Technically Human: Episode 7
February 3, 2017
Transcript

[background music]

Katie Cantu: Hey, there. I’m Katie Cantu, strategist at Ignite Partnership.

Mike Covert: And I’m Mike Covert, founder of Ignite Partnership.

Katie: You’re listening to “Technically Human,” where marketing experts talk about how to find the soul in technology products and services. What really makes humans tick when it comes to tech? Join us on our cultural expedition to find out.

Will Leach is the founder of TriggerPoint, a leading behavioral research and design consultancy that specializes in identifying and influencing the non-conscious factors that guide consumer decisions for some of today’s largest companies.

That’s a mouthful, but he has over 18 years of consumer insights and strategy experience. And he is a behavioral design instructor at the Cox School of Business for SMU.

Will Leach: Hello, and very happy to be here today. Thanks for having me.

Mike: Welcome. We’re glad to have you.

Katie: So one thing that’s been on our minds a lot lately here at Ignite, Will, is the changing landscape of retail. Let’s define “retail” for the purposes of this conversation as a state of mind, right? There is a physical space that is retail, but not off the table is ecommerce or any state of mind in which somebody would be willing to potentially make a purchase.

Mike: We have the privilege of being able to think about this every day, but we want to hear from your perspective. Who’s leveraging behavioral insights well, particularly from a retail standpoint, even though certainly we can extend, as Katie just said, to other areas of interest.

Will: The company that comes to mind is, of all companies, Lowe’s Home Improvement. There’s a great story about how they’re getting there. Lowe’s, right now, is probably considered one of the most innovative retailers out there. And here’s how it came about.

About two years ago, a researcher came up with this idea of...he was looking at industries that were collapsing. He said, “What are the big things that caused Blockbuster to collapse?” Blockbuster didn’t see Netflix. They didn’t see the power of home delivery of movies, and they certainly didn’t see the power of streaming movies. And so this guy at Lowe’s said, “How is it that big companies that have all this research, all these smart people, don’t see these things?”

So he hired a company called SciFutures, who works with science fiction writers, to help articulate and envision the future.

Mike: Science fiction writers. Like…writers?

Will: Like, actual writers.

Mike: Thinkers, imagineers, etc.

Will: That’s right.

Katie: I’ve heard of this company before, but I didn’t know Lowe’s had used them.

Will: It makes no sense. It’s the power of what one person at a large company can do. This guy was only a manager, but he was fascinated with this idea that science fiction writers are so good at imagining the future, why wouldn’t you have science fiction writers think about your industry and then tell you what’s possible?

That’s what they do. It’s a really, really neat business model.

Katie: I love that example because it makes me think of one of the books that we’ve been talking about—which is Copy, Copy, Copy, which says, “Hey, look at a completely different industry or category and say, ‘What could it do for me?’”

You would never think home improvement would look to the film industry or storywriters like SciFutures to innovate.

Will: I think if you talked to their executive management teams now, they would say that that was the most influential piece of research they ever did. What SciFutures does is they look at what are trends in the industry, but also technology and where technology seems to be going out.

In this case was that this idea that in the future, we will all be printing our own everything using 3D printing.

Imagine if you’re sitting in a room and you’re leading Lowe’s Home Improvement and you have somebody coming in and telling you that in the next 10 to 20 years there will be no reason to walk into a Lowe’s, because I will print anything that I need for my home improvement.

Mike: So, it will be Lowe’s at home?

Will: It will be Lowe’s at home. That was one potential future. And in the meeting, this executive team says, “Yes, we want that.”

[laughter]

Mike: Be careful of the big idea.

Katie: It’s like, “Oh, wait a minute.”

Will: “We were here to tell you about the future. We weren’t here to shape the future.” This is all common thinking. You can look up Lowe’s Home Improvement. They’re on the Today Show. They’re working with NASA now. They’re working with Google. They’re doing 3D printing technologies right now where you can come into a Lowe’s and put a screw onto a computer pad and you will start printing that screw within an hour.

They’re going to start seeing themselves as a service provider. Because if you can print your own solutions, then why would you ever go to a Lowe’s Home Improvement store?

No, no, you will look to Lowe’s as, “Well, now that I’ve printed this washer, how do I install the washer? How do I do that?” That’s some of the things that they’re thinking about. They’re totally reinventing retail right now because they see in 20 years that there’s at least a possibility that they won’t be in the retail space.

Katie: So, Will, we understand that some Lowe’s stores are actually experimenting with Holorooms. Can you kind of explain for our listeners what that space entails?

Will: It’s a room within a Lowe’s that you walk in and through a series of questions and photographs that you upload into a computer, this room starts to basically be designed using virtual reality to look like your home.

