Consumer Insight: When it’s not obvious why..

Why choose Vodafone instead of Three or Heineken instead of Carlsberg or…

When the reasons behind brand choices aren’t clear, psychoanalytical techniques can be really useful.

When we are looking for ‘penetrating insight into consumer motivation that can be applied to unlock growth’ (DWBB definition), it makes sense to tap into the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behaviour in a given context’ (Wikipedia definition of Psychology). But how?

A few years ago I was working on a problem for Cadburys – why would I choose a Mint Crisp instead of Dairy Milk or Honeycomb….?

Asking consumers in normal focus group was as pointless as the question even sounds – who in their right mind would be able to answer that accurately.

But, there are six levels of human communication.

Verbal and non-verbal are well known. Less well known are things like ‘embedded messages in sentences’ and other signals, which are commonplace in psychoanalysis.

So, we asked a clinical psychologist to sit in on some focus groups and listen to the subconscious ‘conversation’ among respondents. The results were quite amazing. (Must acknowledge great client for buying into the experiment!).

The subconscious conversation revealed a very simple, logical explanation.

Chocolate is a low level addiction. ‘Would you like chocolate?’ a no-brainer question..’would you like pleasure?’ Duh!

But our relationship with chocolate mimics that of an addict and their poison.

There is a cycle of Resistance (makes me fat, guilty etc) and a counter cycle of Desire for pleasure (hmmm..chocolate).

The straight-up strategy therefore was a brand ‘take’ on dialling up desire – think cliche flowy, melty chocolate advertising…or even the famous Cadbury Gorilla.

The flanking strategy is a brand ‘take’ on dialling down resistance. This means offer ready made excuses (1.) choice: ‘I haven’t had a Mint Crisp in weeks says the person whose just eaten a Dairy Milk’, (2.) sharing: ‘I’ll buy it for everyone in the office’..(3.) size: ‘I’ll only eat one square’, or (4.) scarcity: limited editions or seasonal (like crème egg)…and so on..

This technique provides clarity on consumer motivations we either don’t know or we intuitively understand but aren’t sure of and in my experience has powerful application across all of our marketing, design and innovation strategies.