New measure accurately maps your brand against System 1 and System 2 shopper decision making

In case you missed it, System 1 and System 2 are mental processes that form the focus of Daniel Kahneman’s fantastic book Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow. And his work won him a Nobel Prize.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman addresses what were and still are deeply flawed ideas about human decision making (a key aspect of shopping). In the 1970s it was mistakenly accepted that, firstly, people are generally rational. And secondly, most of the occasions when people depart from rationality are the result of emotion. But research has identified serious errors within the machinery of cognition, rather than just corruption by emotion. Not to say that emotion isn’t highly influential is human decision making.

It was Kahneman who introduced what have now become largely undisputed new terms: System 1 and System 2. System 1 is the brain’s fast, automatic, intuitive approach, while System 2 is the mind’s slower, analytical mode, where reason dominates. In summary, Kahneman says “System 1 is more influential, guiding and steering System 2 to a very large extent.”

So how does this play out when you go shopping?

System 1 thinking can determine which brands shoppers buy. Therefore, many brands and retailers are desperate to crack the System 1 code. Their endgame is to make their brand the automatic, no-brainer purchase; something that requires System 1 brain processing.

These brand owners don’t want the shopper to really think about whether to buy their brand. Rather they want it to become the obvious choice, the instinctive best decision. That purchase can’t happen unless the brand is firmly lodged in consumers’ System 1 brain.

Shopping involves thinking, right? Shoppers, as members of the human race have 2 ways of processing information, or thinking. They either buy your brand using mostly a fast, automatic, intuitive approach or they make purchase decisions using more of the mind’s slower, analytical mode.

Whereas buying a can of Coke is largely a System 1 led process, choosing your next bed purchase is influenced more by System 2. Communicate to the wrong System in-store and you might as well be speaking in a foreign language!

We know that emotion is a powerful influencer of shopper emotions. Although all emotional responses are based in System 1, not all System 1 thinking is emotional. For example, when you’re driving to work on your regular commute, you’re on auto-pilot. Because traveling this route is a previously learned behaviour, your System 1 thinking, is doing all the work. In a shopping context, think of your mindset when you dash in and grab your usual can of cola at the store. You don’t give it much thought, do you? That’s System 1 in action.

System 2 works with System 1 to close the deal. While you want your brand to be a no-brainer choice, many purchases, particularly for larger ticket or considered purchase items, are based on overlaying System 1 instincts with more rational information, which is processed by System 2. Many brands attempt to close the sale by combining System 1 beliefs about the brand with reinforcing fact based System 2 messages. But the major problem (read opportunity) is that most don’t really understand the ratio of System 1 to System 2 persuasion needed to optimise sales.

We have been conducting research and have developed an advanced measurement scale that measures precisely the optimal levels of System 1 and System 2 communications for particular brands in-store: Be that on packaging, POS, promotions or online. So whereas far too many communications are based on the premise of ‘Spray and Pray’, trying to be all things to all people, we can provide a much more scientific information hierarchy for your shopper facing comms.

We want your help

Currently, in association with academia, we are looking to run some larger scale trials to further validate this new measurement tool and are looking for a limited number of brands to work with us. If you’d like to know more about where your brands sits in term of System 1 and System 2 decision making, please contact us within the next few weeks, thank you.

If you think there is value in this article then please share it, thank you.

Alternatively, are you just fascinated by how shoppers think? Or would you like to know more about how you think? Check out my books on Amazon for much more insightful, provocative and stimulating information.

Shoppology: The science of the shopping brain

Master your Brain: The science of your brain

The Presenters Handbook: The science of the PowerPoint brain

Thanks for reading

Phillip Adcock

The Psychology of Brand Communication

5 ways to improve the communication of your brand

Most brand marketers aren’t psychologists. But when you apply psychology to your brand communications, the results can be astonishing.

Here are 7 psychological techniques you can employ to improve your brand communications

1, What’s so different about you?

Almost at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sits esteem: This is defined as (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige). If you can align your brand with is inbuilt human trait, then you are on to a winner. Define how your brand can be exclusive in some way, specifically in a manner that relates to consumer esteem. Examples include ‘Reassuringly expensive’, ‘Because you’re worth it’, ‘Designed for driving pleasure’ and ‘The Few. The Proud’.

2, Fear & Uncertainty

As a species, we basically buy brands for one of 2 reasons: Fear or Greed. And we’ll do more to avoid pain (fear of pain). When you introduce fear and uncertainty, into your brand or competing brands you make consumers stop, think, and change their behaviour. But be careful how you use fear as it is very powerful: For good and bad.

3, The novelty effect

As a species, humans love novelty. Neurologically, it has been proven that exposure to something new and unfamiliar increases the release of a powerful neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. When you communicate Novelty, potential customers feel like there is a possibility of something good waiting for us just around the corner. That potential for pleasure motivates them to seek it out. This is one ofr the reasons so many brands love the word ‘New’.

