Marketing and the Mind

We spend billions getting people to buy what we want them to buy and do what we want them to do. I have degrees in marketing and branding and that’s pretty much what I was trained to do was get you to do and buy things you probably would not if left along. Almost all of this is geared toward the conscious mind, impulse buying, emotional selling, rational product features, etc… But the interesting thing is, some research suggests we may be focused on the wrong part of the brain. Benjamin Libet, a neuroscientist did some interesting studies to what happens in our brains when we make a decision. What was found was that a spike of brain activity took place in the subconscious mind before the conscious mind. Interesting.

The sub conscious seems to be the true driver of human intention, yet this is the part of the mind we know the least about. There isn’t a single ad agency that can tell you how it truly works, if they did, they would be able to charge any price and every Fortune 500 would be their client. In fact why bother with that, just rule the world! So what is happening in the sub conscious mind? This process that takes place that tells the conscious mind “go do this.” According to Guy Claxton the author of The Wayward Mind, “no intention is ever hatched in consciousness; no plan ever laid there. Intentions are premonitions, icons that flash in the corners of consciousness to indicate what may be about to occur.” Ok, I can understand that, but where does the thought come from? Where does the subconscious gather information and ideas to come to a conclusion that it wants us to do something specific like, ready this post? We just don’t really know. We have a good understanding of the conscious mind and how it works but the sub is such a mystery, we have theories, but not much else.

It really speaks to something more than we actually know is going on in our minds. If you are selling something to someone, you are probably best to treat the conscious mind as secondary in the decision process, the sub is where you first have to go for, but again, we know so little about how this part of the mind works. Where do you even start? For many the sub is a dark unknown of old thoughts, ideas, and memories that bubbles up every now and then. You can consciously decide not to go along with the sub, we “rationalize” our way out of that sub nudge that we get. We sometimes call that free will; it takes place after the sub has given us the intention and before we act on it. This is where most marketing is geared towards, getting your free will to go along with the message. But this is the secondary, what would happen if you can go for the primary decision maker?

As most kid’s product marketers know, advertise during cartoons, get the kid (sub) to want it and demand it and even if the parent (conscious) doesn’t see the point to it, sooner or later the parent often gives in and buys the kid what it wants. I guess that is kind of how it works but again, we don’t know actually know for sure.

To truly make marketing a more impact driven activity, this is something we need to get answers to. Now the marketer in me sees value, the humanitarian in me sees red flags. This goes back to neuro marketing which was all the rage 5 years ago. It all sounds great when you are making money off it, but not so great when you realize, people may want to use it to get you to do things you may not agree with. That is the negative to all this, the potential can be there if someone is smart enough to use it. Or will we just find there is another layer beyond the sub that drives us which we again find, we do not understand?

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