OPINION14 October 2009

Sub-conscious value or what don’t you know about your experience

Seeing the latest Derren Brown ‘illusion’ where a member of the public was predicted to select a toy giraffe from Hamleys due to the influence of certain, unconsciously noticeable giraffe pattern cues strategically placed around the store (perception without awareness) raises the question, what is a customer or clients sub-conscious experience of you?

Indeed is there something called sub-conscious value? We all know that what a customer states they want is a good indication of what we should provide, but what about what they don’t state they want! The nicely coloured walls, the warm ambiance of the store, the friendliness of the pharmaceutical rep, do you want it? Well of course but you’d be hard pressed to find a client or consumer that is prepared to say, not only do I want it but it drives my business with you more than price.

Yet there are exactly these kind of trade-offs going on all the time. I’m prepared to pay a little bit more because you seem like a good company. I want to do business with you because I get a good sense that I can trust you. There is indeed value in the shadow sub-conscious side of your experience.

But the question is, do you understand what this actually means?

You certainly won’t get it from standard research surveys, which is why perhaps a more psychological approach is required; digging deep to understand what we don’t know and perhaps finding out the value of things that could have been perceived as seemingly hygienic or throwaway. There is a great book by Paco Underhill (‘why we buy’) that gives some good examples of this. For instance, the change in sales per square foot with and without carpeting; an effect that few consumers would be willing to state was actually impactful.

Sub-conscious value and how to manipulate it for profit, now there is a magical effect.



13 years ago

I’m a fan of Paco Underhill and his approach to research has been an inspiration for me. I also get a lot from behavioral economists, Dan Airley was the inspiration for a piece of eye tracking research into the subconscious process that happen when consumers make purchase decisions on special offers and how this effects their perception of value. http://thinkeyetracking.com/Blog/?p=287

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13 years ago

Thanks Robert There are some excellent examples of understanding 'what customers don't say' in Why we buy (Paco Underhill). You say "We often make decisions based on the information that we have available at the time we make them", Daniel Kahneman also has a lot to say on heuristics and biases; in this way consumers are not rational alone

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