Where the door is, where plants are, where a couch is, the type of couch, etc. It gets to be a point where you’re inside this room and it’s replicating what’s actually happening in your house. Now you can say, “What would happen if my color walls changed to this?”

If you like that color, wow, press a button and Lowe’s is making that color paint for you right there in the moment. It allows you to make a decision and pay for something right then and there.

Mike: My guess is there are certain types of shoppers that are going to be intimidated by that. That is a faceless exchange. And yet as humans, we’re behaviorally wired to be social creatures. How does that impact the potential for the transaction?

Will: There’s a conundrum in the industry. You’re right, how do we replicate the human interaction without having to hire the human? What Lowe’s is experimenting with, and a lot of other companies are experimenting with as well, is virtual people.

The one that I’ve seen is that it is actually very similar with what Star Wars—if you remember the original Star Wars movie, where they’re playing chess—a virtual sales assistant comes up and in real time is interacting with you.

How do you make virtual reality technology human enough to where you feel like you can have an interaction, but not so human that it becomes scary? There’s a lot of work in that space right now.

Mike: That’s so interesting. So, you said one way that this is going to unfold in the future is companies are going to use technology to reduce the dependence on a human element at retail. What’s the other way?

Will: I think the other way is that for all those bigger purchases where there’s a lot of consideration, what’s going to happen is you’re going to have to create immersive experiences to drive people to shop and to actually buy.

It’s creating brand stories within a retail environment that is something that you actually want to go visit, because you can’t have that in a world where everything is so cost-driven that you’re pulling those out. It’s going to be one of the two.

Mike: Katie, you visited SoHo [in New York City] recently. Would you describe the Sonos experience as such?

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. Will, have you heard of the Sonos store that’s in SoHo? Their flagship store there?

Will: No, I haven’t.

Katie: It’s really cool. A quick Google search will pull up tons of images. We’ve even got a couple on our blog at Ignite…shameless plug there.

[laughter]

Katie: It’s really cool, because what it does is it creates a completely experience-based storefront. What they’ve done is they’ve created these little pods. They’re effectively houses, you go in, you completely forget the environment that you’re in, but you can experience every aspect of the Sonos system. There’s sound bars. There’s rear speakers. There’s 360 sound. You can hook up your own device.

They really didn’t push to sell product, as much as they did to create a high-end experience.

Mike: You talked about the psychological hurdles to the non-human interaction and counting on technology. How does this work behaviorally? Why are we going to trend that way?

Will: First off, I don’t know if that is going to work, and here’s why. There’s a lot of work around trying to create brand experiences so that you can create brand preference. In that case, Sonos is creating the experience to where next time I think of Sonos, I have these associations of innovation and whatever it is those feelings were happening in that store.

I would say that’s good. There’s no doubt about it, that’s important. However, what I want to do is bridge that experience, and not have you walk away, and then the next time you’re going to be in a store thinking about Sonos, that maybe you’ll have a great emotional impression and you may make a choice.

I want to build a bridge in that experience to actually drive them to, in that moment, change a behavior and buy. That’s what behavioral sciences, behavioral research does.

Katie: It requires action. [laughs]

Will: It does. You can incorporate primes, framing, and triggers inside that Sonos store—and they may have done this, I don’t know.

If there’s a deliberate use of psychology in that space, you can get somebody from feeling emotionally aroused and walking out the store, to feeling emotionally aroused and actually buying something. That’s an important aspect.

Katie: Identifying a need state that they didn’t necessarily think was there before.

Mike: I think what you’re saying is create the experience, but some of the primal cues are still going to determine if that emotional experience translates to a functional transaction.

Will: That’s exactly right.

Mike: Wow, that’s interesting. I love this stuff.

[laughter]

Katie: I do, too.

Mike: I think what’s so interesting about this is an acceptance to know that you are an animal. As much as humans, we feel like we’re in control of our own choices, we really aren’t. That’s always the fun part about talking to a client, I find, is the psychology is something that can actually be curated.

What about common misconceptions that are used, that you hear out there, that you’re just shaking your head at?

Katie: That’s a good one.

Will: One of the first ones to come into mind is this left-brain/right-brain dynamic that has been around for there forever.

Katie: Mike and I talk about that all the time, yes.

Will: It’s a really big misconception. There’s not a lot of evidence that would suggest that there’s any correlation between right-brain thinking and left-brain thinking and our ability to be conceptual versus more deliberate. There’s nothing in that space.

And I think you actually pointed out, Mike, the big misconception is that we are in control of a lot of our behaviors and that we know what we’re doing. Here’s a stat I use a lot: that on any given day, people make 17,000 decisions. Seventeen thousand decisions.

There’s no way you could actually do cost-benefit analyses on every one of those to get through the day, but yet we believe that we’re making considered decisions. I ask my audiences this all the time: “Tell me 20 decisions you made today,” and they struggle with 20.

