Oct 11, 2021

Taking the guesswork out of product marketing

How can the tools of neuro marketing help to dig deeper into consumers' hidden motivations?
Elisabeth Skoda

What do people actually like to buy? European consultancy Beyond Reason aims to take some of the guesswork out of consumer behaviour, and zoom in on the "missing element" - implicit motivation to dig deeper into consumer motivation, and harness this with neuro marketing tools.

What does all of this mean for packaging? We spoke with Beyond Reason cofounder Olivier Tjon to find out more.

Could you give us a quick run through of what decision science and neuro marketing is, and how it can be applied in day-to-day marketing?

Marketing -as we know it today- is assumption based. Gut feeling is still the driving force and marketing superstars are called gurus for a reason. This is changing fast. Tomorrow’s marketing will be evidence based. The future superstars of the persua-sive communication industry will be specialists in the field of decision and neuro science.

For the first time in human history, these relatively new fields of science start to gain a proper understanding of how preferences and decisions are shaped in our brain. Put this to practice and you will lower the risk, and increase the impact of your mar-keting initiative - whatever its form, context or medium.

How does this discrepancy between what consumers say they want and what they actually want affect purchase decisions?

We all have two voices in our head, an outer or explicit voice - the words we speak, and an inner or implicit voice -your deep desires, passions, fears and motivations. Those voices not always tell the same story. Our words might say ‘save the planet’ our deep desire might be ‘buy that oversized SUV’.  This infamous ‘gap’ between these two voices is one of the main causes of marketing accidents. Traditional con-sumer research is question based, thus, only captures the outer voice. But, when you know that scientists agree that the inner voice has a much bigger impact on human behaviour, choices, decisions, than our outer voice, you start to see the problem.

What is the best way to find out what consumers actually want?

Marketing will always be about people. Therefore, what people say will always matter - a lot. This is why classic surveys are here to stay.

At the same time, the concept of implicit brain processes -and their influence on consumer behaviour - is gaining notoriety.  This triggers a growing number of mar-keteers and commercial organisations to start using new, implicit methods to meas-ure and map the consumer’s inner voice.

In the early days, implicit research was cumbersome - thinkof brain scans, for exam-ple. Today’s version is extremely user-friendly and can be compared with an online survey. Instead of answering questions, the interviewee takes part in tasks similar to video games, during which latent emotional responses to words and images are be-ing measured.

During the last two years, we have used this implicit method to collect over 50 million consumer responses all over the world, for any conceivable category of consumer goods and services, ranging from sex toys to luxury cosmetics and from smoked salmon to banking apps.

Together with Strategir, a global expert in packaging research, we have rolled out an implicit packaging module that now is being used by some of the world’s greatest brands. Here, it also proves very useful to listen to both voices.

How can decision science be applied in packaging? Do you have any examples of pack designs that incorporated it?

One of Europe’s leading detergent brands wanted to go green, and launch a more ecological formula. Consumers were asked if they would like their detergent to be more eco-friendly. More than 70% answered yes. So, of course, the conclusion is: Let’s go! Right?

Luckily the brand also listened to the consumers’ inner voice. We measured that put-ting a big eco label on the pack, automatically and unconsciously lowered the per-ceived efficiency or power of the detergent.  The problem here, is that power is the main purchase motive in the detergent cate-gory.  Brands invest a fortune to build the perception that their soap is more power-ful than others. Without implicit research, the brand would have been blind to the fact that the well-intended eco initiative would erode their carefully constructed brand equity.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We are very much in favour of brands going green. But it has to be done in a manner that does not harm the business. We advised to inverse the communication hierarchy on and off pack:  First talk about ‘ a new, more power-ful formula’, and only after that talk about ‘contains less harmful chemicals’. It might come over as a small nuance, but it made all the difference for the brand.

Could implicit marketing be used to nudge consumers towards better decisions re-garding the products they buy, for example avoiding littering, recycle more etc.?

Good marketing has the capacity to influence opinions, attitudes and behaviours. Since neuro-marketing and decision science is even better at it, the answer is yes. It can be done. A good example is the anti-smoking campaign on tobacco packs. The gruesome images on the packs have had little impact on the smoker’s behaviour. This is logical. Smokers are fully aware that smoking is a trade-off. On one side of the equation, you have the pain of harming your health, on the other side you have the pleasure they derive from smoking. The common error is to think that that pleasure is tangible, sensorial, that is has to do with taste. In reality the pleasure is intangible. Deep down inside smoking fulfils the need to feel sexually attractive. Each time a smoker lights one up, a small bit of health is being exchanged against a micro dose of sexuality.

An experiment in Denmark had some remarkable results. Instead of conveying the typical lung disease images, packs warned against (and depicted) the risks of impo-tence. This campaign was exceptionally impactful, simply because it focussed on reducing the intangible pleasure - being sexually attractive - that people implicitly as-sociate with smoking.

What could the future of marketing and packaging look like if decision science and neuro marketing is widely used?

You have kept your toughest question till last! Packaging is a mighty  marketing tool. From our point of view it is often underexploited. From the perspective of decision science brands should use packs in the same manner as they use their other mar-keting assets. To the brain the pack is an information vehicle. Use it to convey the information with the highest capacity to influence preferences and sales, and your grasp on consumer behaviour will probably increase. Conveying other, less relevant information will almost automatically reduce your impact. Determining this information hierarchy is crucial, and can best be done by using -  you guessed it right, implicit research methods.

Elisabeth Skoda

Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!
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