Packaging for the unconscious
Shopping is a hectic experience. Whether online or instore, customers are confronted with an incalculable number of different options and factors to consider - each product embedded in a competitive market place, survival given only to those who grab your attention and appear superior. Confronted with such an overload of information, how does the shopper make a choice?
The brain uses several techniques to distil the barrage of information it receives from the outside world, and then highlight that which it finds relevant or interesting. Over the last century, psychologists, neuroscientists, and economists have identified many of these heuristic strategies and investigated the ways in which they drive our decisions. These implicit biases operate largely in System 1 of the brain – making decisions in an automatic and quick manner rather than in the slow and deliberate manner that characterises System 2. Perhaps the most striking realisation is that, contrary to our pervasive feelings of autonomy, we are largely unaware of the profound effect the unconscious mind has on our behaviour. This raises a troubling issue for market research - if customers are unaware of why they make decisions, then simply asking them for this information gives us little useful insight.
So how does the choice to purchase one product over another actually work? Simply speaking, it can be broken down into three processes: first, noticing a few salient options among the hundreds of choices available; second, detecting the cognitive and emotional cues in each option; and finally, combining these cues to make a choice. When assessing packaging designs, it is essential to evaluate each of these distinct aspects of the decision-making process as it operates within competitive context. Using reaction times as a measure of implicit confidence in consumer decisions and ease of understanding allows market researchers to gain important insights into the underlying biases associated with different choices.
In the context of packaging, then, it is important to look beyond the conscious mind. Who, after all, writes out a list of pros and cons when deciding what dishwasher tablets to buy? Cater to the unconscious because that is what is truly behind our choices.
Visit Mindlab on stand AV1 at the Insight Show.