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.
Thanks for reading