4, The power of Why

Why should somebody choose your brand? The human mind is obsessed with understanding why. Searching for meanings, even when there is no inherent meaning. Essentially, we seek out explanations to understand everything we experience in life. So you need to provide a clear reason why someone should buy, consumer or adopt your brand. Because when you explain why people should buy your brand, you are offering something, they will far more likely to comply.

5, The lazy brain,

Daniel Kahneman, in his brilliant book, Thinking Fast and Slow, says that humans adhere to a ‘law of least effort’ and this applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. In summary, if there are a number of ways of achieving the same goal, people will naturally gravitate to the easiest, least demanding course of action. In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.”

In a nutshell, humans will always always migrate to the easiest option (brand) to achieve a desired result.

There are many other psychological triggers you can use in your business to improve the communication of your brand and generate sales? If want help or advice regarding implementing any of the above triggers in your business or have any questions about the psychology of brand communication, contact us here at Bridge 87.

The Top 5 Characteristics of Successful Branding Psychology

There are many good products out there. But what makes a good product a great brand? One of the key areas that you can tap into to convert good into great is human psychology. Here are 5 top characteristics of branding psychology.

1, Brand and significance

The need to feel significant is hardwired within us all. Many experts agree that it is one of six basic human needs. As human beings we want to feel significant and important. More importantly, not just in our own eyes, but because we are social creatures, in the eyes of our peers as well.

A successful brand finds a way of somehow making the customer feel important. This is often achieved by letting them know that the brand owner actually cares about them. Unfortunately, good customer service is not just a given these days. Try calling a utilities customer service line.

2, Scarcity

Humans look to others to determine what action to take. So the less there is of something, the more people perceive it to be a highly valued commodity, which in turn means that the more they will want to buy it. Observe British shoppers in French supermarkets. To determine which are the best wines to buy, they simply look for the largest gaps in the on shelf stock. In other words, because a lot of French have bought a particular wine, it must be good.

To use psychological scarcity in your branding activity, eliminate any possibility of future over-supply or abundance in the minds of potential customers. One prevalent but damaging marketing activity is the promotion or special offer. As soon as you over promote, you communicate that your product has less value. And when you do this, consumers immediately want to know why. If you do feel the need to run consumer promotions, always supply a reason why there is an offer. For example, ‘introductory price’ or ‘new recipe’

3, Create a brand reference

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational states that “humans rarely choose things in absolute terms. We don’t have an internal value meter that tells us how much things are worth. Rather, we focus on the relative advantage of one thing over another, and estimate value accordingly.”

In today’s competitive marketplace, you need to communicate and demonstrate why your brand is better, more preferable that competing products. Just about all brand perceptions are in part based on references that we have of previous experiences. Whenever possible, associate your brand with positive and popular consumption occasions. This reminds existing users of the brand positives and also prompts potential customers to give the brand a try.

4, The power of social proof

A hardwired human trait is that we need to know that our decisions are acceptable to others. In other words, we want social proof that a brand we are considering or have already adopted is culturally acceptable.

If you can get people who are similar to the person you’re trying to persuade to speak on your behalf, it’s a lot easier for you than if you have to try to hammer your message one more time into a reticent mind.”

In summary, human beings are social creatures. We look to others to determine what actions we should take. Show people how much others benefit from using your product and demonstrate that it works. Also, let potential customers know just how popular your brand already is with other people.

5, Curiosity created the brand

As a species, we are obsessed with learning: We want to know things we don’t already know. What this means is that when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know, we will take action to fill that gap. In addition, curiosity also increases activity in the parts of the brain associated with pleasure as well.

When your brand triggers curiosity, you generate more exploratory interest. For example, teasers campaigns can leave consumers with questions and the answers to which need to be sought out

There are many other psychological aspects to branding. Bridge 87 can help you and your business improve the perceptions of your brand and generate sales? If want help or advice regarding any aspect of brand psychology, or have any questions about the psychology of brands, contact us here at Bridge 87.

Discover The Real Why Behind the Buy

Discover The Real Why Behind the Buy

Did you know that the likelihood of a shopper buying your products is significantly influenced by how easy or hard it is to think about them? And that shoppers are much more likely to buy things that are easy to think about rather than items that are harder to consider.

This feeling of easy or hard is known as processing fluency. Processing Fluency is a cognitive bias or mistake in reasoning: It can be defined as a measure of how easy it is to think about something.

Processing fluency literally changes how we think about things and guides our decision making. What’s more, most of us have little or no awareness of the hold it has over us. Typically it is at work in any situation where we consider information (any form of mental input). The full extent of its potential to mislead can be illustrated by the fact that we often misattribute the sensation of ease or difficulty of mentally processing something to actually liking or disliking the thing itself.

