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How to Make the Right Strategic Decision…

Posted on July 14, 2017
Written by Hunter Thurman

If you’ve done the right things so far this year, you now have a short list of strong strategic options from which to choose. But how should you navigate the often subjective process of deciding on the ONE direction to drive your business forward???

It’s not a new idea in insights and marketing to make decisions through the eyes of your consumer. But that principle can be easier said than done when it comes to high level strategic plans.

Luckily, Behavioral Science serves as a ‘decoder ring’ to prioritize the decisions that will REALLY result in real-life behavior.

At the core of human behavior are ‘The 9 WHY’s’ – the 4 Motivations, and 5 Costs that drive people towards, and prevent them from, a given behavior. In evaluating your strategic options, ask yourself which MOTIVATION is most salient with your audience of consumers:

Are your consumers exhibiting:

  1. Practical behaviors that make rational sense?
  2. Social behaviors that are popular among friends and family?
  3. Dominant behaviors that feel good, and help create some superiority?
  4. Immersive, experiential behaviors that simply feel good?

One of these 4 will be the primary Motivation your audience feels relative to your category, and the corresponding strategy is probably the one that will result in the most real-life behavior.

At the same time, think through which of the 5 Costs most hinder your consumers:

  1. Emotional cost (aka feeling bad).
  2. Physical cost (aka being difficult).
  3. Social cost (aka causing criticism).
  4. Time cost (aka having to stop doing something else).
  5. Price cost (aka having to give up something else).

Again, BeSci dictates that one of these Costs will most prevent behavior among consumers (and actually, “Price” is often the least influential). The strategic option that best alleviates the primary Cost for your audience is the one to prioritize.

Of course, we’d be happy to show you our Habits of Control model and some uber-efficient ways to quantitatively measure the Motivations and Costs of your audience of consumers to make tough decisions feel like a no-brainer. 😉

Just drop us a line to learn more.

How the 4 Drivers of BeSci Reveal the WHYs behind Millennials

Posted on March 24, 2017
Written by Hunter Thurman & T. Sigi Hale, PhD.

Why do the true drivers behind Millennials’ behavior continue to elude marketers? It’s notoriously challenging in consumer insights research to accurately reveal the WHYs. We recently decided to take a closer look, but through an entirely new lens…

BeSci, forged in the labs, hallways, and corridors of academia, reveals lots about nature, and but an individual’s nature alone can only tell us half the story. And examining the context in which an individual operates utterly disregards the individuality the consumer brings to the table. Instead, we must consider the whole ‘behavior equation’ in order to understand or predict behavior:

A person’s instinctive NATURE is the most stable part of the equation, and reflects her Habit of Control (more on that in a moment). The CONTEXT, or circumstances a person experiences (like a category or shopping engagement) impacts how that individual’s nature is expressed. Add these 2 variables together, and you get BEHAVIOR – both present and future.

The underlying key to this equation is CONTROL, which is a human’s most fundamental need and that which drives all behavior. That’s right—all roots of human behavior stem from the need for a sense of control. And it’s also WHY we buy the things we buy—to maintain, or recapture control over some facet of our lives. In buying personal care products, we are attempting to control our standing within our social tribe. And in buying food and beverage products, we are attempting to control how we feel. And so on…

An individual adopts one of four ‘Habits of Control’ at a young age in order to maintain, and when needed, regain control of the world around her. She then learns to navigate her world via her particular dominant Habit of Control…

Allow me to introduce you to the 4 ‘Habits of Control’:

Expert: Control via individual skill and tangible, rational knowledge

Alpha: Control via dominance over obstacles and challenges

Triber: Control via social belonging

Diver: Control via deep emotional connection

While humans primarily rely of a single Habit of Control, we still utilize all of them – depending on the context. For example, we all express the ‘Expert’ Habit of Control when taking a math test, but an individual who relies on Expert as his primary Habit of Control will be goal-oriented, and a potential over-achiever. Similarly, we all experience the ‘Diver’ Habit of Control when we pay close attention to a new food – we really notice the color, the texture, the smell, and then the taste. However, one who relies primarily on Diver may live his life in that space of hyper // sensory-immersive experiences.

Consider for a moment the context of Millennials’ upbringing during the rough economic and politically unstable times. As children or young adults, they experienced the terror of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, the 2008 economic collapse due to the real estate boom & bust, outrageous college tuition increases, and the escalating cost of medical insurance. Put simply, Millennials are a generation in survival mode.

