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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Four Factors of Unconscious Marketing



Subconscious goals = how we see the world.

As competition between products and services rises, marketers seek new methods of promoting products beyond the cultural borders that often limit sales potential. The paper by Woodside and Brasel (2011) provides an overview of unconscious branding as well as its four major methodological approaches.  Understanding what researchers have already found and where large gaps in the literature exists help in highlighting the need for additional research.

Unconscious marketing deals greatly with the concept of behavior, action and beliefs (BAB) toward products. At its core is the belief that behavior proceeds action, which in term fosters particular beliefs in products (Wilson, 2002). Thus, most thinking is on an unconscious level and behavior typically occurs before conscious thinking. If so, marketing can be effective at an unconscious level.

To understand the unconscious it is often beneficial to see an example in ancient history. When Socrates went to the oracle of Delphi it was relayed that his greatest task and that of mankind was to seek truth and know thyself (Pettinger, 2011). As the mind seeks to know itself, it has developed two mental processes that are called the conscious and the unconscious. The conscious is the limited, but available information, while the unconscious is the stronger processor but is difficult for people to reach (Wilson, 2009).

In terms of branding, the unconscious may be extremely important in influencing branding and purchasing behavior. The problem faced by researchers is that the unconscious is multi-dimensional and may have four factors that include lack of awareness, lack of intent, efficiency, and lack of control (Bargh, 1994). This makes the unconscious a wild horse with its own processes that represent the true nature of man.

Unconscious branding is a relatively new field built off Frued’s psychoanalysis. Despite his approaches, it has taken decades to move into new theories and approaches. Researchers have a number of opinions and limited research to back up their claims. Despite these successes, understanding the phenomenon means to look beyond traditional approaches to new ways of analysis.

There are generally four major research studies and ways of looking at unconscious branding:

-Non-conscious visual drivers: The visual processing mechanisms are unconscious and goals influence what we will see before becoming consciously aware.

-Priming Ads: Internet ads can make more forced ads (i.e. television) more effective through priming.

-Social motivations for conforming or escaping: Advertisements that focus on either helping people identify with particular groups of people or escape to form a self-identity can be effective. 

-Internal consumer autopilot: It is believed that non-conscious behavior, routine, schema and habit affect our choices.

Woodside and Brasel (2011) argue that new and more comprehensive models are needed to make findings practical. The report helps us think about how underdeveloped this field is as well as the potential possibilities for companies that want to use new models and methods to improve their brand awareness. By understanding how to sequence advertisements and use internal motivations, marketers can increase their response rates as well as their financial effectiveness.

The processing of most environmental cues is subconscious and most people cannot tap that source of information to pull it into their conscious. This means that it is these powerful processing tools, based in our need for survival, where brands can create the most effectiveness. This is why brands often offer either social acceptance (i.e. jewelry) or they offer solutions to problems (i.e. automobiles). Sometimes they come together (i.e. Mercedes). Attachment to any particular brand is based in its social advantages,  neuro-economic resource choices, and solutions to unconscious conflicts.

Bargh , J . A . ( 1994 ) The four horsemen of automaticity: Awareness, intention, efficiency, and control in social cognition . In: R.S. Wyer and T.K. Srull (eds.) Handbook of Social Cognition , Vol. 1, 2nd edn. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum , pp. 1 – 40 .

Pettinger , T . ( 2011 ) Radical thinking: What you can learn from the timeless philosophy of socrates, Retrieved October 20th, 2013 from http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/radical-thinking-what-you-can-learn-from-the-timeless-philosophy-of-socrates/ 

Wilson , T . D . ( 2002 ) Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press .



Woodside, A. & Brasel, S. (2011). Unconscious thinking, feeling and behavior toward products and brands: introduction to a Journal of Brand Management special issue. Journal of Brand Management, 18, (7).

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