If they can remember 20 decisions, how many decisions do they have no idea they’re making? How are they making those? Environmental influences, habit, things like that. Mental models.

Mike: As animals we are wired to survive. That means taking cues, often that are very tiny cues, not perceptible, and making a decision, “Am I danger?”—right?—at the very basic level of a species.

Will: That’s right, and what behavioral sciences does now is it gives us a vocabulary and direct activation of those things. Where before you just took it for granted that, “Yeah, I know some stuff is happening,” what if I can tell you now that, “No, the stuff is happening, but it’s deliberate.”

The lighting in this room right now is influencing our tone. The colors on these walls, our interactions together—it’s influencing our conversation. If you are deliberate and you know what the color of the wall can do, what the lighting in the room can do, scent, things like that, you can now create articulated, very choice-architected experiences that are deliberate in nature.

Mike: And just to that point, I hear that constantly, including people asking me, “Are you more a right-brain, left-brain?” Research has actually proven that we’re whole-brain, but it’s pervasive. Once we, as humans, think something is real, we have to believe that it’s real. Anything else floating out there that you’re ready to tell the world, put it behind you.

Will: The other one is that we only use 5 percent or 10 percent of our brains. There’s nothing about that that makes any sense, and so that’s another one of those things that we like to talk about.

Mike: Throw down a jaw-dropper. What is something that you know to be true that is just capturing the imaginations?

Will: So, I think that a lot of times we believe that marketing is all about building the brand and the equity to drive sales, and I can tell you that’s oftentimes not nearly as effective as giving me that same dollar, getting me in front of a shelf where people make decisions, and architecting that choice to drive a behavior. That’s many times more effective than anything you can do on equity side of the business.

Mike: Do you have an example that you are free to share? I’m sure some of it is confidential.

Will: Well, let me tell you the problem to solve. The problem was that people that normally bought this brand were not going down the aisle anymore. The retail environment was shifting their purchases to a totally different aisle.

What do you want to do? Here’s the normal reaction from an agency: “We’ve got to get a big billboard campaign. We’ve got to remind people that this brand is available, and we’re going to put it all over the DFW area.”

Katie: “We’ve got an awareness problem.”

Will: That’s right. Actually, what you have going on is in the retail environment. In the middle of a shelf strip, in the middle of the aisle, we put a white blinking light. Neuroscience would tell you, is that a blinking light actually becomes very annoying very, very quickly—except when it’s white.

So, just by—we put a little shelf strip, very simple messaging, a little bit of it was on branding side—but literally, by putting a white blinking light, I drove about 4 percentage points of growth in that brand, just by doing that.

It’s so simple. Where normal preference was, “We’ve got to build awareness of the brand.” Yes, but maybe not. Maybe I just need to grab somebody’s attention, have them walk down my aisle. That was a 35-cent execution per store, versus what you would do on a billboard campaign.

Katie: We’ve talked about some of the common misconceptions, and you’ve shared some really good best-in-class examples, like Lowe’s. What are some of the other major challenges that you’ve seen brands facing today?

Will: One is, it’s no longer enough to build satisfaction, equity, likability of my brand, or whatever. They’re ultimately saying, “How do I drive revenues?” That’s where I think the behavioral sciences are so clearly advantaged in that space, because there’s nothing but research in that space to drive behavioral change.

The other thing that we hear a lot about is, we have all these great, rich insights using big data, but now, why aren’t we seeing better executions? Why aren’t we seeing greater sales? That’s something that a lot of companies are struggling with, because you can’t go backwards and take those investments back.

Katie: The sheer amount of data, sometimes it’s becoming paralyzing. It’s not actionable.

Will: That’s right, and you’ve got to have a very clear skill set in understanding data. It’s intimidating and, frankly, a lot of times you’ll walk away from the data. It’s this choice overload, is what we would call it, and it’s happening in their industry.

Mike: We talked about this before the show, but being a PR guy, I remember this. You can cut a number to prove anything. My guess is there’s so much data now, we can correlate almost anything and everything, and therefore nothing.

Will: That’s exactly right. And what’s happening is that the person who is cutting the data has the most influence in the room, so whatever they thought was important to them, that becomes reality because that’s provable.

But I can take that same data set and give it to another person in your company, and they will come up with a totally different, valid insight. So whoever has the biggest voice wins.

Mike: Or budget.

[laughter]

Will: Or budget, that’s right.

Katie: One of the things we run into a lot and that we talk a lot about here is that people use data to put together demographics. They’ve got an age, you’ve got a gender, you’ve got an income.

The people are still skimming segments by these data points that don’t actually mean anything from a behavior perspective, right? Where we talk a lot about segmenting by behaviors so that we can create an actionable touchpoint that changes a behavior or a perception that exists.