To learn more about how processing fluency works, let’s start by looking at some research. Robert Zajonc found that the more people were exposed to certain words, patterns, or images of faces, the more they liked them. His research identified what we now know as the Mere Exposure Effect: From a retail perspective, the more times shoppers are exposed to certain products the more quickly they can mentally process them and subsequently, but mistakenly, the more they like them. Think secondary sitings and gondola ends here.

This insight reveals that mere familiarity has a strong influence over what types of products shoppers find attractive. Therefore, this familiarity is a strong motivator of shopping behaviour. To summarise, shoppers like things that are familiar because they don’t require as much mental effort as things that are new and different do.

Because familiarity with an item in-store simplifies mental processing, it feels fluent. And conversely, shoppers often equate any feeling of fluency with familiarity. In other words, if it is easy to mentally process, I mistakenly think I like/prefer it more.

When researchers presented participants with the names of hypothetical food additives and asked them to judge how harmful they might be. People perceived additives with names that were hard to pronounce as being more harmful than those with names that were easier to pronounce. They were associating ease or difficulty of pronunciation with an assumption about familiarity. When the pronunciation seemed easy, people assumed it was because they’d previously encountered the additive and had already done the mental work of processing information about it. Since it seemed familiar, they assumed it was safe.

Ease of pronunciation is just one of many aspects of processing fluency. In a separate study, researchers asked participants to read instructions on how to do an exercise routine. They presented the instructions in two different fonts—a font that was easy to read and a font that was more difficult to read.

When they asked participants to estimate how long it would take to actually perform the exercise routine, people anticipated that it would take almost twice as long to do the exercise when reading instructions in the font that was difficult to read, compared to the font that was easier to read. With the font that was easy to read, they also assumed that the exercise routine would flow more naturally and were, therefore, more willing to incorporate it into their daily activities.

In this study, participants were misattributing the difficulty of reading the instructions to the task itself. This again demonstrates the potential power (positive and negative) of processing fluency and how it can influence shopper’s purchase decisions. If you want people to adopt a new product, it’s important to consider how easily they will be able to mentally process information about it.

The legibility of fonts can even affect shopper’s perception of truth. In one study, researchers asked people to view unfamiliar statements in either light coloured or darker coloured print. Because the foreground/background contrast was better with the darker print, resulting in better readability, people tended to rate those statements as more truthful.

The darker print with better contrast resulted in better processing fluency. Because those statements seemed easy to decipher, people assumed they were familiar. Is it any wonder that supermarket special offers consisting of black text on a red background, aren’t as effective as the much more legible white on red messages?

Researchers have also found that, when a stimulus feels fluent, shoppers are more likely to make judgments and decisions based on their first, emotional (system 1) reaction. However, when a stimulus feels disfluent, they are more likely to adopt a more rational (system 2) evaluation. Sometimes it’s good to get shoppers to slow down and pay attention; for example, when we want to ‘snap them out of autopilot’. One way to do this is to deliberately make the information harder to process mentally by making its font harder to read or by using wording that is harder to process.

It is beyond doubt that processing fluency plays an influential role in product evaluation and purchase decision making. And that numerous aspects of design can impact fluency, or the feeling of mental effort: From the style and size of fonts to foreground/background contrast.

In general, anything that affects the ease or difficulty of mental processing influences shopper purchase decisions. And don’t think that processing fluency is only related to what shoppers see. It is truly multi-sensory: Researchers have found that a simple (more easily processed) scent led to simpler cognitive processing and increased actual spending, whereas a more complex scent had no such effect.

In conclusion, just once in a while, spare a thought for those consumers and shoppers less familiar with the products you offer. In other words, resist the temptation to over explain otherwise, you might just turn them away. – We make your marketing communications cut through the clutter by combining human psychology with consumer behaviour. Find out more about us and then get in touch for a chat about your communications opportunity.

The retail outlook for 2018 is impossible (or perhaps not)

The retail outlook for 2018 looks impossible

5 Must have ways to reduce costs and grow sales

Retail is transforming. Retailers need to reduce costs and increase efficiency. They need to do so in a challenging market where consumer spending is being squeezed and costs are rising. At the same time they need to invest in online, refresh core systems, and develop smarter, personalised offers in addition to rethinking the role of their stores.

Quite a challenge!

If you just take the phrases: “Reduce costs”, “Invest in online”, Refresh core systems” and “Develop…” the equation sounds impossible. And this is compounded by the fact that retailers and brands are being asked to produce more and more with ever less. Ok, I’ll be the one to say it: Something just has to give.Change in direction

How much longer can UK retail focus on saving costs, at the expense of developing sales? How long can head offices try to sit on their hands with their heads in the sand (physiologically impossible anyway)?

So here is a refreshingly new approach to both saving costs and developing retail sales (that you can do without being either double jointed or in a zero gravity atmosphere).

