Mapping Customer Choice

The Choice: Apple or Samsung?

Paul just bought a smart watch. After days of research, he narrowed to Apple or Samsung Galaxy. The choice: Apple. Six months later a marketing research moderator asked him why he chose the Apple versus a Samsung Galaxy. What did Paul answer? First let’s see how Paul’s brain was deciding.

How Paul Chose His Smart Watch

When Paul chooses to buy a product, the decision is triggered by a myriad of automatic stimulants that are out of his awareness. At 268 miles per hour, the brain connects to 100 trillion synapses. When Paul compares one product to another, hidden from his awareness, the brain is computing multiple subtle pain and pleasure signals influencing the choice, all faster than the conscious mind can possibly register!

Like a good respondent, Paul answers his moderator’s question (with his conscious brain only), “It was the second generation Retina Display.”

Big Brain Vs. Little Brain

Using computer metrics, scientists measure the unconscious mind capacity for 11 million bits of broadband data per second; the conscious mind trickles at only 40 broadband bits. That’s 275,000 times more unconscious processing power! In today’s market, the little brain (40 bits) has information overload, with no biological way to enlarge it’s capacity.

And yet, most marketing research is geared for respondent self-reporting of the little brain. It is this tiny fraction of customer attention that is delivered to marketers for strategy and messaging. As a result, marketers appeal to the little brain most often.

Simple Messages for the Little Brain

Our little 40 bit brains are incredibly overwhelmed. Too many messages, too much complexity. We can only think about 4 things at a time +/- 2 (see Customer Attention). The little brain likes things easy. If you conclude the little brain is lazy, you’d be right!

Messages to the little brain suffer from cognitive overload. Direct, conscious messages in any communication must lower the load and be easy for the little conscious brain to absorb.

The Big Brain Embraces Complexity

The big brain has all this power and loves to use it. Big Brain loves subtle cues. Indirect, understated messages are embraced by Big Brain at high speeds, in massive quantity and endless complexity. What does the Big Brain look for? Language subtlety, metaphor, image mood, colors, relative size, dimension, shadow, context, tone, story, human connection, social currency, boredom, excitement, past pain or pleasure with the brand, context or category.  Big Brain processes all this outside of awareness then proceeds to create buyer bias (favoritism) that will dominate product and brand choice.

Paul’s Choice: Simple & Complex

Paul’s brain wants simplicity and complexity at the same time! But Paul is only aware of the simple conscious side. If we ask him why he made his Apple choice, Paul will justify the decision with logical explanations that rationalize the selection.

Marketers have to keep their messages simple to lower cognitive load for the little brain. But to have successful communications, they must deeply understand what the Big Brain longs for. That knowledge equips marketers to embed motivators for the powerful Big Brain.

Why Top Marketers Use Geeky Brain Science

Paul’s moderator relies on the time honored belief that respondent self-reporting is accurate. He reports back to his client what Paul has said about Retina Display in the research. The report appears quite logical.

Scientific discoveries about how humans make decisions is growing as fast as Moore’s Law. Marketers and researchers have to keep up in order to remain competitive. By asking people why and how they make decisions, we assume reliable, predictive data. Regrettably, in the process we abandon the Big Brain (11,000,000 bits of buying horsepower) and leave it on the table for someone else to discover and use.

System 1

In Behavioral Economics we call the Big Brain “System 1.” This is the emotional and non-conscious 11,000,000 bits that dominate buying decisions. Marketers who seek a competitive breakthrough require methodologies built from the ground up to identify the Big Brain that dominates buying decisions. Once we understand Paul’s Apple choice at an emotional and nonconscious level we can be assured of reliable, predictive behavioral data.

Paul’s Experiences

Paul’s life experiences with the category or brand have direct impact on System 1. Certain experiences are more decisive than others. We call these Sticky Imprint Experiences™. They contain higher levels of emotional, nonconscious content. Paul’s Big Brain creates biases from his Sticky Imprint Experiences™. These SEIs act as motivators, creating favoritism for product preference.

It turns out, Paul didn’t choose between Apple and Samsung primarily because of the Retina Display (small brain). Instead, he desired the social currency of wearing a rectangle shape his friends can see as a “smarter” watch (Big Brain). Retina Display is the needed excuse.

Next step: Apply Paul’s big and little brain findings to creative strategy. Combine rational simplicity with System 1 complexity.

(Paul’s smart watch story was created for illustration of System 1 far-reaching influence in all buying decisions.)

Clevenger Associates reveals the Whole Mind of the consumer.