Because everybody who is a male between ages 18 and 25 and lives in the Metroplex doesn’t act the same way. They have very different behaviors.

Mike: I agree with Katie, and I see it all the time. There are some companies, and we’ve worked for some, that really do subscribe to what you’d call “psychographics.” That’s more behaviorally based.

Is there another method you see emerging with the science that you represent that says maybe we should be segmenting or thinking about our consumers from a totally different light?

Will: You said it right, Katie. I came from this world where my background was in doing these segmentations where I could understand by gender, age, a couple of different attributes. I could put you into a segment, and now you should behave this way.

Katie: “You should behave this way.”

[laughter]

Will: What’s happening now, because we have all the advancements, and understanding data, and getting all this data back, it’s the emergence of linking those types of metrics to the behavior. But what we never had before was these attitudinal segmentations, or these psychographics.

You can actually now start understanding, implicitly, what’s their core human motivation? How do they approach a problem—through a promotional lens or a prevention lens? I can merge behavioral data with that demographic data, and it gives me better insight.

But on the other side, psychological techniques to really understand human motivations, cognitive biases…all these techniques now allow us to understand people at the individual level—at what’s driving their behaviors.

So now what you have is you have a convergence of demographic data, which is really useful for targeting purposes; I have behavioral data, which is very useful at understanding contextual influences that drive behavior; and I now understand—psychologically—the motivations, their approaches and cognitive biases, and their goals, to drive behavior as well.

You have all three of these things coming together, which provides a great, rich data set to actually drive not just understanding, but interventions and better marketing.

Mike: As long as we can activate it.

Will: As long as you can activate it. That is the second thing that I would say they’re struggling with…is [that] with all this insight comes the onus to actually activate against it.

Yet, if you ask most companies what are the top 10 things in their repertoire of things that they can do to influence their sales, they don’t know. They can’t tell you, you know, that dropping a coupon is more profitable than getting a better futures contract on a commodity.

They can’t tell you whether or not, by having better customer relationships, that they can drive greater sales or greater profitability over marketing. So having data doesn’t mean much if you don’t understand the levers and actually being able to use that lever profitably.

Mike: I also think—and Katie and I have talked about this on this show—but the retail environment, in particular all those touchpoints you just described—who you’re with, where you walked, what you saw—it’s largely anonymous.

Because we haven’t connected that physical environment and the digital capabilities as well as we could with what we’re all walking around with in our pockets, which could tell us so much more if we could just get the retail environment to play.

Will: [laughs] That’s right.

Katie: One of the things we like to ask our guests and people in this field is something that Mike and I talk about a lot. We can’t turn off what we see. We are always thinking about people’s motivations and their behaviors…

My husband will do something, and I’m like, “I think you did that because...”, “You set that on the dresser there because you wanted me to do X, Y, and Z.” The question, Will, is how have you seen this affect your personal life and the way you view the world?

Will: You know what’s funny about where we are? Remember, we talked about so much of the world is non-conscious.

I saw an interview with Daniel Kahneman. He’s the father of behavioral economics. Somebody in the audience asked him, they said, “Well, you know, you’ve been studying these non-conscious factors for 30 or 40 years. What do you do to try to control for these things?” And he said, “You can’t.”

He thinks about this all the time. He gave a couple of hints here and there, but what’s funny about it is as exciting as this is—and this is my passion—you’d be surprised on how often it doesn’t come up because it’s so vast, and it’s so difficult to really try to look at a commercial and understand, “What’s the motivation that they’re looking for, and how are they framing up this, and what’s the trigger point that they just dropped in there? Is there emotional arousal? Is there not emotional arousal?”…

…That I tend to stop what I’m working on, walk away, and enjoy TV for what it’s worth to make me happy and sublime.

Mike: Will, appreciate you having us today. I think you’ve trigger-pointed me to the point of somehow wanting to buy you lunch. I don’t know how that happened.

Will: Success!

Mike: So thanks for joining us.

[laughter]

Will: Great for having me, really appreciate it.

Katie: Thanks for tuning in this week. We will see you next time.

Mike: Be sure to check out the show notes if you want to contact Will or get in touch with TriggerPoint, as well as check out some of our other episodes, which we referenced in here.

[background music]

Katie: As always, we’d love to hear from you, so feel free to tweet us, hit us up on social media. Tell us what you think about today’s episode.

Mike: Ignite Partnership is the marketing agency for technology companies that want to understand and capitalize on complex buyer journeys. Ignite has brought life to tech since 2009. To find out more, visit ignitepartnership.com.

