I meant to post this two weeks ago for the start of the new year, but among my writing circle, it cause such a discussion, it’s taken all this time to get it out.
It started with a comment I kept overhearing from a particular group of people directing their comments at a couple of people. This group kept saying “you guys think too much, you are too smart for your own good.” I was thinking about this, how can someone be too smart? In our current society, we value the left brain, logical and calculating. I’m very good at this. However the right brain is just as important in creating and developing artistic ideas, in my own way I am good at this as well. However it causes the ego to focus outside. Both sides of the brain are great at producing ideas and in marketing and business in general, we focus on appealing to one or the other. But this year I am revisiting an area of the mind we don’t often talk about, beliefs.
I am sitting here going over market data, stats, market surveys and thinking to myself, “something just isn’t right.” In marketing, I think we focus so much on external that we forget the internal and the external is often a reflection of our beliefs. Most of us are blind to our own beliefs but can pick up other people’s beliefs, really well. For example, I have a friend who thinks business people are all cheats. She’s had more jobs than I can count because the boss went to jail, someone stole money and they had to lay off people, etc… Her belief is re-enforced by the external situations she can point to, however there are many others I can point to countering that belief, yet she doesn’t see them. Is it her belief or the experience that comes first?
For example, I never heard of Mangosteen fruit until last November. Now I am seeing it in juice form, jello, jams, articles written about it and people are talking about it. I took on a belief that I want this fruit and I want to know more about this and I have had experiences to re-enforce this belief. Chances are I ran into mangosteen before but since it was not a part of my belief structure, I ignored it as just background noise. So it leads me to believe, the external is really just a reflection of the internal beliefs and so why bother with studies of the external, it is the studies of beliefs that really seem to matter.
Now someone may counter that nero-marketing is doing that, yet if you look at the studies, even they are questioning, the validity of it. One question seems to keep popping up, is there a difference between the chemical and electrical reactions of the brain and the thoughts of the mind? Back when I was in school taking a class called propaganda (yes, it really was called that), one of the key aspects we were taught was to focus on the underlying beliefs and motives of people, that many may be focused on the same cause but the beliefs and motives they have can be vastly different. Statistical modeling has never and will never show us these differences, sorry guys; it’s true, so put down the SPSS software for a moment. Traditional focus groups won’t either; they just don’t dig deep enough, because people are in a group and put forth an expectable social response. There are certain algebraic formulas and metrics you can use to help you understand how the beliefs impact your company’s bottom line, but that also means you need to understand the beliefs to an extent. This is where it gets a little tricky.
All metrics are on the garbage in – garbage out principle. I’ve run into people who won’t do business with people who wear certain types of shoes or have certain accents. There is a belief behind that action, now I can assume they are racists or bigots or some other negative term but that is an assumption. There is a rather simple method that works 80% of the time; I’m still working on the 20%. But it does a great job of really digging into the rationale of the beliefs people hold. This is important because a belief seeks re-enforcement. So if you create a marketing idea that gets resistance, there is something in the belief system that is stopping your success. Some are easier than others to spot particularly cultural ones. For example there is a belief in
Romania that you can get some lung disease riding the bus with the window open. That’s good to know if you are marketing a new open window bus. Others are personal experiences and take more time and costs to really uncover. In consumer goods they rarely focus on this, however if you are Boeing or work in some other B2B business where the buyer is known on a personal level, knowing the root of beliefs and what impact they have is vital!
As marketing and branding redefine themselves, focusing on the simple aspects of why people buy, is where most of the answers are to solve most of the problems we face. I would like to see more focus on beliefs and the role they play in decision making. We often focus one level above that so it will not be too difficult to leap to that next level. This would mean changing how we think of our customers; do companies have the guts to try?