Is your marketing intuitive?

Over the last year, I’ve become fascinated – okay, maybe even a little obsessed – with cognitive psychology.  As a result, some of the principles of understanding the mechanics of how the mind works have found their way into our agency’s plans and presentations.  What we’re trying to uncover are the automatic mechanisms of the mind, and how to appeal to those functions with specific marketing messages.

One way we’re doing that is by embracing what we call intuitive marketing.  There’s no set formula.  There’s no best practices guide.  And it’s even more complicated in that it’s different, not just for every category, but for every marketer.

What does it mean to be intuitive anyway?  To (over)simplify, the human brain has two basic types of reasoning functionality.  Some of those are complex, multi-step functions.  Like a difficult math problem, or recalling a song in your memory, with the guitar riff and the drum intro and the lyrics, and the harmonies, all at once.  The other kinds are automatic functions.  These are the immediate perceptions of facts and concepts that happen instantaneously, and that don’t require other thoughts or substantiations.  Like walking outside and recognizing that it’s cold.  Or even having an insight while someone is talking.  It’s not something you think about thinking about.  It’s just an immediate mental perception that typically happens in an instant.

And as marketers and the agencies that serve them, we’re all trying to simplify the choices for our customers.  To make it easy (even instantaneous) to CHOOSE US!

Sometimes, it’s the package design.  Sometimes, it’s the media choice.  It could even be the distribution channel.  But in any case, if your marketing doesn’t make contextual sense and simplify the cognitive conversation in some way, try thinking more intuitively. Here are a few cornerstone idea-starters:

Do (or be) the thing that makes the most sense and simplifies the engagement.
Did you ever notice how when you walk into a room, the light switch is almost always just inside the door opening, and at about chest height?  Or how the toilet paper is almost always within arm’s reach of the toilet itself?  Wouldn’t it be weird, and downright silly to have the light switch (or the toilet paper) across the room somewhere?  That would not only not make sense, but it would make your life – or at least that particular experience – harder in some way.

Apple revolutionized the mobile phone industry with their iPhone design through a number of powerful features.  Whether it was combining a phone with an email device and an internet device and a music player, or introducing the touch-screen features to a broad audience, they just made it EASIER to engage with your communications needs on one handsome mobile device.  Once it was introduced, it made every device that preceded it seem clunky, limited and insensible.

Anticipate the customer’s usage environment.
I was recently traveling on business, and stayed at the grandest ole’ resort in Nashville.  When I got in the shower, I noticed something really curious:  the mini shampoo bottles had twist-off caps.  Having already been soaked with water, it was nearly impossible to unscrew those things!  It was a good laugh, but it proved that they hadn’t really thought the usage scenario through quite completely.  A flip-top design would have been much more intuitive.

My colleague and partner and a fellow blogger, David Adelman, brought to my attention an especially curious case:  while riding the subway, he was reading the ads on the train car, and noticed that one of them featured a QR code.
On the subway.
Where there is no mobile service.

As far as intuitive goes, that’s an epic fail.

Don’t design features into your product or service that its consumers will never need.
My life as a frequent traveler is made more enjoyable by the fact that I love airplanes.  One of the reasons I love them is that they’re super streamlined in their design. Many people don’t even realize that airplanes are not outfitted to go in reverse.  It seems silly, but it’s true. EVERY facet of an airplane is built to optimize one thing:  going forward and fast.

The same is true of Instagram.  Many people don’t realize you can’t go to an “instagram.com” and upload photos.  (There are third party web access points, but that’s what happens when an ecosystem evolves around a successful platform.)  Instagram is wholly designed to enable a singular and contained experience:  point, shoot, edit, upload and tag all through your mobile device.

The best products and services are built the same way:  hyper-optimized to accomplish the simple tasks they’re built for.  Think Dyson vacuum cleanersKeurig single-cup coffee brewers. Staffing companies that focus on specific job titles. Tax attorneys.  Singular specialization can be intuitive.

Elevate the experience on a rational and emotional level.
Finally, think about all these cornerstones, and then take it to the next level.  That’s what the great marketers do.  BMW automobiles are designed to appeal to the driver in a specific way, and to the passengers in a different – but also specific – way.  The dashboard instruments that are critical to the driving experience are pitched in to the driver so he or she has an elevated driving experience.  Amazon.com built an algorithm that monitors your purchase behavior to make intuitive recommendations for future purchases.  Then it goes a step further to create bundle recommendations and even offer you the most optimized shipping choices.  That makes your shopping experience more than just a shopping experience.  It makes it an Amazon experience.

Start with these cornerstones and then go further to create the most intimate and rewarding experience for your customers.  If you do that, you don’t have to be too intuitive to know that success is right around the corner.

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