Behavioral Science & Data: Keys to Consumer Understanding


Technically Human: Episode 7
February 3, 2017

Diving deep into how your audience behaves and understanding the science behind people’s motivations can play a key role in how you get the masses to notice, interact, and, ultimately, purchase your brand’s products in this continually evolving retail environment. In our latest episode of Technically Human, we sit down with Will Leach, founder of behavioral research consultancy TriggerPoint Design, to dive into the science of human behavior, psychological motivations, the future of retail, and the affect technology has on it all.

Transcript

[background music]

Katie Cantu: Hey, there. I’m Katie Cantu, strategist at Ignite Partnership.

Mike Covert: And I’m Mike Covert, founder of Ignite Partnership.

Katie: You’re listening to “Technically Human,” where marketing experts talk about how to find the soul in technology products and services. What really makes humans tick when it comes to tech? Join us on our cultural expedition to find out.

Will Leach is the founder of TriggerPoint, a leading behavioral research and design consultancy that specializes in identifying and influencing the non-conscious factors that guide consumer decisions for some of today’s largest companies.

That’s a mouthful, but he has over 18 years of consumer insights and strategy experience. And he is a behavioral design instructor at the Cox School of Business for SMU.

Will Leach: Hello, and very happy to be here today. Thanks for having me.

Mike: Welcome. We’re glad to have you.

Katie: So one thing that’s been on our minds a lot lately here at Ignite, Will, is the changing landscape of retail. Let’s define “retail” for the purposes of this conversation as a state of mind, right? There is a physical space that is retail, but not off the table is ecommerce or any state of mind in which somebody would be willing to potentially make a purchase.

Mike: We have the privilege of being able to think about this every day, but we want to hear from your perspective. Who’s leveraging behavioral insights well, particularly from a retail standpoint, even though certainly we can extend, as Katie just said, to other areas of interest.

Will: The company that comes to mind is, of all companies, Lowe’s Home Improvement. There’s a great story about how they’re getting there. Lowe’s, right now, is probably considered one of the most innovative retailers out there. And here’s how it came about.

About two years ago, a researcher came up with this idea of...he was looking at industries that were collapsing. He said, “What are the big things that caused Blockbuster to collapse?” Blockbuster didn’t see Netflix. They didn’t see the power of home delivery of movies, and they certainly didn’t see the power of streaming movies. And so this guy at Lowe’s said, “How is it that big companies that have all this research, all these smart people, don’t see these things?”

So he hired a company called SciFutures, who works with science fiction writers, to help articulate and envision the future.

Mike: Science fiction writers. Like…writers?

Will: Like, actual writers.

Mike: Thinkers, imagineers, etc.

Will: That’s right.

Katie: I’ve heard of this company before, but I didn’t know Lowe’s had used them.

Will: It makes no sense. It’s the power of what one person at a large company can do. This guy was only a manager, but he was fascinated with this idea that science fiction writers are so good at imagining the future, why wouldn’t you have science fiction writers think about your industry and then tell you what’s possible?

That’s what they do. It’s a really, really neat business model.

Katie: I love that example because it makes me think of one of the books that we’ve been talking about—which is Copy, Copy, Copy, which says, “Hey, look at a completely different industry or category and say, ‘What could it do for me?’”

You would never think home improvement would look to the film industry or storywriters like SciFutures to innovate.

Will: I think if you talked to their executive management teams now, they would say that that was the most influential piece of research they ever did. What SciFutures does is they look at what are trends in the industry, but also technology and where technology seems to be going out.

In this case was that this idea that in the future, we will all be printing our own everything using 3D printing.

Imagine if you’re sitting in a room and you’re leading Lowe’s Home Improvement and you have somebody coming in and telling you that in the next 10 to 20 years there will be no reason to walk into a Lowe’s, because I will print anything that I need for my home improvement.

Mike: So, it will be Lowe’s at home?

Will: It will be Lowe’s at home. That was one potential future. And in the meeting, this executive team says, “Yes, we want that.”

[laughter]

Mike: Be careful of the big idea.

Katie: It’s like, “Oh, wait a minute.”

Will: “We were here to tell you about the future. We weren’t here to shape the future.” This is all common thinking. You can look up Lowe’s Home Improvement. They’re on the Today Show. They’re working with NASA now. They’re working with Google. They’re doing 3D printing technologies right now where you can come into a Lowe’s and put a screw onto a computer pad and you will start printing that screw within an hour.

They’re going to start seeing themselves as a service provider. Because if you can print your own solutions, then why would you ever go to a Lowe’s Home Improvement store?

No, no, you will look to Lowe’s as, “Well, now that I’ve printed this washer, how do I install the washer? How do I do that?” That’s some of the things that they’re thinking about. They’re totally reinventing retail right now because they see in 20 years that there’s at least a possibility that they won’t be in the retail space.

Katie: So, Will, we understand that some Lowe’s stores are actually experimenting with Holorooms. Can you kind of explain for our listeners what that space entails?

