Friday, 2 January 2009

95% of your decision making is subconscious!

I heard somewhere that psychologists estimate 95% of our decision making or more accurately our behaviour is carried out subconsciously. Flip that on its head and it means we only act consciously for 5% of the time. That is pretty scary stuff and from a marketing perspective probably means many marketing activities, especially those resulting from traditional market research, focus groups, surveys could be set for failure.

An example of this would be the launch of a new website or online marketing campaign. Many brands, prior to going live, will test the effectiveness of their web marketing by involving people who represent their target audience, asking them for conscious feedback on what they like and don't like. On the surface this seems very logical and should minimise the risk of the campaign or website failing. However, such testing and because it is all carried out at the conscious level, could mean the results and conclusions may not be as accurate as originally thought. There is in fact an argument to say that such testing could increase the risk of failure and lessen the return from any investment. Dominant parties involved with the testing could steer certain conclusions, and the tester (who after all will also be a human being) could also place a bias in certain areas based upon their own interpretation.

So if 95% (which is a big number) of behaviour is subconscious, how can brands test and create effective campaigns and online content that subconsciously appeals? There is a way. People's subconscious can be measured accurately and the testing can provide extremely valuable results. However, such testing can't explain why certain elements may be preferred over others, and the reality is...these reasons aren't important. 

Example - when you're out shopping for a pair of shoes can you explain why you preferred the ones you bought over and above the many other pairs you looked at? I would suspect you genuinely can't. You may consciously put it down to colour, style, designer brand, price, association or something else, but ultimately you bought them because you "liked" them and a whole host of things at the subconscious level were working to make you part with your money.

So Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) (no wonder there are acronyms!) are worth looking at. Organisations can utilise this technology and backed by a tried and tested methodology and extremely complicated algorithms it is possible to test how individuals react and behave to certain stimuli. This includes every sense and can therefore be used to measure the effectiveness of any brand or marketing approach, whether it is online, in store, on the phone or wherever. It can also be used to correlate the various brand touch points to provide an overall brand engagement score. Imagine how powerful that could be to benchmark the major brands in each market sector?'s a bit of a leap of faith to scrap the surveys, the usability testing, focus groups etc. But why invest time and money on scoring 5%, when you can invest similar amounts to achieve 95%?
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