Can You Handle the Truth?

Posted by Jason Burnham on February 8th, 2013 at 1:44 pm
It continues to fascinate me that regardless of how much evidence – and in many cases proof – that is gathered about how people approach their purchase decisions, many still continue to evaluate marketing performance based on metrics that are not representative of how people actually make these decisions.  There could be a variety of reasons why someone clicks (or doesn’t click) on an ad, follows your brand on Twitter, “Like’s” your content or sits through a video ad. And in many cases, all of their reasons for doing so does not necessarily mean that it will drive sales or conversions. These metrics are not indicative of marketing performance at all. In fact, by optimizing your marketing campaigns based on these diagnostic metrics, you are in fact damaging the long term growth trajectory of your business.

A few years ago, I was introduced to MindTime; a social science research company that specializes in understanding how people think.  We then partnered to launch MindTime Technologies, Inc. to commercialize the MindTime theory through B2B applications.  Over the past few years, I have learned more about the cognitive drivers of human behavior than any research, technology, or analytics provider has ever been able to demonstrate to me. Perhaps it’s because MindTime was never in the business of marketing, but rather in the business of better understanding people, and each other, to facilitate a more empathic society. Good people; good motive; good business. Wow! There’s an interesting concept. Duh!

My exposure to MindTime was enlightening; and was both a gift and a curse. It was a gift because this level of awareness about how people think has improved my personal relationships, it helped identify my own personal strengths and resistances, and has made me a better marketer by building communication strategies that are actually grounded in human context, rather than a sea of data sets and algorithms that have very little contribution to identifying the cognitive drivers of human interaction. It was a curse because I now struggle between what I now know to be true about how marketers should be communicating to potential customers and the broken infrastructure, philosophies, and practices of our industry that continue to propagate false value and build products that do very little in helping to improve the relationship between marketers and consumers.

I’ve learned that a person’s thinking style determines the fundamental drivers of human interaction. More importantly, all human interaction is dependent on their relationship with the subject. This means that whether or not I interact with something – anything – it will be based on my cognitive needs. As represented here – what I refer to as the Relationship Funnel – we can demonstrate in a linear way the cognitive process someone takes from identification through action. Let’s face it; our industry likes funnels and linear processes, so here is a new one for you. Not just a new one, but THE one.

Whether it is between a partners, a teacher and student, a politician and their constituents, a product and consumer, or even with something as simple as reaching for a glass of water, our brains go through this process before we interact or take specific action. Depending on how strong an individual’s relationship is with the subject will determine how fast the cognitive needs of individuals will be satisfied, which will determine how fast they will interact. For marketers, this can have a dramatic impact on how you develop and deploy your marketing communications. It is easy to see how the traditional marketing funnel marries up to the steps required for building relationships. Ultimately, marketing is truly about building and growing the relationships between brands/products and their current and potential customers.

So, where do we go from here? Does it matter? Can new science be adopted in this industry? Will companies begin to develop communication strategies, build products, or create innovative technologies based on new and improved methodologies for understanding people? Time will tell. I question whether or not we’ve moved from innovation to complacency just to get through the long and stressful day. Regardless, the truth is out there. But, can you handle the truth?

Leave a comment