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Jun 30, 2010 | Comments

One way to classify marketers: analytic vs. emotional. An analytic approach is scientific and rational; decisions are based on data. It’s about website optimization, ROI, and metrics–a Google-esque view. Alternatively, an emotional approach is artistic and instinctive. It’s about the fluffy stuff–branding, positioning, buzz, and sexy commercials.

I want to be a damn good emotional marketer. And it’s why I’m psyched about recent developments that will make emotional marketing more fact-based and analytic. Research led by neuroscience and behavioral economics are proving the tricks of the marketing trade, those widely practiced but never logically explainable. This growing fact-set peaks my interest (check out posts on behavioral economics, cognitive biases, and neuromarketing).

I just finished two books on neuroscience–both providing scientific explainations for why emotional marketing is so powerful: check-out How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer and Buyology by Martin Lindstrom.

What did I learn?

  • Decision-making occurs in the emotional part of the brain. People with brain tumors on this section are not only emotionless (imagine a zombie) but have trouble making decisions. They vacillate between options, spending hours working through a careful cost-benefit analysis, endless outlining, and fruitless comparison. Contrary to the conventional view of human nature, our ability to rationalize is not what drives our strong decision-making power.  It’s rather irrational emotion that separates us from the animals. Something to think about: what does this mean for those fancy product comparison charts, information directed towards our rational brain?
  • Too much information impairs decision-making. In a study, subjects viewed information when choosing among 3 cars. When 4 attributes were displayed (e.g., size, price, engine), participants made a better choice than when 10 arributes were displayed. Of course. But when the 10 variable group was distracted and forced to make a sudden choice (i.e., use their emotional brain), they were able to make strong choices, at parity with the 4 variable group. What’s this mean? When buying simple products like can openers, toilet paper, or detergent, people weigh only a few attributes–a rational, analytic marketing approach is preferable. But when the attributes increase (e.g., buying a car or TV), the brain is overloaded with data. Emotional shortcuts dominate (e.g., branding, heuristics) play a much larger role. Something to think about: should customers be thinking carefully or instinctively your product? What’s their brain’s decision-making process?
  • Loss aversion is a powerful force. Would you prefer a surgery with 20% failure or 80% success? Patients receiving such a question vary widely in their decision. Lehrer describes it well, “[Loss aversion] is not a shortcut for math. It’s skipping it all together. Losses loom larger than gains.” Again, people with impaired emotions are devoid of any loss aversion–it’s the emotionally weak, you and I, that fall into the loss aversion trap. Something to think about: how does this impact copywriting?
  • When we justify our decisions, it leads to poorer choices. A test asked subjects to choose between a Monet painting or a cat poster. 95% chose the Monet. Their instincts, the emotional brain, preferred the beautiful art. But when the same test is replicated with a twist, “choose and explain your choice,” the results shift: 50% cat poster and 50% Monet. Why? Our brain is pleased by the Monet, but we are bad at verbalizing the way we feel (also why focus groups suck). When forced to explain our decision, we may focus on the colors or subject matter–both meaningless variables but rational reasons to dislike a painting. Something to think about: How many brands force a “reason to believe” into a product? How many would benefit from not saying anything at all?
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  • great post and really appreciate the insights. agree with dennis moons that i've got to get buyology and how we decide on my book list.

    it's interesting that you say you want to be a really great emotionally-driven marketer, and make a point that you are thankful there is more data. in my experience, i definitely see the split between the creatives (emotionally-driven) and the numbers (data-driven). both types of marketers are important, both types of people are important, but they are fundamentally different not because there needs to be data on emotional purchasing decisions, but because emotionally-driven generally care very little or not at all about data (even if it is available), and numbers people care very sporadically about the why (even if it's important).

  • Matt Daniels

    I guess I consider the emotional type "better" marketers. And by "better," I mean able to create break-through marketing. Hopefully one day the emotional type becomes more analytic with advances in technology and behavioral economics.

    But I'm curious about your point on numbers people--why do you think they miss the "why"?

  • "Hopefully one day the emotional type becomes more analytic with advances in technology and behavioral economics."

    so i guess i was wary of emotional types "becoming" more analytical because it's a behavioral thing. i just don't think emotional types care as much about the data, regardless of how available it is.

    "But I'm curious about your point on numbers people--why do you think they miss the "why"?"

    again, i think it's a behavioral preference. sean ellis gives an interesting insight when he talks about in his role being a very data driven marketer, even to some detriment. VCs at board meetings used to ask him who his customer was and why they were using his product, to which he would respond it doesn't really matter as long as i know how they're finding us and how they're using the site.

  • Filippini

    this article is absolutely from the heart. Love it!

  • Great post!

    About loss aversion and copywriting. Recently I was writing an e-mail campaign and was thinking what to focus on: the money they would save using the product in case, or the money they are losing without the product.
    But taking that people are more scared of losses it would mean highlighting the money they are losing, which feels counter-intuitive. (I chose the money they would gain with the product)

    Something I realized after reading Buyology is that there really is so little known about why we buy(do) things.
    An interesting article on the impact of this on packaging: http://richardshear.wordpre...
    I've seen the How We Decide book mentioned many times, time to put it on my list.

  • Matt Daniels

    Really great example of incorporating loss aversion into marketing collateral (but couldn't it be the other way around--focusing on money that they are avoiding losing?).

    Nice article--and hope you like How we Decide.

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