Will: It’s a room within a Lowe’s that you walk in and through a series of questions and photographs that you upload into a computer, this room starts to basically be designed using virtual reality to look like your home.

Where the door is, where plants are, where a couch is, the type of couch, etc. It gets to be a point where you’re inside this room and it’s replicating what’s actually happening in your house. Now you can say, “What would happen if my color walls changed to this?”

If you like that color, wow, press a button and Lowe’s is making that color paint for you right there in the moment. It allows you to make a decision and pay for something right then and there.

Mike: My guess is there are certain types of shoppers that are going to be intimidated by that. That is a faceless exchange. And yet as humans, we’re behaviorally wired to be social creatures. How does that impact the potential for the transaction?

Will: There’s a conundrum in the industry. You’re right, how do we replicate the human interaction without having to hire the human? What Lowe’s is experimenting with, and a lot of other companies are experimenting with as well, is virtual people.

The one that I’ve seen is that it is actually very similar with what Star Wars—if you remember the original Star Wars movie, where they’re playing chess—a virtual sales assistant comes up and in real time is interacting with you.

How do you make virtual reality technology human enough to where you feel like you can have an interaction, but not so human that it becomes scary? There’s a lot of work in that space right now.

Mike: That’s so interesting. So, you said one way that this is going to unfold in the future is companies are going to use technology to reduce the dependence on a human element at retail. What’s the other way?

Will: I think the other way is that for all those bigger purchases where there’s a lot of consideration, what’s going to happen is you’re going to have to create immersive experiences to drive people to shop and to actually buy.

It’s creating brand stories within a retail environment that is something that you actually want to go visit, because you can’t have that in a world where everything is so cost-driven that you’re pulling those out. It’s going to be one of the two.

Mike: Katie, you visited SoHo [in New York City] recently. Would you describe the Sonos experience as such?

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. Will, have you heard of the Sonos store that’s in SoHo? Their flagship store there?

Will: No, I haven’t.

Katie: It’s really cool. A quick Google search will pull up tons of images. We’ve even got a couple on our blog at Ignite…shameless plug there.

[laughter]

Katie: It’s really cool, because what it does is it creates a completely experience-based storefront. What they’ve done is they’ve created these little pods. They’re effectively houses, you go in, you completely forget the environment that you’re in, but you can experience every aspect of the Sonos system. There’s sound bars. There’s rear speakers. There’s 360 sound. You can hook up your own device.

They really didn’t push to sell product, as much as they did to create a high-end experience.

Mike: You talked about the psychological hurdles to the non-human interaction and counting on technology. How does this work behaviorally? Why are we going to trend that way?

Will: First off, I don’t know if that is going to work, and here’s why. There’s a lot of work around trying to create brand experiences so that you can create brand preference. In that case, Sonos is creating the experience to where next time I think of Sonos, I have these associations of innovation and whatever it is those feelings were happening in that store.

I would say that’s good. There’s no doubt about it, that’s important. However, what I want to do is bridge that experience, and not have you walk away, and then the next time you’re going to be in a store thinking about Sonos, that maybe you’ll have a great emotional impression and you may make a choice.

I want to build a bridge in that experience to actually drive them to, in that moment, change a behavior and buy. That’s what behavioral sciences, behavioral research does.

Katie: It requires action. [laughs]

Will: It does. You can incorporate primes, framing, and triggers inside that Sonos store—and they may have done this, I don’t know.

If there’s a deliberate use of psychology in that space, you can get somebody from feeling emotionally aroused and walking out the store, to feeling emotionally aroused and actually buying something. That’s an important aspect.

Katie: Identifying a need state that they didn’t necessarily think was there before.

Mike: I think what you’re saying is create the experience, but some of the primal cues are still going to determine if that emotional experience translates to a functional transaction.

Will: That’s exactly right.

Mike: Wow, that’s interesting. I love this stuff.

[laughter]

Katie: I do, too.

Mike: I think what’s so interesting about this is an acceptance to know that you are an animal. As much as humans, we feel like we’re in control of our own choices, we really aren’t. That’s always the fun part about talking to a client, I find, is the psychology is something that can actually be curated.

What about common misconceptions that are used, that you hear out there, that you’re just shaking your head at?

Katie: That’s a good one.

Will: One of the first ones to come into mind is this left-brain/right-brain dynamic that has been around for there forever.

Katie: Mike and I talk about that all the time, yes.

Will: It’s a really big misconception. There’s not a lot of evidence that would suggest that there’s any correlation between right-brain thinking and left-brain thinking and our ability to be conceptual versus more deliberate. There’s nothing in that space.

And I think you actually pointed out, Mike, the big misconception is that we are in control of a lot of our behaviors and that we know what we’re doing. Here’s a stat I use a lot: that on any given day, people make 17,000 decisions. Seventeen thousand decisions.

