30 Oct “Real people aren’t wired that way” – see our latest piece in Marketing

“We sell or else.” David Ogilvy’s industry mantra is as pertinent today as it ever was. And the good news is that as brand builders we now know more about how the brain works than ever before. Surely that should help us cajole, persuade & engage our way to glory?

Well no. It turns out that in the brain department we’re all closer to our pre-modern ancestors than feels comfortable to acknowledge in our hi-tech and flexible working environments. We’re emotionally driven creatures of habit, prone to take the line of least resistance.  Far from noble beings of reason, we tend to follow our instincts, or better still mimic what we see others doing. For most buying behaviour, “seems good enough” and “is easily available” is all that matters. It’s the way we’re biologically wired.

However, sometimes in our marketing conversation you can almost imagine that our “targets” are busy weighing up alternative offers for their households like so many mini-procurement departments, balancing up-front cost with value equations in the longer run. Or, even worse, that we’re intent on building an army of devoted cultish followers who will seek out & buy our brand no matter where it stretches. (Blame Steve Jobs for that one.)

So what must we do? As marketers, rather than believe that we can rationally persuade or educate people to prefer our products and services, we need to pay more attention to the un-conscious signals that we send out and the barriers to purchase that we unwittingly create. How quickly can people find us on a grocery-store shelf without breaking flow? Can they see lots of favourable ratings & reviews from others? Is it quickly obvious which of the various options offered is the right one to choose?

No-one ever sets out to make products less visible, or service bundles more labyrinthine – but if we just think about our own experiences as customers, it happens remarkably often. The drive for digital & social currency in many communications briefs also leads to a tendency to miss the main point. It doesn’t matter how many re-tweets you have if your in-store presence has declined. You are unlikely to be selling more than before.

Why does this happen? Because for much of the time in our working lives we are engaged in effortful, cognitively deliberate, rational thinking processes. (‘System 2’ or ‘slow thinking’ in Kahneman’s terms). This is how we design products & packaging, think about costing our service provision and constantly polish our branded content.

Meanwhile “out there” people aren’t wired to buy that way. They will continue to be inattentive creatures of habit, using rules of thumb, immune to much of our sophisticated understanding. If we want to disrupt this behaviour, we need to go with the grain as much as possible, while not underestimating the degree of practical challenge we face.

“We’re blind to our blindness” (Kahneman again). In order to create lasting customer behaviour change we need to overcome our blindness & design for the inspiring emotional irrationality in us all.

An inspiration

Danny Kahneman for integrating economics & psychology to create behavioural economics and articulating a framework that explains so much of what people do

Best time to think

In the shower

A guiding principle

Emotion trumps reason

Triniti Marketing is a consultancy specialising in Behaviour Change Marketing (BCM). We use the latest findings in Marketing Science and Behavioural Economics to understand how we make decisions and, to help our clients win more customers! If you have a Behaviour Change Challenge you’d like to talk about please get in touch with us – the email is info@triniti-m.com