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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Martin Lindstrom's Buyology

Have you considered the notion of "Buyology" or - as Martin Lindstrom, global branding expert, characterizes it - "the subconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires that drive the purchasing decisions we make each and every day of our lives?"

That is what Martin Lindstrom does in Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. It's a fascinating read that draws you in, and has you wondering about and appreciating how sophisticated brand marketers create rich sensory rituals [that "help us form emotional connections with brands and products" and "make the things we buy memorable"] around their products to encourage purchases.

Given that I spend considerable time thinking about how to improve the consumer's flooring retail experience, I was intrigued when Martin Lindstrom contacted me in October - literally as I reached for his previous book BRAND sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound - with an invitation to review Buyology.

Take the brands that I hold up as examples - Apple, Starbucks and Anthropologie... They forge amazing customer experiences by fully and consistently integrating every sensory element at their disposal to create an emotionally engaging, almost religious, experience. Buyology looks at successes and failures [documented via intense neurological studies] and has you thinking about how to improve on what your brand offers.

The book also generated questions about the retail experience, flooring and social media which, despite his insanely hectic schedule, Martin was kind enough to answer for me.

1. Since releasing the book, what reactions have you had from traditional marketers?
We've had an amazing reaction - many stating - finally there's a solution to our problem, other saying: This makes sense - and yet again others saying: Where do we start? Few have questioned the ethical side (which is a topic on top of my list to address whenever I get the chance) and very few have criticized Buyology. There are currently more than 7,000 blogs talking about Buyology - less than 1% are critical.

2. What about from non-traditional marketers?
There's not a lot of them - I mean really non-traditional marketers - but those who are out there in general have said - this is an obvious evolution of marketing - and possibly a revolution of research.

3. What is the best way to increase our Buyology given what you have learned?
We've learned that some of the fundamental rules (and guidelines) used in the world of marketing, advertising and communication are dated. We've now finally been able to confirm that the logo doesn't work - and that brands instead should focus on developing indirect logo signals - sent via smells, sounds, shapes, colors ... you name it. We've learned that product placement (in it's current format) doesn't work - it needs to be integrated - and most importantly of all contextual. We've learned that religion is likely to become the main point of inspiration for brands - adapting rituals, enemy pictures, storytelling, mystery - you name it. We've learned that sex doesn't sell - but that subliminal advertising does. There's a lot of stuff to change in order to increase our Buyology.

4. What about with product categories like flooring [or carpet]?
Just like a manufacturer of drills isn't selling drills but holes - or rather holes helping to hang up beautiful pictures of your loved ones - a flooring or carpet manufacturer isn't selling that - but rather homes for long lasting memories. If you see it in this light, the opportunities are endless.

Your category is all about storytelling - telling amazing stories - engaging people to build an emotional relationship with the product. It is also a sensory product - great floors have great smells, amazing tactile sensations, sounds and looks. This means selling flooring or carpets needs to engage the senses. We did experiments brewing coffee, playing classical music and decorating with flowers in houses for sale. Every time we included those sensory touch points - the sales went up more than 15%. The same would be the case for your category.

5. How can the retail experience benefit our Buyology? What should retailers start doing and stop doing?
Retailers should make it a true sensory experience visiting the retail stores - make people feel "at home" - we know from Buyology - if you as a consumer feel at home - you not only spend more time there, you also spend more money - faster. It all comes down to trust. Imagine your store as a very (I mean very) cozy home, imagine that you're serving coffee, you're playing the type of music reflecting the type of flooring you're selling - in short - tell a sensory story.

6. There's a struggle between traditional brand marketers and retailers whose own brands are becoming more important to consumers [particularly given the economic conditions]. How does that struggle fit in with our Buyology?
Private labels will see an enormous increase over the next couple of years - mostly because they're cheaper - and because consumers trust them (as they represent the values their favorite store has). We know that this trend will continue over the next 3 years - then it is likely to fade off. This means that private label owners have an amazing opportunity to build powerful brands right now.

Ordinary brands (so non-private label brands) do however represent something private label brands don't have: Focus - they're able to build a great attention independent of retail, they're able to talk about their "own" values rather than the retail stores values. In short - this (often) means that the emotional ties non-private label brands can create tend to be stronger - and thus enabling them to charge higher prices.

7. How does social media fit into what you have uncovered?
Buyology introduced the concept of Mirror Neurons to the marketing world. Mirror Neurons; in short empathy - has shown to be incredible powerful - and most likely one of the main drivers for YouTube and other online community sites. Brands are now starting to learn from the theories of Mirror Neurons - understanding the fact that we feel what we see - i.e. if I'm scratching my head - and you're observing me - you'll feel you're scratching your head (we can see this by scanning your brain - the same regions are activated) this amazing observation - is what's driving brands - I observe another person online - and often imitate.

We've also learned from Buyology that powerful communities have a lot in common with religion - and as we discovered in Buyology powerful brands almost activates the same regions in the brain as religion does. As controversial as it sounds this means that the fundamental pillars creating powerful religions will begin to be adapted to the world of branding - and online brand building. One of these pillars are storytelling, evangelism, sense of belonging - in short - elements which for thousands of years has been driving religion - those ingredients are now begin used to create strong online brand communities.

8. How do you see marketing changing as a result of your research?
Marketing will now enter the next generation of communication where subconscious communication will begin to drive our focus. 85% of everything we do every day is taking place in our subconscious mind - indicating how important this focus is in order to build brands -- a dark room marketers haven't been able to understand and reach before now.

9. Any last thoughts for an audience interested in marketing, the retail experience, social media and the customer experience?
Retailers own one essential strength which no-online store owns - access to a true sensory experience. The Buyology study shows that our senses are substantially more important than first thought. In fact we learned that the most important sense to build brands are the sense of sound, followed by smell - then sight. The right usage of a sound or tactile sensation makes us change our mind about quality. Heavy means high quality, flimsy sounds - cheap products. Those signals needs to be understood and leveraged in order to increase the perceived quality. For retailers this means that they need to create an amazing sensory experience - and build emotional bonds with the consumer which in many cases is able to beat any online media.

Thank you, Martin Lindstrom!

Comments? Reactions? How would you modify the elements of your brand to improve both the customer's retail experience and their Buyology?

Related articles:
+ ChangeThis Manifesto: This is Your Buyology
+ AdAge Martin Lindstrom Buyology Video Reports
+ AdAge How Apple, Others Have Cultivated Religious Followings [registration required]
+ From Neuromarketing, Buyology Roundup
+ DDI Magazine Buyology

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