Friday, August 21

Spreading Messages: How They Stick

Most studies have already revealed the truth. The average purchasing decision takes only about 2.5 seconds.

Knowing this, traditional marketers might deduce if you only have 2.5 seconds to make an impact, you might make that impact big, loud, and memorable. Some might even say that it is the driving force behind some campaigns, including Burger King, which is quickly becoming the leading fast food franchise in withdrawing what some publics call offensive ads.

Changing how people are prepared to receive stimulus is just as important as the stimulus.

In 1991, a University of Virginia study conducted by psychologist Timothy Wilson has become a classic in understanding how people arrive at making decisions. And while there are many conclusions to draw from the study, the most apparent difference is the condition in which the students were asked to make their decisions.

Specifically, college students sampled five different brands of strawberry jam. In the study, students who analyzed why they felt the way they did tended to agree with the experts less than students who did not. However, when other students were given the criteria of what constituted "good" jam, they reversed the taste-test results and gave jams they liked less higher marks.

Jonah Lehrer, who revived interest in the study after including it his book, "How We Decide," used it to make the case that emotional decisions may be smarter than logical decisions. He concludes that the conscious brain is ignorant of its own underpinnings and blind to all that neural activity taking place outside the prefrontal cortex. Thus, he concludes: "It is feelings, after all, and not the prefrontal cortex, that capture the wisdom of experience. You are constantly benefiting from experience, even if you're not consciously aware of the benefits."

However, Lehrer neglects one important factor in his own logical leap. When exposed to the same experiences, people often draw different subconscious lessons. While emotion and wisdom certainly held true for the author, the wisdom of experience is sometimes flawed. It's also why it is important to consider the core conclusion of the original study.

If you can focus people's attention on some criteria, whether it is optimal or erroneous, it can shift their judgement.

Right. It works both ways.

If you can predispose people to a set of criteria before the decision-making process, they will be more likely to make choices based on that criteria. It works even better if they are already predisposed to a specific quality. For example, if a specific number of people like, let's say, chunky peanut butter, they will more likely to gravitate toward a "chunkier" product.

Conversely, a marketer of smooth peanut butter can still penetrate the chunky market if, let's say, they have an opportunity to establish "spreadability" as an important criteria. Thus, the decision the marketer has to make isn't always about "how to reach more people," but rather whether it is more cost effective to convert chunky peanut butter lovers with a criteria or carve out a niche among smooth peanut butter lovers based on some other criteria that sets it apart.

Make the right decisions in the strategic planning portion of the process and it will stick. Make the wrong decisions, and you'll call yourself "The Shack," based on all sorts of reasons that don't add up.


Rich on 8/21/09, 3:16 PM said...

More Words:

One of my friends asked if this post spoke to spin or manipulation ... so I thought I might clarify since that is not what I meant at all.

Personally, I think its hard enough to get the message right without trying to manipulate it.

When I talk about these things, I'm more interested in how one person might perceive a small shop as more meaningful than a large shop, even though the size of the shop is irrelevant to the clothes it contains. Does that make sense?

Messages mean different things to different people.


Kevin Goodman on 8/21/09, 5:07 PM said...

Good post Rich. I get it; it’s about positioning and being smart. I think the idea of persuasion startles some people who automatically deduce it to a bad thing.

The spin on spin LOL

Rich on 8/22/09, 10:33 AM said...


Glad to see you get it.

Less spin on spin and more on communication is powerful and we ought to employ it wisely. :)

It also speaks volumes about how we're influenced at any given time, and, hopefully, makes us more aware that the balance of logic and emotion remain an important part of our DNA.

Our brains are a tricky business ... but the more we understand them, the more likely we can communicate effectively while also, as consumers, avoid promises that are too good to be true.


etf trading system on 8/23/09, 6:11 PM said...

nice post you got there!!

many people misunderstands different messages to different people!!


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