Our BeSci Survey revealed some interesting – and surprising – Millennial truths.

Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers completed a battery of behavioral science-based questions, answering strategic, scientific and sometimes out-of-the-ordinary questions that are designed to uncover behaviors and motivations that reveal far more than what mere observation can tell us. For example, one such question posed:

If I went to an art museum,

a) I’d want to learn about the art.

b) I’d probably be critical of what I saw.

c) I’d want to see famous or well-known works of art.

d) I’d look at the art very deeply.

Data patterning and statistical analysis of the neuroscience-based outcomes reveal the Millennial generation’s NATURE, or Habit of Control.

Millennials demonstrate a drastically higher Alpha score (control via dominance), which is the Habit of Control triggered when threatened. Inversely, they demonstrate a markedly lower Diver score (control via deep connection), which is the Habit of Control enabled when feeling relaxed and secure. This further demonstrates that Millennials are a generation in chronic “fight or flight.”

Notice the markedly high Diver score and low Alpha score for Boomers? Think back to their world growing up: It was the end of WWII, and the world had become a safer place. Throughout their childhood, they experienced prosperity via the post-war economic boom. It makes sense that Boomers adopted the Habit of Control that is enabled when relaxed and secure, and relied the least amount on Alpha, which is enabled by fight or flight.

So all Millennials are the same, right?

Well, not exactly.

Although they are a unique generation, marketing to Millennials as a homogeneous group would be a huge mistake. Not only are generational differences distinct, but gender differences for Millennials are also unique.

In a nutshell, Millennial Men stand alone.

Evolutionary psychology tells us that survival pressures drive men to control via dominance. Millennial men skyrocket on Alpha—far more than Millennial women, and far more than GenXers and Boomers. This means that they utilize the other habits of control drastically less, leading to the stereotypical ‘Alpha Male’ behavior.

What does this mean for marketers?

 The good news is knowing that Millennial men are ‘Alpha Male’ consumers tells us 3 things:

  1. Millennial men seek to convey social status in order to gain a sense of superiority.
  2. Their gut reaction to a product plays a significant role when making a purchase decision.
  3. They discover new products in-store using visual, not verbal clues.

Millennial men are less likely to pre-plan a shopping trip and the items they plan to buy. While shopping, they are more likely than women or men of other generations to notice new products while shopping, and therefore are much more easily captured in the store, and in the moment.

They also demonstrate a markedly dominant instinctual decision-making style, indicating that they are impulsive buyers.

More so than GenXers or Boomers, Millennial men gravitate toward visual and perceptual information on packaging while shopping.

They strongly rely on pictures / design of packaging, as opposed to package labeling, to find what they’re looking for.

Understanding Millennial men’s Habit of Control means we can employ specific strategies to reach them:

  • Convey the sense of exclusive knowledge, access, or capability.
  • Focus on package visuals and aesthetic. Minimize the noise.
  • Capitalize on phrases and visuals connoting high quality or class such as “better,’ ‘best,’ and #1. Because Millennial men are compelled less by rational price sensitivity, phrases like ‘value’ and ‘budget friendly’ resonate much less.

Millennial women require a much different approach: Tailor your message to the Millennial woman’s ‘Knowledge Seeker’ mind.

Evolutionary psychology tells us that women typically rely on ‘Diver’ (control via deep personal connection), and this is true for GenX and Boomer women. Millennial women, however, tell a different story…

Millennial women express ‘Expert’ (control via individual skill and knowledge) more than each of the other generations, and much more than Millennial men.

Previous generations expressed Diver strongly over the other Habits of Control, but modern day survival pressures drive millennial women to express Expert over Diver.

Knowing that Millennial women are ‘knowledge seeker’ consumers tells us 3 things:

  1. Millennial women work to amass knowledge to feel fully informed.
  2. They weigh logistical information and rational, not emotional, appeals when making decisions.
  3. They are mission-oriented and know what to buy before going to the store.

Millennial women demonstrate their ‘Expert’ attention while shopping by relying on verbal and logistical information and package labeling as opposed to pictures and package design.

Millennial women want to feel confident in their informed decisions, so follow these guidelines in order to win with this ‘Knowledge Seeker’ consumer:

  1. Focus on verbal, detailed packaging. List product attributes.
  2. Avoid appeals to the heart unless the rationality of how it will be accomplished is explained.
  3. Online, provide resources of logistical product benefits, to capture their attention during research before the shop.

