4 February 2014

How (Much) Your Clients Think

Before trying to change people’s minds, understand how they work!

If you believe that your clients actually give more than three seconds of thought to what you are selling, read this article with eyes wide open. It is far more valuable than 10(0) articles on five ways in which you can effectively tie your shoe laces and definitely more valuable than five-thousand articles on eight ways in which you can screw up. … After all, who doesn’t know how to fail?

First, if you think that your clients give more than two-three seconds of thought on your product/ service, there are two possibilities: (a) you are dead wrong; (b) the client doesn’t get too much on what you are trying to sell.

In the first case things are straight forward: three seconds is too little for the deliberate reasoning to switch on and your clients use some kind of “rule of thumb” (heuristic in psychology jargon) to make the decision.

In the second case, since your clients face ambiguity their judgment is prone to using heuristics and then finding solid reasons to justify their decision (post-rationalization in even more sophisticated psychology language).

You, other highly skilled (or not) marketers and the overall way of life of the XXIst century modern living make people think very fast and very superficially about most of day-to-day life’s decisions. Whether we admit it or not, much of our daily lives is on auto-pilot.

Second, think hard if you are asking yourself the questions your clients are answering when making a decision regarding your product (brand). Much of human decision making (which includes your clients’ decisions regarding what you are selling) is powered by simplistic judgment processes known as heuristics.

The fundamental process of heuristic judgment is “attribute substitution”. This means that when trying to answer a difficult question, most often we are, in fact, giving the answer to a simpler question.

To illustrate this with an example: Answer the following question: “what is the capital of Australia?” Don’t Google it!

I am sure that some of you gave answers like Sidney or Melbourne … but the Capital City of Australia is Canberra (you can google it to confirm)… The question “what is the capital of Australia?” is quite difficult if you don’t know the answer (read are Australian). However, you know some cities in Australia and the first ones that come to mind are Sidney and Melbourne … moreover these cities are larger and better known than Canberra… So, while trying answer the difficult question of “what is the capital of Australia?” some of you gave the answer to the much easier question “which city in Australia is most known?”

Coming back to marketing, take the example of package redesign. When redesigning the packaging, most often marketers want to give their brand a fresh(er) look and they want to keep most of their existing (regular) customers. Marketers will ask many questions in their market research, but most clients (particularly the current ones) don’t care too much about your brand-refreshment. (Really! They don’t.) They want to buy the, say, apple juice they’ve been buying in the last five years and suddenly at the juice self in the supermarket they don’t find it. What is the question your clients are answering?

They might ask themselves “where is that juice I’m looking for?”, but they will answer the following one: “Which one of these bottles looks like the one I’ve been buying for so long?”

Take another example from the real-estate market. Marcel and Samantha are browsing the market to buy a house (apartment). Naturally houses are highly complex products and the commitment (read bank-loan) is a long term one. Regardless of what they say that they are looking for, the (main) question they will answer during and after viewing a house is “Does this feel like home?”

If the answer is “no” they will identify numerous (objective) flaws in the house that will support their answer. If the answer is “yes” they will find all the virtues of the house and will find flaws in the other houses they have viewed and on which they were not sure if they feel like home.

Third, emotions, emotions, emotions. Quite often marketing efforts are based on asking people what they think about something (read brand) and on trying to convince (persuade) them to buy your brand. It’s not wrong, but this approach discards one blunt reality: thinking leads, usually, to conclusions… Feeling, usually, leads to action.

To better understand this, let’s make a short trip in the area of motivation. Who is going to wake up at 5 A.M. and go to work with a good stamina? (a) The person who works for a company that offers high-speed (broad-band) internet in developing countries or (b) The person who contributes to decreasing domestic violence by empowering women in poor countries?

If you answered “b”, you got the point.

The Power of Emotions comes with both up and down-sides and here is not the place to discuss this topic in detail. What you need to understand is that: First we feel and only after we think.

Before trying to change people’s minds, understand first how they work!

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