Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why brand managers should trust their marketing agencies - why it´s better to understand consumers than to have knowledge on brands

Most marketing managers want to show the world how fabulous their products are by telling everybody about the unique features and all the details that makes this face cream or sports shoe worth a few extra bucks.

The problem with people who have worked with their brand for too long is that they know too much about it. They spend all their time exploring a market like cookies or nail polish or whatever they are selling, and they get blind for the fact that there is a whole world of products and experiences out there, competing about our attention.

When a marketing director send out a survey asking customers what they think about Their brand, most of us will subconsciously be just as blind. We will politely answer questions about the brand, spend a few minutes dwelling on what we feel about it and why. We might even get paid for doing so, which in combination with the fact that most people Love being asked since it makes us feel important, is messing up the research results. We say we like a brand, but in theory we can like a lot of things at once and there is no conflict. The problem starts when you´re in a shop and have limited resources and need to choose. A new dress or organic carrots? Quality juice or save for super?

In research every brand is an island and people can pretend they are kings with unlimited wallets, buying all sorts of things. We don´t lie, but we are not truthful.

Brand managers often forget about this, and hence they ask advertising agencies to listen to how consumers rave and ramble in their quantitative research (or even worse, online panels or social network communities). They ask the agency to tell people everything, every details, because if we only Know, we will be Wowed and Buy.

It´s not that simple.
Or rather, it´s not that complicated.

When people have too many options, we tend to be confused and unhappy. In a study presented in Martin Lindstrom´s book Brandwashed, students got to choose from either 6 types or 30 types of chocolate. Those who had more choices were less satisfied with their choice. Possible explanation according to authors of study: “Thinking about the attractions of some of the unchosen options detracts from the pleasure derived from the chosen one.”

When we expose the brain to too much information it gets confused. Not because there is too much data, but because there are no clear emotional signals involved, if you get the difference? 

In the three part human brain, the limbic system is the one in charge of decision making. This emotional brain is stronger than the thinking brain. It is the first one reacting to a sales message and the Boss. The thinking brain will step in and control the emotions a bit, perhaps cool them down or justify them. But the thinking brain - the one responding positively to facts and statistics - will not make the decision.

Successful marketing goes straight to the limbic system, tickling our feelings with visuals, smell or emotional messages. It uses words that triggers feelings, rather than explains. It can say things like “our cereal includes Omega 3” or “this body lotion is developed at the institute of bullshit” but only in order to make us FEEL something about the product.

Take a look at the research on the importance of the word “because”. Ellen Langer, a social psychologist, did a study in the 90´s, where a stranger would ask random people if they could go ahead of the line to use a copy machine. 
  1. When the person simply asked, “Excuse me, I have five copies to make. May I use the copy machine?”, 60% of the people agreed to let him cut in.
  2. In a second part of the experiment, the stranger added a reason to the request, “because I’m in a hurry.” Compliance with the request jumped to 94%.
  3. The experiment was executed one more time. This time the reason given was not urgent or meaningful. It simply included the word “because” and here’s what happened… Shockingly, compliance only dropped by 1% from the second trial where an urgent reason was given, with 93% still agreeing to let the person cut in line.

This means that getting a reason for doing something – no matter what the reason is – will make us more likely to accept. It could be because the razor has 5 blades or that it is a razor, people will still get a feeling of rightness. They back up their emotional decision with a “because” and once the heart has made its mind up, any reason will do!

For brand managers, the learning is to not get too caught up in the benefits of the product or what people say about it. It´s all about what they feel. Create a strong simple emotional “message” and sprinkle it with a few facts to quiet the suspicious thinking brain, and you are in.

Advertising is not about coming up with random fun ideas or to put the product on a stage. Good advertising will use insights and psychological findings to find the true path to the heart. It will understand people beyond what they know about themselves and focus on them, not on the brand.

Let the customer shine and trust the laws of karma. 

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