Reading Van Praet on neuroscience applied to marketing…

Now, this is an interesting reading: Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing by Douglas Van Praet. I am not even half way through the book but I can already share and comment some of the first learnings from it. Hopefully this exercise will also help me to start reasoning on how to apply them to my work.

  • If consumers are making decisions unconsciously, why do we persist in asking them directly through market research why they do what they do?” asks Van Praet. Maybe because such reasoning is so much game changing that many of us who are trained as traditional market researchers feel highly challenged and quite uncomfortable with it. But to hide our head under the sand won’t address such a challenge, would it? So let’s move forward to see if we can learn something more about it…
  • As marketers, we need to go beyond asking why and begin to ask how” suggests the author. I completely agree on that, which to me translate also in a suggestion to move from questioning to observing:as a rule of thumb, it is better to track or observe real behavior rather than opinions” points out Van Praet. Honestly, it is becoming harder and harder to design and propose questionnaires when you learn many of the fallacies they have – here I am of course also thinking to what behavioral economics is teaching traditional market researchers.
  • [...] what people say in [...] surveys and focus groups usually does not reliably predict how they will behave” claims the author. That’s probably qute right, but that is a way for market researcher to ask “how” decisions are made instead of asking why they are done. Unfortunately, according to neuroscientists humans are not aware of how they decide. By putting that concept into Gerald Zaltman‘s words “as much as 95% of consumers’ thinking occurs in their unconscious minds” (another interesting book sitting in my library and cited by Van Praet).
  • Businesses and brands that succeed are those that generate real value” is in my opinion a key proposition by the author. Why is that? it seems to me (but I could be wrong here) that Van Praet here relates to the ability of our unconscious mind to uncover tricks and fake offerings, rewarding those brands that are genuine and true to us. Something that related to intuition rather than logical thinking and that helps humans to identify scams before they become obvious to the vast majority of people.
  • Think of the human mind as if it were an iceberg. Just the tip is visible, or “conscious,” [...] Below the surface is where our intuitive, emotional, and unconscious mind hides. This is the part of our mind that drives almost all of our behavior“. I guess that for those of us who have been working with rational based choice models this finding opens up a Pandora’s  box! It means we are not rational consumers, not even when we think we are. But again, this should be no reason to refuse new science findings but rather a strong stimulus for traditional market researchers to significantly revise the way they operate.

That is it for the time being. I will continue review Van Praet’s book in my next posting. Meanwhile I would very much welcome comments/further insights.

Stay tuned & have a nice weekend :)

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