St Pancras champagne bar_crop

OPINION3 September 2019

Perceiving emotional efficiency

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Behavioural science Opinion UK

Careful selection of our vocabulary could be the answer to closing the gap between ‘emotional’ marketing and ‘rational’ finance writes Rory Sutherland.

Here’s a very simple question. Imagine you are at a board meeting where a group of people put forward a tightly costed, well-argued proposal for the design of a new railway station. Everything within the proposal makes perfect economic sense; the throughput of passengers will be efficient and retail rent high, and there will be an array of ticket barriers to prevent fare evasion.

Now, imagine raising your hand with the following objection: ‘I like your proposals on paper, but I can’t help feeling the station you propose lacks brand resonance’? Or, more specifically, ‘Yes, all well and good, but where’s the champagne bar?’ It’s likely that you would be treated like a complete idiot. In business – and more so in government – collective decision-making has become an exercise in the display of pure rationality.
This is a problem. It is a problem because we, as humans, do not really care about the things that rational people think we should care about.

The reason ...