Skate where the puck is going to position your business

As context shifts, we see Millennial’s Habits of Control evolve.

As millennial men move from their 20’s into their mid-thirties, their Triber & Expert Habits of Control strengthen. They evolve toward verbal processing, rational decision-making, and a mission-oriented shopper style. Messaging to these individuals should transition to more logical and informational appeals:

Millennial women’s shift will occur sooner in their lives. As they move into their late 20’s, their Diver Habit of Control will strengthen and they will begin to behave more like older generations of women. They evolve toward perceptual processing, sensorial decision-making, and a discovery shopping style.

Why does this behavioral science research matter for brands? Understanding WHY a consumer behaves a certain way is what enables brands to predict and influence behavior in the marketplace. And treating Millennials differently – from other generations and from each other—can enable marketing, product innovation, and new product development that drives results that matter.

How the Brain Consumes – Even When the Body Doesn’t

Posted on January 27, 2017
Written by Hunter Thurman

Whether in consumer insights research, new product development, or innovation strategy, marketers need to know why consumers think what they think, and do what they do. And much has been made about the potential of neuroscience marketing to unlock new understanding of the human behavior that makes products fly off of shelves.

The future of consumer research lies in the potential of neuroscience marketing & behavioral science research. In many circles, that’s defined by the mere inclusion of psychology or neuroscience within the research process. And while these new lenses can be quite valuable, they’re just the beginning.

One theme in particular, currently making waves within the medical world, demonstrates the potential for marketers to dramatically re-imagine the way in which humans ‘consume’ products. And the implications incorporate consumer research, consumer insights, new product development and even innovation strategy itself…

The principle essentially revolves around the way in which the brain dictates the body’s reaction to stimulus – including things like food, drink, and personal care products. A recent article in Mosaic Science details this phenomenon, but here’s the lay-person’s explanation:

The brain can be conditioned to react to sensory stimulus, such as flavor, to create high-impact physiological results. When the brain associates a tangible function (like immune suppression) with a specific flavor, the body will suppress the immune system even when no actual immune-suppression chemical is present.

So, in the study covered in the article, patients’ bodies are given a certain drug along with a certain contextual cue, like a specific flavor of beverage. The brain ‘learns’ to associate the effects of the medicine with the sensory flavor of the beverage so strongly that, eventually, the effects of the drug are realized even when far less – or none – of the drug is actually present.

This is not a newly-discovered phenomenon (think Pavlov’s dogs), but the demonstration of a physiological response based on mere perception has far reaching potential to enable innovation in the food, beverage, and wellness spaces.

There are widely-recognized phenomena like nausea, anxiety, or craving – but this study shows that the potential for perception-driven response to go much deeper in determining everything from immune health to weight loss to stress.

This research punctuates the degree to which the brain controls the body.

Imagine if a maker of wholesome snacks could leverage this insight to actually train the body to burn calories more efficiently. Or if new product development for a juice brand could train the body to associate a certain flavor with stress relief. Or if a personal care product could provoke a physical feeling of energy simply via a distinct smell.

It appears all are possible and represent the future of neuroscience marketing and behavioral science research. The key to unlocking untold potential lies not with ingredients, nutrition, or calories – but with the way in which the brain interprets them.

How the 4 Drivers of BeSci Crack the Code on the Millennial Mind

Posted on January 8, 2017
Written by Hunter Thurman

As marketers, we’re accustomed to looking at consumer behavior — how people behave in given situations or contexts — and then trying to extrapolate why they do what they do. Unfortunately, observing behavior and context still can’t explain the WHY.

What’s missing from traditional consumer research approaches is human nature. And there is one core fact that decades of scientific knowledge about human nature reveals: Simply, that humans crave CONTROL.

Below is a 15-minute video from my talk at the 2016 IIeX Conference. In this talk, I discuss our proprietary brain state model, Habits of Control, and how it goes beyond simple demographics to give us information about how humans pay attention, how they make decisions, and how they interact with the world from a sensory standpoint.

Using this model in a recent study on Millennials reveals some very interesting truths about Millennials that may surprise you. Take a closer look to learn concrete ways to effectively reach this generation in real life…

Wondering What A Neuroscientist Does In
The Innovation Lab?