There’s no way you could actually do cost-benefit analyses on every one of those to get through the day, but yet we believe that we’re making considered decisions. I ask my audiences this all the time: “Tell me 20 decisions you made today,” and they struggle with 20.

If they can remember 20 decisions, how many decisions do they have no idea they’re making? How are they making those? Environmental influences, habit, things like that. Mental models.

Mike: As animals we are wired to survive. That means taking cues, often that are very tiny cues, not perceptible, and making a decision, “Am I danger?”—right?—at the very basic level of a species.

Will: That’s right, and what behavioral sciences does now is it gives us a vocabulary and direct activation of those things. Where before you just took it for granted that, “Yeah, I know some stuff is happening,” what if I can tell you now that, “No, the stuff is happening, but it’s deliberate.”

The lighting in this room right now is influencing our tone. The colors on these walls, our interactions together—it’s influencing our conversation. If you are deliberate and you know what the color of the wall can do, what the lighting in the room can do, scent, things like that, you can now create articulated, very choice-architected experiences that are deliberate in nature.

Mike: And just to that point, I hear that constantly, including people asking me, “Are you more a right-brain, left-brain?” Research has actually proven that we’re whole-brain, but it’s pervasive. Once we, as humans, think something is real, we have to believe that it’s real. Anything else floating out there that you’re ready to tell the world, put it behind you.

Will: The other one is that we only use 5 percent or 10 percent of our brains. There’s nothing about that that makes any sense, and so that’s another one of those things that we like to talk about.

Mike: Throw down a jaw-dropper. What is something that you know to be true that is just capturing the imaginations?

Will: So, I think that a lot of times we believe that marketing is all about building the brand and the equity to drive sales, and I can tell you that’s oftentimes not nearly as effective as giving me that same dollar, getting me in front of a shelf where people make decisions, and architecting that choice to drive a behavior. That’s many times more effective than anything you can do on equity side of the business.

Mike: Do you have an example that you are free to share? I’m sure some of it is confidential.

Will: Well, let me tell you the problem to solve. The problem was that people that normally bought this brand were not going down the aisle anymore. The retail environment was shifting their purchases to a totally different aisle.

What do you want to do? Here’s the normal reaction from an agency: “We’ve got to get a big billboard campaign. We’ve got to remind people that this brand is available, and we’re going to put it all over the DFW area.”

Katie: “We’ve got an awareness problem.”

Will: That’s right. Actually, what you have going on is in the retail environment. In the middle of a shelf strip, in the middle of the aisle, we put a white blinking light. Neuroscience would tell you, is that a blinking light actually becomes very annoying very, very quickly—except when it’s white.

So, just by—we put a little shelf strip, very simple messaging, a little bit of it was on branding side—but literally, by putting a white blinking light, I drove about 4 percentage points of growth in that brand, just by doing that.

It’s so simple. Where normal preference was, “We’ve got to build awareness of the brand.” Yes, but maybe not. Maybe I just need to grab somebody’s attention, have them walk down my aisle. That was a 35-cent execution per store, versus what you would do on a billboard campaign.

Katie: We’ve talked about some of the common misconceptions, and you’ve shared some really good best-in-class examples, like Lowe’s. What are some of the other major challenges that you’ve seen brands facing today?

Will: One is, it’s no longer enough to build satisfaction, equity, likability of my brand, or whatever. They’re ultimately saying, “How do I drive revenues?” That’s where I think the behavioral sciences are so clearly advantaged in that space, because there’s nothing but research in that space to drive behavioral change.

The other thing that we hear a lot about is, we have all these great, rich insights using big data, but now, why aren’t we seeing better executions? Why aren’t we seeing greater sales? That’s something that a lot of companies are struggling with, because you can’t go backwards and take those investments back.

Katie: The sheer amount of data, sometimes it’s becoming paralyzing. It’s not actionable.

Will: That’s right, and you’ve got to have a very clear skill set in understanding data. It’s intimidating and, frankly, a lot of times you’ll walk away from the data. It’s this choice overload, is what we would call it, and it’s happening in their industry.

Mike: We talked about this before the show, but being a PR guy, I remember this. You can cut a number to prove anything. My guess is there’s so much data now, we can correlate almost anything and everything, and therefore nothing.

Will: That’s exactly right. And what’s happening is that the person who is cutting the data has the most influence in the room, so whatever they thought was important to them, that becomes reality because that’s provable.

But I can take that same data set and give it to another person in your company, and they will come up with a totally different, valid insight. So whoever has the biggest voice wins.

Mike: Or budget.

[laughter]

Will: Or budget, that’s right.

Katie: One of the things we run into a lot and that we talk a lot about here is that people use data to put together demographics. They’ve got an age, you’ve got a gender, you’ve got an income.

