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).
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?