Using Science, Psychology & Data to Decode the World…

I, and a few Marketing Sciences colleagues, attended the MRS’s Creativity Lab this week.   The first question posed to the audience was by Dr. Beau Lotto (Lotto Lab);   ‘Is what we see with our eyes reality?”. Quite an impactful first question and a resounding uncertainty emerged from the audience.   Seemingly the answer is a big ‘no’.    What we have is a ‘perception’ of reality, and this is built on our assumptions about the world, as well as our feelings and emotions at that time.  Such assumptions or preconceptions can inhibit our creative ability, since we see what we ‘expect to see’, (or are used to seeing), rather than viewing things from a completely different angle.   How do we overcome this creativity barrier?  Well, one option is to simply keep your sense of humour; literally, when we are in good humour we feel less threatened, more relaxed and consequently more in control, all these elements put us in a better mind set to function effectively and be creative.   Another state of emotion where the barriers are down is ‘play’.  When we are children we use exploratory play to learn about the world around us, and I guess this is something we do less and less as we age and conform to convention and habits.

All of this has implications for very early stage research where we want consumers to be part of the embryonic stage of idea generation, hence we use projective techniques to bring consumers ‘out of themselves’ and think from different points of view.

Our next session was by Condiment Junkie, who use bespoke sound to affect experiences and enhance products.  In fact, they utilised more than just sound to do this, but aromas, colours and architecture.   Examples were used to explain how all the senses contribute to our perceptions; For instance, if you’re buying a bottle of wine from a shop, the background music can have more of an influence on your purchase behaviour than you might think, even if most of us aren’t ready to admit it we are that easily swayed! Even taste can be influenced by music and colours.

A couple of questions sprang to mind during this session: Will there be a point when this ‘subliminal’ advertising has ethical implications?  Secondly, once consumers become more ‘savvy’ to some of these environmental ‘tricks’ or ‘techniques’, will they begin to become less effective as they move from our subconscious to our conscious?

Other contributions came from Tim Radford (freelance journalist) who discussed the importance of your message being heard.  No one is obliged to listen to our research findings, no matter how interesting we think they are, so applying any ‘story’ or visual imagery to the results is going to be much more compelling.   We need to also balance brevity with data; tricky to do when our audience can range from a CEO to someone in R&D, whose requirements are very different.   As researchers we therefore need to think not just about how we deliver our message, but also whether we need to deliver the message in different ways to difference audiences.  One debrief isn’t necessarily always best.

Next, Behavioural Economist Leigh Caldwell talked about the external influences that exist in our perceptions of value for money and pricing, and how traditional research methods can overlook some of the psychological factors that exist in our decision making process.  It’s essential we understand consumers’ desires and how these translate into their strategy for making a purchase decision.

Finally, Dr Nicola Millard (BT) explained what it is to be a Futurologist.   This doesn’t mean she has a crystal ball, rather she uses a combination of disciplines (from psychology to economics to social studies) in order to try to predict the future.   For instance, we need to understand our ‘future audience’ and potential economic climate before we can work out what it is they’re going to need.  One of the key take outs for me was her point that any new technology needs to be useful (i.e. fulfil a consumer need/goal), usable and used.   If we don’t have something that’s both useful or usable, ‘used’ simply isn’t going to happen!

At Marketing Sciences we work creatively to help our clients develop new products and services, attract new customers, solve problems or simply understand who their shopper is.  And reflecting many of the topics we heard at the Creativity Lab talks, that means taking an open approach to both method and means; be it new or old, analogue or digital, implicit or explicit.

We must blend some or all of these elements to create a unique approach for each research challenge we face.  However, science is at the core of our business and a quick scan of our website will show you how we have recently used mobile technology, eye tracking, neuroscience and social media to help brands face their challenges, not because they’re a new and shiny way of doing research, but because they give the best insight possible.

If you’d like to hear more about the great work we are doing with a range of brands across the retail, consumer, technology and financial sectors then please do get in touch.

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Laura Ablett
01962 842211
Article date - 24/01/2014
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