Google+ Consumer Psyche: The buying brain

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The buying brain

Your brain -- and your customers’ – is 100,000 years old. Its basic skills and functions are the same ones it developed to survive on the plains of Africa so many millennia ago. As such, the “modern” brain is occasionally at odds with 21st century life.

As it navigates through that life, your brain is like an iceberg. Most of its decisions occur below the water line. Your conscious mind contributes to making only about 5% of your decisions. The subconscious mind makes the other 95%.

For most of our evolution, gathering food and fuel have been primary objectives. That’s partly why shopping is, at its heart, a primal activity. Here are some examples of how the subconscious mind functions when shopping.

1) Your brain gets scared in some stores. Your conscious mind doesn’t know it, of course, but your subconscious mind views sharp corners as a threat. Every time you push a shopping cart around the end of an aisle, your subconscious mind winces. The cringe dates back to the earliest days of the modern brain, when humans still roamed the Serenghetti. Think about it: you don’t see many sharp angles in nature. When your subconscious mind comes across straight lines and sharp angles, it’s hard-wired to perceive them as a threat and prompts you to avoid them. Smart retailers will learn to curve and soften their sharp corners better to invite the buying brain in.

2) Too much of one thing can make your brain go blind. “Repetition blindness” sets in when we see too many of the same objects. Think about a wall of toothpaste boxes, all approximately the same size and many sharing similar colors and graphics. Confronted with this much “sameness,” your brain looks for differences. When it can’t find enough variations, it blends everything together, becoming “blind” to the individual packages themselves. This is why we sometimes can’t see the trees for the forest. In a sea of sameness, smart manufacturers will find a way for their packaging to “pop” at the shelf.


3) Men and women are hard-wired to shop differently. Men shop by looking for targets; women shop by looking for landmarks. Women explore their territory; men make maps.

4) Origin is important. The brain likes to see the source of the product inside the package. It appreciates cows on milk cartons, for instance, and grapes on bottles of wine.

5) Faces and eye contact fascinate the brain. The brain needs to see faces to determine intent. Are you friend or foe? But the brain also prefers ambiguous expressions on faces. It likes to figure out the puzzle. What is s/he thinking or feeling? The Mona Lisa is a perfect example of the power of ambiguity. Closer to home, ambiguous faces on packaging and promotions are like magnets to the shopping brain.

Read more @ A. K. Pradeep's new book, The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind
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