3 Key Take-Aways from the Nonconscious Consumer Forum

3 Key Take-Aways from the Nonconscious Consumer Forum

Last week (on November 14 and 15) I attended 2 days of excellent presentations about the “Nonconscious” consumer. If you are at all like me, your first thought might be, “What are they talking about, sleeping consumers?” Of course my next thought was to recognize that this forum could be a place to better understand how to research the subconscious decisions that influence and sometimes drive consumer behavior. Here are my top 3 Key Take-Aways:

1. Question the 95/5 rule. I have been hearing (from several leaders in the field, and previous to this conference) that the widely cited “statistic” that “95% of a consumer’s decisions are nonconscious” is misleading. First off, a good half of the brain’s functions are serving the autonomic nervous system and I would guess we are all happy that those functions are nonconscious – who would want to need to constantly make decisions regarding one’s heartbeat and breathing?

OK, so that leaves only 50%, and (yes, I’m simplifying here) while it has been shown that a good percentage of our everyday decisions are made before being conscious of them, it depends on what is being decided. If one is, for instance, thinking of a major purchase or a new category, typically many factors go into this decision and there is at least an element of conscious decision-making (e.g., what color, price, style, etc.). If, on the other hand, one is clicking around on the internet, then very likely the quick decision to click or not to click is 95% subconscious.

I’ll reflect more on this point in a future blog but for right now, let’s just agree that continuing to reinforce the narrative of “the 95/5 rule” in many ways undermines our believability and over-simplifies when it comes to the field of understanding decision-making. Several of the presenters strongly called on us to consider mixed methodologies in order to more fully accomplish our research objectives.

2. IAT (Implicit Association Testing) is rich and fascinating! My previous work with IAT primarily revolved around using pictures, personifications, collages, etc. as analogies of brands or products. Now Meta4 Insight has taken that technique and amped it up with a validated library of over 600 images that give, as they say, “qualitative richness backed by quantitative rigor”.

Then there was another supplier – Sentient Decision Science – who allowed us to personally experience their IAT method. At the forum they had a demo where one first sorted words into sets associated with the qualities of either honest/trustworthy or dishonest/untrustworthy – with truthful words being swiped down on the screen and dishonest words up. After getting used to sorting words, I was then told a brand image will appear before the words and I should try to ignore it.

The task was the same: to sort the words just as I had the first time. The brands were all financial and I watched myself have a momentary disconnect when I saw the brand name “Wells Fargo” and then the word truthful. As I noticed that I was having a hard time swiping the word truthful downward, it became clear that my implicit, unconscious associations were raising cognitive dissonance between the words “truthful” and “Wells Fargo”. I’m so happy to have been able to observe in myself what is being measured!

3. There is now a way to get biometrics in a natural setting! Anyone who has used facial coding and eye-tracking knows that it is tricky – while you can ask participants do this via a web browser in their home, you’ll typically lose half the measurements because people don’t sit still in front of their computers. It was great to hear that the MediaScience folks can capture a variety of biometric information (skin conductivity, heart rate, facial coding, response latency testing and eye tracking) in a fairly unobtrusive way in their MediaScience labs.

After the forum I visited their brand new Chicago facility and saw first hand how participants come in, sit in a very comfortable chair (which helps keep their gaze stable so that it is more likely their eye tracking and facial coding data will be readable) and then they might watch a 30-minute sitcom which has advertising inserted into the program. One can even allow the respondent to interact with their smartphone (which can be set up to also be measured) so that it is clear when and where they go on their phones while the program/ad is being shown.

In this way, the measurements are taken in a fairly real-world situation. AND, since 6 people can go through this testing at the same time (each in their own personal viewing room), when the client wants to discuss other ideas or probe more deeply with these consumers, one can easily run a focus group immediately after respondents have completed biometric testing.

#IIeX #NewMR, #mrx, #imd16, #qrca @HarpethMktg

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