iMediaConnection: You will be delivering the keynote address at the upcoming iMedia Brand Summit. What can attendees expect to hear you talk about?
Donna Sturgess: The why of buy is a trillion-dollar question. We know in this digital age that brand relationships and buying behavior are greatly influenced by social sharing, advocacy, and the world of communities. As a consequence, the relationship between a brand and its customers has never been more fragile and requires direct measurement and management to sustain a competitive advantage and boost sales.
My presentation will share a revolutionary new construct of the four relationships a brand can have with its customer. These four primary brand relationships have been derived from an extensive global database of neuroscience tests and psychological data, providing a provocative understanding of brand relationships and their impact on consumer decision-making.
Each primary relationship has a secondary dimension, resulting in 16 distinct relationships in the framework. Primary research across multiple categories will be shared in the presentation to illustrate the framework and the key drivers of a relationship. This data will challenge much of what has traditionally been used to measure brand performance in the digital space and, in the process, unleash new insights about building a deeper customer relationship to satisfy people's wants and desires.
iMediaConnection: Your firm, Buyology Inc., works to measure and manage non-conscious decision-making and its impact on brand relationships with consumers. Can you characterize how this differs from conscious decision-making?
Sturgess: Conscious decision-making involves a careful, deliberate process one is fully aware of when weighing the costs and benefits of buying. Non-conscious decision-making is a complex of impulses, reflex actions, habits, memories, and instincts that occur quickly and automatically, with little awareness or feeling of effort. Much of the brain is constructed to support automatic processes, and buying behavior emerges between the interplay of the conscious and non-conscious systems.
Join Donna Sturgess as she delivers her keynote address on consumer decision making at the iMedia Brand Summit, March 6-9. Request your invitation today
iMediaConnection: Because buying decisions can include both of these conscious and non-conscious influences and thought processes, is there a difference in the way traditional marketing influences these components, compared with digital marketing's influence?
Sturgess: The rapid, impulse-response nature of real-time media may make it more consistent with the speed and automatic processes of non-conscious decision-making. When messaging is delivered through TV or print, there is time for conscious consideration to take place before engaging in the shopping experience and brand selection. The in-the-moment opportunity of digital communication can reduce this time delay and rely more on the quick non-conscious response to marketing messages and offers.
iMediaConnection: Are there specific concepts, design elements, themes, archetypes, etc., that speak more clearly to the non-conscious decision process than others? Any that don't have an impact at all?
Sturgess: There are a variety of ways to impact the non-conscious. For example, sensory stimulation is one of the drivers of a brand relationship. Sensory activation through brand sound, smell, texture, shape, and so on is processed instantaneously by the non-conscious and has been shown to have a powerful impact on buying behavior. In contrast, dense text on packaging and websites deactivates the non-conscious in favor of the conscious language processes. Brands should strive to balance visuals and text in bought, owned, and earned media to leverage both processes involved in decision-making.
iMediaConnection: You mentioned earlier that there are four types of brand relationships that contribute to Buyology's relationship segmentation strategy. What can you tell us about these relationships? And what can you share about the way your process works to provide greater consumer insight into these relationships?
Sturgess: Brand management traditionally starts from the perspective of the brand, targeting consumers through segmentation to send a one-way message. Buyology starts with the consumer, measuring the primary and secondary relationship between a brand and its users and assessing that engagement, both consciously and non-consciously. We believe that consumers segment to brands, not the other way around. The relationship that a consumer has in one category may be very different than the relationship in another category, which starts to explain why the same consumer would buy both Jimmy Choo shoes at Saks and towels at Costco. This is in sharp contrast to the notion that behavior can be predicted according to demographics and lifestyle. It's the relationship that matters today, and measuring it is the key to clarifying what a brand needs to do to increase the signal strength of the relationship amidst myriad marketing choices.
iMediaConnection: What brands come to mind when you think of digital campaigns that do a good job of speaking to the non-conscious decision-making process? Are there certain consumer segments (say, automotive, food, apparel) that do a better job of this, or have an easier time when attempting to do this?
Sturgess: All decisions we make as healthy humans involve conscious and non-conscious processing and, therefore, this applies to all categories of products and services. The interactive game "I Am Playr" is a good example of appealing more to the non-conscious through several relationship drivers like storytelling and sense of belonging. "I Am Playr" combines gaming, social integration, storytelling, and interactive videos to give players a chance to experience being a football star from a first-person perspective. It will include signing a contract, training, scoring goals, partying, etc. Nike is a principal sponsor, and the brand is integrated into the emotional storyline and player experiences.
iMediaConnection: What techniques should brands be conscious of when trying to tap into non-conscious decision-making process through their campaigns?
Sturgess: The primary concern should be to evaluate both the conscious and the non-conscious customer response to ensure you getting a complete picture of consumers' feedback. The significant competitive advantage will come from understanding these deeper relationship drivers better than your competitors, to increase and track the signal strength of the your brand's relationships.
Marketing material presented as purely rational content that lays out the brand facts alone will appeal to the conscious processes but ignores the stronger non-conscious processes that influence what seems to be a rational choice. Just look at shelf tags as a way to shop for technology products and you will see what I mean. It has become popular to say that consumers are irrational, but perhaps [marketers] are the irrational ones thinking that people make robot-like decisions simply based on the facts, when we know that is not how buying decisions are made -- thank goodness!
Jodi Harris is senior editor at iMediaConnection.
On Twitter? Follow Jodi at @Joderama. Follow iMediaConnection at @iMediaTweet.