want, or desire and you'll eventually see a stable increase in your bottom line.

Under-promise and over-deliver and you'll see great results.

Darrin F. Coe holds a master's degree in professional psychology specializing in consumer thinking. He operates Consumer at He publishes The Darrin Coe Ezine, you can subscribe at

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