What your consumers do not tell you…

Do you like green, light and eco-responsible products? What is your most guilty fantasy? Do you prefer a black or a white spokesperson for your favorite sportswear brand? Are you prone to impulsive buying? What kind of sensual experience does this luxury body lotion offer to you?

If we are asked these questions more or less directly in a marketing survey, we may not confess our real preferences. Why?

1. Some of our preferences are not socially accepted.
Even if the survey is anonymous, we have interiorized the fact that we cannot explicitely confess that green products are boring, that we prefer white top models or what our real fantasies are.

2. We are not always aware of our preferences.
We may be convinced to be unbiased and to equally like black or white models while in reality we have an implicit preference for one or the other.

3. We are unable to put into words or evaluate our preferences precisely.
We know we appreciate this body lotion, but it is tough to quantify or describe precisely what kind of sensations and with which level of intensity we felt them.

4. We answered randomly because we get bored by the survey.
It happens to all of us while answering a boring marketing survey online or in the street that we just filled up randomly.

fashion-279607_640In the end, many marketing surveys only grasp the emerged part of the consumer insight iceberg. It is, of course, possible with most sophisticated questionnaires (see adaptive questionnaire by Professor Olivier Toubia from Columbia University) to take into account the response error of participants or to motivate them with monetary incentives to take it seriously. Yet, capturing preferences that consumers really do not want to share or are not aware of is very tricky. Digital marketing, big data, neuromarketing and other new innovative marketing techniques are starting to explore this fascinating unconscious side of consumption decision-making. The use of implicit association tests (IAT) has for instance captured that :

  1. Most people, whatever their skin color, prefer a white over a black spokesperson.
  2. Using the voice of a famous spokesperson in an ad has a positive impact on consumers’ perceptions, unless the voice is recognized!
  3. Priming male consumers with furious images of nature pushed them to buy green products while peaceful nature images were more effective for female consumers.

In short, a lot is still to be discovered in the unconsciousness of consumers!

Hilke Plassman publications, INSEAD

About cognitive marketing:

1-Greenwald, A. G., Poehlman, T. A., Uhlmann, E., & Banaji, M. R. (2009). Understanding and using the Implicit Association Test: III. Meta-analysis of predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 17–41

2-Implicit assimilation and explicit contrast: A Set/Reset Model of response to celebrity voiceovers MARK R. FOREHAND, ANDREW PERKINS

3- Predictive Validity of the Implicit Association Test in Studies of Brand, Consumer Attitudes and Behavior Greenwald, A. G., Dominika Maison, Ralph H. Bruin, JOURNAL OF CONSUMER PSYCHOLOGY, 14(4), 405–415, 2004

4-Verlegh, P. W. J., & Steenkamp, J.-B. E. M. (1999). A review and meta-analysis of country-of-origin research. Journal of Economic Psychology, 20(5), 521-546

5-Implicit Consumer Ethnocentrism–an Example of Dissociation between Explicit and Implicit Preference, A. G., Dominika Maison, Ralph H. Bruin, 2004

6-Is the implicit association test a valid and valuable measure of implicit consumer social cognition? FF Brunel, BC Tietje, AG Greenwald – Marketing, 2004

7-A Meta-Analysis on the Correlation Between the Implicit Association Test and Explicit Self-Report Measures, Wilhelm Hofmann, Bertram Gawronski, Tobias Gschwendner, Manfred Schmitt

8-MEASURING IMPLICIT CONSUMER ATTITUDES AND PREDICTING BRAND CHOICE, Michaela Wanke, Henning Plessner, TatjanaGartner, Wade Malte Friese, 2002

9- Object and user levels of analyses in design: the impact of emotion on implicit and explicit preference for ‘green’ products,Vera Sacharina, Richard Gonzaleza and Jan-Henrik Andersen, 2008
10-Predictive Validity of the Implicit Association Test in Studies of Brand, Consumer attitudes,and Behavior, Maison, Greenwald, Bruin (2004)

11-Does One Bad Apple(Juice) Spoil the Bunch? Implicit Attitudes Toward One Product Transfer to Other Products by the Same Brand (2012) Kate A. Ratliff, Bregje A. P. Swinkels, and Kimberly KlerxBrian A. Nosek

12-Unhealthy food is not tastier for everybody: The “healthy = tasty” French intuition (2013) Carolina O.C. Werlea , Olivier Trendela, Gauthier Arditoa

13-The implicit measurement of destination image: The application of Implicit Association Tests (2012) JieYang, Jiaxun He c, Yingkang Guba

14-Using aversive images to enhance healthy food choices and implicit attitudes: An experimental test of evaluative conditioning (2011) Hollands, Gareth J.; Prestwich, Andrew; Marteau, Theresa M. Health Psychology, Vol