What do people actually like to buy? European consultancy Beyond Reason aims to take some of the guesswork out of consumer behaviour, and zoom in on the "missing element" - implicit motivation to dig deeper into consumer motivation, and harness this with neuro marketing tools. What does all of this mean for packaging? Elisabeth Skoda spoke with Beyond Reason cofounder Olivier Tjon to find out more.  

Could you give us a quick run through of what decision science and neuro marketing is, and how it can be applied in day-to-day marketing?

Marketing -as we know it today- is assumption based. Gut feeling is still the driving force and marketing superstars are called gurus for a reason. This is changing fast. Tomorrow’s marketing will be evidence based. The future superstars of the persuasive communication industry will be specialists in the field of decision and neuro science. For the first time in human history, these relatively new fields of science start to gain a proper understanding of how preferences and decisions are shaped in our brain. Put this to practice and you will lower the risk, and increase the impact of your marketing initiative - whatever its form, context or medium.

How does this discrepancy between what consumers say they want and what they actually want affect purchase decisions? 

We all have two voices in our head, an outer or explicit voice - the words we speak, and an inner or implicit voice - your deep desires, passions, fears and motivations. Those voices not always tell the same story. Our words might say ‘save the planet’ our deep desire might be ‘buy that oversized SUV’.  This infamous ‘gap’ between these two voices is one of the main causes of marketing accidents. Traditional consumer research is question based, thus, only captures the outer voice. But, when you know that scientists agree that the inner voice has a much bigger impact on human behaviour, choices, decisions, than our outer voice, you start to see the problem.

What is the best way to find out what consumers actually want?

Marketing will always be about people. Therefore, what people say will always matter - a lot. This is why classic surveys are here to stay. At the same time, the concept of implicit brain processes -and their influence on consumer behaviour - is gaining notoriety.  This triggers a growing number of mar-keteers and commercial organisations to start using new, implicit methods to measure and map the consumer’s inner voice. 

In the early days, implicit research was cumbersome - thinkof brain scans, for example. Today’s version is extremely user-friendly and can be compared with an online survey. Instead of answering questions, the interviewee takes part in tasks similar to video games, during which latent emotional responses to words and images are be-ing measured. 

During the last two years, we have used this implicit method to collect over 50 million consumer responses all over the world, for any conceivable category of consumer goods and services, ranging from sex toys to luxury cosmetics and from smoked salmon to banking apps. 

Together with Strategir, a global expert in packaging research, we have rolled out an implicit packaging module that now is being used by some of the world’s greatest brands. Here, it also proves very useful to listen to both voices. 

How can decision science be applied in packaging? Do you have any examples of pack designs that incorporated it?

One of Europe’s leading detergent brands wanted to go green, and launch a more ecological formula. Consumers were asked if they would like their detergent to be more eco-friendly. More than 70% answered yes. So, of course, the conclusion is: Let’s go! Right?Luckily the brand also listened to the consumers’ inner voice. We measured that put-ting a big eco label on the pack, automatically and unconsciously lowered the perceived efficiency or power of the detergent. The problem here is that power is the main purchase motive in the detergent category.  Brands invest a fortune to build the perception that their soap is more powerful than others. Without implicit research, the brand would have been blind to the fact that the well-intended eco initiative would erode their carefully constructed brand equity. Now, don’t get me wrong. We are very much in favour of brands going green. But it has to be done in a manner that does not harm the business. We advised to inverse the communication hierarchy on and off pack:  First talk about ‘ a new, more powerful formula’, and only after that talk about ‘contains less harmful chemicals’. It might come over as a small nuance, but it made all the difference for the brand.

Would you like to read more? Hop over to our sister publication Touchpoints to read the full article here.