Reduce costs

Stop spending money on research and data that doesn’t tell you anything new, useful or that you didn’t already know. Just because you have a contract with a big data house or agency, doesn’t meant that their output is any more valuable, preferable or worthwhile.

You have research questions no doubt. But think about how to get meaningful answers that genuinely add value to your business, before lazily trotting off to the same old, same old suppliers of the same old, same old data.

Real world example: Many corprate decisions are made in silos: Without considering cause and effect from a shopper perspective. Simply adding the wrong sort of doors to chillers without thinking of the shopper can save running costs, but also did reduce sales by almost 50%.


Invest online

I love this one! “We have to invest online”. We need systems and processes, etc. etc. But take a step back. Before you potentially increase costs by not investing online correctly, clearly define where the greatest ROI lies in this wonderful new medium. I for one have clear irrefutable evidence that online commerce is woefully out of step with how we as a species have evolved to hunt, gather, shop and acquire new things.

Before throwing more money at the consultants, only to have them ask you for the answers to those big, tricky questions. Ask yourself this. “What do shoppers really want from online?” And by really want I mean implicitly and from an evolutionary perspective. We have evolved to hunt and gather, not scroll and click. No wonder so many shoppers still prefer NOT to shop online for everything.

Real world example: Offering people browsing online a massive spreadsheet to scroll down (complete with thumbnail images) can make the site easier to create and manage. Bit doing this did reduce impulse purchasing from 26% to less than 3%.


Refresh core systems

This puzzles me. Brands and retailers say they want to refresh core systems. But as a shopper expert for more than 20 years now, I don’t recall any shopper ever telling me that they wanted a retailer or brand for that matter to improve their core systems.

What I’m suggesting here is that instead of wasting potentially much more money refreshing systems, why not spend a little bit of money discovering what shoppers really want. And before you do, please remind yourself of the ‘reduce costs’ point I made earlier. You may well be surprised with just how close to shopper-oriented some existing core systems already are.

Real world example: Strategically relocating shopping baskets within a well-known High Street chain was and is an operational nightmare. But doing so did increase average transaction value by more than 40%

Develop smarter offers

So retailers and brands need to develop smarter offers? Does this mean to say that the current offers aren’t smart enough? Or is having a different promotion every ½ second in the supermarket just plain overkill?

Get ready for an alarming fact – In fmcg, as many as 80% of shoppers who buy an item that is on special offer… …would have bought it anyway.

So back to the challenge of developing smarter offers. I suggest that the easiest way to achieve this would be to simply align offers with the minds of those buying (or rejecting) the products. As a result, you’d end up with far fewer offers, but those that were in-store and online would be truly effective, both tactically and strategically.

Have you ever stopped to consider which of the following pairs of options is most effective?

Because one thing is for certain, one will always be better than the other. ‘Save 50p’ or ’Save 10% – ‘Half Price’ or ‘1/2 Price’ – ‘3 for the price of 2’ or ‘Now 1/3 off’.

Special Offer

The fact is that promotions are in one way too smart and in another, very, very dumb (from an evolutionary perspective). So instead of decreeing that you need smarter offers, why not understand how offers impact shopping behaviour and shopper psychology and then, only then, decide what is smart and what is perhaps a bit dumb (trust me, the answers will quickly become obvious).

Real world example: Changing the colours of promotional tickets in-store can shave money from the in-store SEL printing process. Bit will it really recoup the £113,000,000 it did cost in lost sales from a single category in a single aisle? Simply multiplying the number of aisles and categories up to your typical supermarket range results is a very large amount indeed.

Rethink the role of stores

For more than a century retailers have been redesigning their stores, to meet different roles. From having perfume departments at the front of store (to mask the smell of the street) in Victorian times, to the small checkouts of Piggly Wiggly stores in USA in 1930s (to reduce theft in newly self-serve environments).

Only in recent times have retailers begun to knee-jerk react to their perception that stores are too big, in the wrong places, with too much or too little range, etc. But again, start from a shopper perspective and guess what… you soon discover that people (yes that’s what we all are’) are predictably irrational. With that in mind it is relatively easy to identify what shoppers want and how to give it to them, ‘without throwing the baby out with the bathwater’.

Once again it comes down to understanding shopper needs (explicit and implicit) and only then start to work on solutions. Do not create solutions and then foist them onto shoppers (most QR codes for example).

Real world example: Changing the store location, size, design and configuration can stem falls in footfall, but simply changing the layout of products in the snacking aisle resulted in a 48% increase in traffic to that aisle: Same store, shelves, décor and even POS.

There you have it, 5 major issues facing retail today. And a single core theme that addresses each of them. Understand shoppers then adapt, as opposed to adapt and then see if shoppers understand.

Hmm, something to think about.

Drop me a note if you’d like to talk about this more.