Mark Twain

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

- Mark Twain

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Unchanging Man




The Wisdom of Bill Bernbach

Despite access to more customer information than ever before product messages are clicking less often with customers. The inescapable truth is we know less about customers than we should, given the $6 billion a year companies spend trying to figure out what makes them tick.
Bill Bernbach, one of advertising’s greatest minds, would understand the problem:
“Human nature hasn’t changed for a million years. It won’t even change in the next million years. Only the superficial things have changed. It is fashionable to talk about the changing man. A communicator must be concerned with the unchanging man – what compulsions drive him, what instincts dominate his every action, even though his language too often camouflages what really motivates him.”
Bernbach was not a psychologist, but had an uncanny intuitive grasp of human behavior. While most of us may lack the intuitive competence of Bernbach, we can get to know our customers better by acquiring a deeper understanding of unchanging man. But we cannot get that understanding through traditional customer research.
Renown brain scientist Richard Restak has observed that "We have reason to doubt that full awareness of our motives, drives, and other mental activities may be possible." 
Cognitive scientists tell us that with the aid of new brain canning technology, they’ve learned that about 95 percent of the mental activity going into our decision-making takes place behind the curtains of consciousness. Yet, most consumer research concentrates exclusively on the contents of consumers’ conscious minds.

The roots of motivations lie beyond the knowing reach of our conscious minds. When people tell researchers’ why they do what they do, they can only speak to what appears on the screens of their conscious minds. Those images are often at odds with their more primal sources of motivations.

Marketing mostly ignores the silent 95 percent zone in the brain. Why? The “superficial things” that show up in the conscious mind are more visible, measurable and quantifiable. Companies feel more comfortable with the measurable, so they spend vast sums researching customers’ superficial attributes. Procter and Gamble alone conducts 4,000 to 5,000 customer studies a year.
It’s harder to quantify “what compulsions drive customers, what instincts dominate their every action.” To fathom the unchanging man requires understanding behavior at its roots in human biology.


Ever wonder how cravings develop? Be they for sex or chocolate, they are not consciously created. It’s 3:30 PM. Your energy is sagging. A small organ over your kidneys senses a sugar shortage and sets off a flow of neuropeptide Y to alert your brain of a need for carbs. The plea reaches your conscious mind as a craving for chocolate. You ponder whether to stick to your diet or give in, then say to yourself, “What the hell,” pop a piece of Godiva in your mouth and resolve to eat salad for dinner. You enjoy the moment by giving into the craving.
While you exercised free will (hopefully!) in reacting to the craving, the action you took had its roots in your biology. So it is with behavior in general. 

That’s lesson #1 in understanding unchanging man.

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