The people are still skimming segments by these data points that don’t actually mean anything from a behavior perspective, right? Where we talk a lot about segmenting by behaviors so that we can create an actionable touchpoint that changes a behavior or a perception that exists.

Because everybody who is a male between ages 18 and 25 and lives in the Metroplex doesn’t act the same way. They have very different behaviors.

Mike: I agree with Katie, and I see it all the time. There are some companies, and we’ve worked for some, that really do subscribe to what you’d call “psychographics.” That’s more behaviorally based.

Is there another method you see emerging with the science that you represent that says maybe we should be segmenting or thinking about our consumers from a totally different light?

Will: You said it right, Katie. I came from this world where my background was in doing these segmentations where I could understand by gender, age, a couple of different attributes. I could put you into a segment, and now you should behave this way.

Katie: “You should behave this way.”

[laughter]

Will: What’s happening now, because we have all the advancements, and understanding data, and getting all this data back, it’s the emergence of linking those types of metrics to the behavior. But what we never had before was these attitudinal segmentations, or these psychographics.

You can actually now start understanding, implicitly, what’s their core human motivation? How do they approach a problem—through a promotional lens or a prevention lens? I can merge behavioral data with that demographic data, and it gives me better insight.

But on the other side, psychological techniques to really understand human motivations, cognitive biases…all these techniques now allow us to understand people at the individual level—at what’s driving their behaviors.

So now what you have is you have a convergence of demographic data, which is really useful for targeting purposes; I have behavioral data, which is very useful at understanding contextual influences that drive behavior; and I now understand—psychologically—the motivations, their approaches and cognitive biases, and their goals, to drive behavior as well.

You have all three of these things coming together, which provides a great, rich data set to actually drive not just understanding, but interventions and better marketing.

Mike: As long as we can activate it.

Will: As long as you can activate it. That is the second thing that I would say they’re struggling with…is [that] with all this insight comes the onus to actually activate against it.

Yet, if you ask most companies what are the top 10 things in their repertoire of things that they can do to influence their sales, they don’t know. They can’t tell you, you know, that dropping a coupon is more profitable than getting a better futures contract on a commodity.

They can’t tell you whether or not, by having better customer relationships, that they can drive greater sales or greater profitability over marketing. So having data doesn’t mean much if you don’t understand the levers and actually being able to use that lever profitably.

Mike: I also think—and Katie and I have talked about this on this show—but the retail environment, in particular all those touchpoints you just described—who you’re with, where you walked, what you saw—it’s largely anonymous.

Because we haven’t connected that physical environment and the digital capabilities as well as we could with what we’re all walking around with in our pockets, which could tell us so much more if we could just get the retail environment to play.

Will: [laughs] That’s right.

Katie: One of the things we like to ask our guests and people in this field is something that Mike and I talk about a lot. We can’t turn off what we see. We are always thinking about people’s motivations and their behaviors…

My husband will do something, and I’m like, “I think you did that because...”, “You set that on the dresser there because you wanted me to do X, Y, and Z.” The question, Will, is how have you seen this affect your personal life and the way you view the world?

Will: You know what’s funny about where we are? Remember, we talked about so much of the world is non-conscious.

I saw an interview with Daniel Kahneman. He’s the father of behavioral economics. Somebody in the audience asked him, they said, “Well, you know, you’ve been studying these non-conscious factors for 30 or 40 years. What do you do to try to control for these things?” And he said, “You can’t.”

He thinks about this all the time. He gave a couple of hints here and there, but what’s funny about it is as exciting as this is—and this is my passion—you’d be surprised on how often it doesn’t come up because it’s so vast, and it’s so difficult to really try to look at a commercial and understand, “What’s the motivation that they’re looking for, and how are they framing up this, and what’s the trigger point that they just dropped in there? Is there emotional arousal? Is there not emotional arousal?”…

…That I tend to stop what I’m working on, walk away, and enjoy TV for what it’s worth to make me happy and sublime.

Mike: Will, appreciate you having us today. I think you’ve trigger-pointed me to the point of somehow wanting to buy you lunch. I don’t know how that happened.

Will: Success!

Mike: So thanks for joining us.

[laughter]

Will: Great for having me, really appreciate it.

Katie: Thanks for tuning in this week. We will see you next time.

Mike: Be sure to check out the show notes if you want to contact Will or get in touch with TriggerPoint, as well as check out some of our other episodes, which we referenced in here.

[background music]

Katie: As always, we’d love to hear from you, so feel free to tweet us, hit us up on social media. Tell us what you think about today’s episode.

Mike: Ignite Partnership is the marketing agency for technology companies that want to understand and capitalize on complex buyer journeys. Ignite has brought life to tech since 2009. To find out more, visit ignitepartnership.com.