Marketing Guru Martin Lindstrom and Tom H. C. Anderson Discuss Next Gen Market Research Techniques & Subconscious Marketing
Today I’m posting a brief interview with Martin Lindstrom. I met Martin recently at The Marketing Research Event (TMRE) where we were both speakers. We hit it off as he’s a fellow Viking (He’s Danish, I’m Swedish/Finnish/American), in fact this year I’ll actually be celebrating Christmas in Copenhagen.
For those of you not yet familiar with Martin and his work, he is a 2009 recipient of TIME Magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Influential People” and author of Buyology-Truth and Lies About Why We Buy , a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller, and his previous book, BRAND Sense, was acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal as “…one of the five best marketing books ever published.”
I truly enjoyed Martin’s ideas at his Keynote at TMRE as his work focuses on the subconscious mind. Martin’s research into this area has leveraged neuroscience measurement devices like fMRI and EEG, while Anderson Analytics‘ has leveraged online surveys with psychological content analysis and natural language processing software, but the effect of the subconscious mind and emotion on purchasing behavior is something I think we both see eye to eye on. I think you will enjoy the Q&A below.
Tom: You say that humans act irrationally, I assume this is the same as acting on emotion? Can you elaborate a bit?
Martin: You’re absolutely right - emotions and irrational behavior are very interlinked. You could say that it all starts with emotions and is reflected by “irrational” behavior.
Tom: I found what you said about music/sound being the most powerful motivator very interesting. I’ve argued with our web developer that we should have some sound on our website. But seem to lose the argument because I’ve been told usability research shows people don’t want sound on most sites. What are your thoughts on this?
Martin: My first questions is of course what sound. There’s a lot of sound, some setting the stage, some used for navigation, others creating a feeling and then there’s (what I call the) “Night Club Version” - the type of sound where you’re blown away and desperately are left searching for the switch off button in order not to wake up the entire office. I’m of course not thinking of the latter.
But just as you’ve got used to listening to a tune when turning on your computer (remember this didn’t exist originally), or when switching on the cell phone - or just as you’re now used to listening to a ultra short tune when typing on your Blackberry or navigating on your iPod - you’ll see the same happening online when buying stuff on eBay - like confirmation sounds when you’ve won a bid - or sounds confirming that your credit card has been accepted on Amazon - or just a 7 second tune telling where you are - as the case is when you’re visiting Mandarinoriental.com
Tom: You mentioned you’ve done research across the world. What are some of the interesting similarities and differences? Are customers in Denmark the same as customers in the US? How does culture play into emotional needs, if at all?
Martin: Despite Americans steep differences to other western countries the Buyology research shows that we as humans are substantially more alike than different. The fact is that we’re more often alike than different when it comes to buying and consuming brands - it’s like we’re hardwired and thus often intrigued by the same factors.
A major difference we however saw from for example Chinese to Japanese consumers appeared when testing a recent TV commercial from Microsoft. In the commercial called: “Just Imagine” you see an empty warehouse, then a person dreaming -and as a result hand-drawings appear on top of the empty warehouse illustration - illustrating how the Microsoft software can help you to transform your imaginations into reality- in this case by transforming the empty warehouse into a packed auditorium with thousands of people listening to you playing amazing music.
When asking the Chinese or the Japanese they both loved it - but using neuroscience (in this case EEG) we learned an entirely different story. The Japanese people still loved the commercial - not necessarily because of the story but because they love space - and the empty warehouse showed a lot of space. The Chinese on the other hand hated it. Why? Because an empty warehouse means a poor performing business - when warehouses are empty you’d better close down your business.
We’ve learned that the most dramatic differences between America and other countries comes down to three things: Food, Religion and traditions (which among others is rituals, superstition etc.) Those factors affect all other criteria - however if are you aware of those factors you’d quickly learn that the Buyology of a American consumer is very similar to that of a British or Danish consumer
Tom: Is it necessary to have an MRI to study Buyology, or are there other cheaper ways to do this kind of research?
Martin: Early 2009 I founded BUYOLOGY INC, a Neuroscience and Marketing company based in New York city specializing in exploring our Buyology. The very foundation of the company was indeed to explore our Buyology without having to start up the highly expensive equipment like fMRI. It is today possible to conduct studies as cheap as $50,000 - by using either alternative methods or by simply drawing on the millions of data points we already have collected over the past 5 years.
Tom: As you may know we’ve been using text analytics to get at emotions in market research. Reading between the lines so to speak. We believe the words people use tell us something about their state of mind. What do you think about this approach?
Martin: It points in the right direction and will in line with a range of other methods all help to uncover what really goes on in our non-conscious mind - remember there’s not one right answer here - the matter of fact is that we most likely will see a flood of many different tools all telling us or showing us a new dimension of our behavior all helping to undercover and understand our Buyology.
Tom: What about segmentation? In Market research we are often trying to segment customers into different groups. I’ve worked on several segmentations with an emotional component. However, we usually don’t segment on emotion alone, rather we often include many other variables (income etc.). Do you think we should be segmenting customers strictly on emotional needs?
Martin: The entire field of segmentation will soon change. The main reason is exactly what you point out - money, education and geographic dimensions in our future world will tell very little about the consumer so we need to go deeper.
BUYOLOGY INC is working on a concept called NeuroTypes - it is a way to segment consumers from a non-conscious point of view and thus understand why we really have a certain relationship with one brand over another. What’s amazing here is that we’re now learning that certain brands which from a rational point of view seem almost contradictory - in fact are identical - we’re also learning the true influence of religion, our senses and a range of other factors - and leverage these when designing or repositioning brands of the future.
Tom: You’ve advocated “smashing your brand”. This sounds very interesting, and I think I’ve seen a few of the larger Brands start doing this. Can you briefly explain what this means? Also, does it make sense for all brands, large ones and small ones? And what % of the marketing budget if any do you then believe should be spent on traditional branding?
Martin: The theory of Smash Your Brands roots back to 1915 when the Coca-Cola bottle was invented. The original brief was to develop a bottle so clever that if you were to throw it on the floor and it would smash into thousands of pieces of glass you’d still be able to pick up one piece of glass and recognize the brand.
My question to every business owner is; “can I smash your brand?” meaning - is it possible for me to remove the logo and still recognize the brand? If the answer is no - you have a serious problem.
The Buyology study shows that it is first when you reach that stage - where you can live without the logo (Think Benetton, McDonald’s, Apple, Tiffany’s etc.) you’ll truly communicate the messages of your brand to our non-conscious part of our brain. It may be that you own a color (like Tiffany’s Rubin Colored box) or a sound (Like the Nokia tune) or a shape (like the Apple iPod) or a smell (like Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder) - the more of those “components” you own the stronger your brand will be.
Any brand can be smashed (or rather should be smashable) large as well as small - it all in the end of the day help the brand to optimize it’s presence and awareness in our world.