Tuesday, December 18, 2012

♔ UNCONSCIOUS BEHAVIOR, NEUROSCIENCE AND STRATEGIC PLANNING


Necessity is the mother of invention. After many years of being a market researcher and strategy planner I became frustrated with the tools of my trade.  Not all research is bad, but I believe that the majority of self-reported research can do more damage than good. There is little predictive validity to evaluative quantitative research such as concept and ad testing. And I find some qualitative research illuminating, but it is more so the inspiring people doing the research not the research methodologies being used, and those moderators are far and few between.

I have been studying and applying the behavioral sciences for more than 15 years. And what inspired me to study neuroscience was Primarily working with Martin Lindstrom.  I specialize in unconscious behaviorism and learned techniques to change behavior in a fraction of the time of conventional psychotherapy. I discovered that neuroscience explained and validated the laws of cognition and influence and could be directly applied to branding.

Quantitative Research Systems - There is so much history and money invested in extensive quantitative research systems with vast normative databases that go back years and years. It is difficult to change and risk losing trended information and the comfort of the same old evaluative criteria. And qualitative research remains the quickest and easiest way to cover your backside.  But the real problem is human nature. We decide with our emotions and then we look for rational justification to support our decision. 

David Ogilvy said 'people use research like a drunkard uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination.' It is simply the way of doing business. And it is not easy being the head of marketing in a hyper dynamic industry, especially in this economy. Having data to back up your decisions helps sell your ideas through the system. In most instances, corporate leaders demand it from their marketing teams.

The marketing industry places primacy on hard facts and numbers, on logic over emotions. Emotions are difficult to measure and 'demonstrable ROI' is often the mandate from business leaders these days.  There is also a prevailing sentiment that so-called 'hard working' ads involve strong rational arguments. Cognitive science does not support this belief. This doesn't mean that rational ads don't work. In fact people often need logical permission to give in to their emotional impulses. But you must first stimulate an emotional response responsible for this impetus.

And what damage is this causing?  Only two out of ten products succeed.   The biggest damage is the distraction and investment in a lot research that is expensive and extremely time consuming to implement and report. We are wasting valuable time and resources in the paralysis of our analysis. Not all data is bad data; behavioral data likes sales data and web traffic can be extremely helpful.

Reported data is the most problematic and suspect. Creativity is being shackled because we are spending extensive time and energy developing ideas, concepts and ads that test well within the research system as opposed to motivating real life flesh and blood people in the real world. I am fortunate in that I work with great clients, very talented marketers with great intuitive and creative instincts. But this is the exception, not the norm.

To ensure that deeper emotional and unconscious thoughts are given enough consideration in client campaigns, before I put pen to paper on a strategy, I summarize the business challenge through the lens of these cognitive and behavioral insights. It helps me create a strategy that is firmly focused on the things that drive behavior. These are tools not rules, provocative windows into the problem, not a checklist of items that must be ticked off. I use these same steps as a filter to evaluate and prioritize actionable creative ideas on the back end.  I also challenge planners on my team to think through this process before they write briefs. I encourage planners to read fewer marketing books but more science books. There is a wealth of great books from talented scientists that will provide planners with much more enduring insight into humanity than the myriad of trend reports and tenuous segmentation studies based upon self-reported preferences, attitudes and activities.

The key, macro lessons that people should take away?  Focus less upon the competition and more upon your ideas and products. Human nature inclines us toward a competitive frame of mind not a creative mind-set. We are so busy trying to steal the other guy's slice of the market share pie that we forget imaginative ways to build a bigger pie.

Focus on humans not consumers. The word 'consumer' implies hubris and places corporate interests over human interests. It assumes a behavior yet to be earned by the marketer. Their role is not to consume your product but to satisfy their deep, authentic, real life desires, aspirations and ambitions. In other words, the same things that people have wanted since the dawn of humankind.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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