Why marketers without an understanding of the brain will be extinct in 2020
Marketers and marketing researchers persue to explain, predict, and guide consumer behaviour. Consumers – including you – are constantly influenced by everything they see and experience. The understanding of how this affects behaviour provides valuable insights into the reasons why people click, buy, and act. The comparison of marketing vs neuromarketing will convince you of the must to adopt these insights
Conventional marketing methods are primarily focused on the consumer’s self-reported opinions on the effectiveness and the likeability of the advertisement. People often think they know why they made a specific purchase or decision. Consumers are assumed to be rational decision makers, weighing every pro and con against each other to find the best outcome. But if we do so, how do we explain our worst decisions and our closets filled with useless purchases?
Indeed, trying to find the reason for those bad choices is very difficult. People appear to be weak at identifying the reasons behind their decisions: the bad ones, but the good ones as well. So, we can conclude that decision-making is not exclusively a conscious process, but mainly a subconscious process. This is why conventional research methods, like interviews and focus groups, fail individually.
Drivers of our behaviour
From our previous posts, you might have understood that all behaviour originates in the brain. Our behaviour is not only directed by logic reasoning, but it is also highly controlled by factors below our level of consciousness, such as prior knowledge or emotions. A good understanding of the consumer’s brain and its subconscious processes is necessary to create opportunities to guide their behaviour and reach the desired goals more efficiently.
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Comparing marketing vs neuromarketing asks for a more precise definition of applied neuromarketing. Neuromarketing can be divided into two types. Neuromarketing research analyses our emotional and cognitive response to media and marketing stimuli. It also studies how this affects our behaviour. Applied neuromarketing uses these insights to improve advertisements and marketing strategies. Well-known companies like Booking.com, IKEA, and Coca-Cola already adjust their strategy with the latest insights and principles neuroscience offers. These companies have adopted neuroscientific research to reshape their marketing strategies. Improving the understanding of consumer perception is an essential requirement for marketers to survive in the future.
The key to survival: information processing
Information processing is the key concept in cognitive neuroscience. Nowadays it is crucial to understand how information enters our brain and how our decisions reach the conscious mind. To create a good understanding of the consumer’s brain and behaviour, we refer to Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman who distinguishes mental activity in System 1 and System 2. What every marketer should know about the brain teaches you all the basics about the brain.
System 1 is the fast, automatic, effortless, intuitive, and subconscious system. It allows us to shift attention to remarkable changes in our environment, make split-second decisions, and prepare for dangerous situations. ‘Gut-feeling’ and intuition are terms often used to clarify these activities. It is estimated that 95% of our decisions are made by System 1. That means that nearly all our decisions and behaviours are subconsciously initiated, primarily based on underlying emotions.
System 2 is mostly known as the slow-processing system. It is controlled, rational, conscious, and follows a standard set of logical rules. Here is where the so-called ‘internal dialogue’ occurs, and where we consciously evaluating multiple reasons and possible outcomes.
Marketing vs neuromarketing
System 1 and System 2 differ in the way they operate in decision-making strategies. Now you will really begin to understand the consumer’s brain! Most marketing campaigns and advertisements are designed to influence the rational mind. Nonetheless, rational decision making is the exception rather than the rule. As we have seen, the ‘buying brain’ is based on subconscious processes, emotions, and snap judgements. That has to do with the difference in processing speed of System 1 and 2. Where System 2 processes with a rate of 40 bits per second, System 1 has a processing speed of 11,000,000 bits per second. As a result, System 1 will almost always override System 2 in a competition in the process of decision making.
Thus, effective changes in behaviour must be backed up with a change in the consumers’ subconsciousness, their gut-feeling, towards the subject (System 1).
If appropriately used, emotions are a powerful tool to do so. People buy based on feelings, but justify their purchases with logic and reason. That phenomenon is known as the post-purchase rationalisation bias: the tendency of consumers to persuade oneself afterwards that the purchase was a good value through rational arguments. This is one example of the many cognitive biases we use to make sense of the world rapidly.
Our brain needs to prevent itself from analysing every detail in the constant stream of incoming information to save cognitive energy. To do this it applies a broad scale of cognitive biases, presenting themselves as a sort of mental shortcuts. These biases simplify the enormous amount of information entering the brain and enable a faster decision-making process. Due to insufficient or inferring information, like emotions, our subconscious mind is prone to systematic errors. Yet, cognitive biases provide a foundation for the predictive science of consumer choice. Because they result from rationality, cognitive biases will always bias our responses in the same way. There are around 200 cognitive biases, and we’ll explain three below.
Post-purchase rationalisation bias
We’ve explained the post-purchase rationalisation bias. People do not want to feel uncomfortable with the decision they made, so they seek reasons to rationalise their choice. The understanding of this mental shortcut helps us realise the difficulty of changing the decision-making process by System 2. The decision itself is already made by System 1, influenced and biased by our basic emotions. Neuromarketing strategies use this by confirming the choice of the customers. Leading firms already include the neuroscientific perspectives into their marketing strategies.
The bandwagon effect
Another cognitive bias worth mentioning is the bandwagon effect. This bias holds that people tend to do or believe things because many others do or think so too. People often seek social proof and feel the need to belong. The wish to join in with the favourite group creates conformity to the shared group norm. As a marketer, you can use this bias by creating an illusion of popularity, for instance by showing other people’s reviews, ratings, or purchases.
The illusory truth effect
The third bias to discuss is called the illusory truth-effect. People are more likely to believe a familiar statement than an unfamiliar one. We can explain this bias with the ease of cognitive processing: things you are repeatedly exposed to, are more easily processed, and this facilitates liking it. This leads people to believe that the more a statement is repeated, the more truthful it is considered to be. Advertisers ideally want to show you their ad as many times as possible.
We believe that our overall enthusiasm for applied neuromarketing is broadly shared. The differences between marketing vs neuromarketing show that it is necessary for every marketer to master the art of applied neuromarketing now. Applied neuromarketing presents insights into the cognitive biases that influence the consumers’ behaviour. It enables you, as a marketer, to reveal emotional responses and subconscious cues. This helps to establish marketing strategies which are more effective for your intended audience. By understanding these and their effect on the behaviour of individuals and groups, you are able to anticipate reactions and guide your consumers’ behaviour in new and more effective ways. Offering the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ behind our brain and behaviour, applied neuromarketing is here to stay!
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