Posted on September 18, 2015
Written by Julie Maines

We’ve always been just a bit obsessive about decoding consumers to help our clients grow their business. Thriveplan’s expertise in human behavioral science is fueling our ability to take it to the next level.

Introducing Dr. T. Sigi Hale, Ph.D.

In his newly expanded role, Neuroscientist Dr. T. Sigi Hale, Ph.D. is leading Thriveplan’s neuromarketing capability. Within a single conversation with Sigi, one gets a true sense for his passion to deep dive into the inner workings of the human brain: “Not science for science sake, but to help make life work better.” While at UCLA, Sigi developed and published a body of work that went from an original hypothesis to a new model of normal and abnormal brain functioning—In short, he’s always trying to unravel the mystery of ‘us.’

If you’re picturing a ‘science-nerd,’ think again—this scientist is also an entrepreneur and adventurer, who has created and produced outdoor music festivals, started a snowboard hat company, created a soccer academy that focused on the mental/attentional aspects of sports, and performed as the front-man for a band that filled many of the classic club-venues in L.A. (and more!).

Sigi’s expertise brings a succinct approach to translating raw data into brand-advancing insight. “We are living in an exciting time where our understanding of brain-function and diversity of intelligence types/styles is beginning to elucidate new and better ways for humans to realize their potential individually and as groups. Neuroscience is changing the world, and now I get to stand in the trenches and help make that happen. I’m outward-facing and working to bring neuroscience to life. It’s perfect.”

So, as it turns out, innovation is a science after all 😉

The Role of Emotions in Daily Decision Making

Posted on November 10, 2014
Written by Hunter Thurman

Decision Making

It might not come as a surprise to learn that some of the most enduring products were created by accident: popsicles, breakfast cereal, Worcestershire sauce.

But scientific discoveries? As reassuring as it might be to assume they’re the result of calculated, methodical “scientific” approaches – particularly in this day and age – that’s not always the case.

Decision Making

One accident in particular involves Elliot, a model father, husband and businessman who lost a portion of his frontal lobe due to life-saving surgery. Instead of gaining a new lease on life, however, Elliot ultimately ended up divorced, bankrupt and living in the custody of a sibling. His doctor, famed neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, made the oddest of diagnoses: Elliot had lost his ability to make decisions. But Damasio couldn’t understand why.

Elliot performed remarkably well on cognitive tests, retaining an IQ in the top 3%. But in conversation Elliot was emotionless. This caused Damasio to question everything he and the rest of the scientific world had always believed about what it meant to be a rational being. He hypothesized that, far from getting in the way, emotions are the key to successful decision-making.

To quote Damasio: “We’re trained to regard emotions as irrational impulses that are likely to lead us astray. When we describe someone as “emotional,” it’s usually a criticism that suggests that they lack good judgment… This is not to deny that emotions and feelings can cause havoc in the processes of reasoning under certain circumstances… [but that] certain aspects of the process of emotion and feeling are indispensable for rationality.”

The Emotional Impact

In the simplest terms, Elliot had lost the pathway between his “paleo brain,” the source of his basic emotions, and his orbitofrontal cortex, the latest evolution of the human brain and the gatekeeper of our emotions, responsible for integrating basic emotions into the conscious thought process.

When we’re deciding what to have for dinner, for example, our brains sub-consciously create virtual hypothetical experiences, in essence a series of “if, then” loops… “If I order Chinese, I’ll feel this way. If I order pizza, I’ll feel this way…” When we happen on the one that “feels” best to us – Bam! – we’re able to arrive at a decision.

Imagine, however, if that loop were never-ending, because there was no input from the emotional part of our brains as to what would “feel” best. It would be impossible to navigate through life, and that’s exactly what happened to Elliot.

Reaching Consumer Emotions

The ramifications of this discovery are far-reaching, particularly in the CPG world, as they reveal the critical role feelings play in consumer decision-making. Clearly, there’s an imperative to change the way we approach consumer insight and brand innovation. By understanding this sub-conscious decision making process, and using emerging technologies to integrate “emotional reading” into the development approach, we enter a new frontier of predictive behavior.

Marketers and insights pros have always known emotions are important to winning propositions. Insights like Damasio’s mean we know, like never before, exactly why they’re so crucial, and how to use them to help brands find big-time growth potential.

Why Should Your Brand Care That Boomers Are Devouring Information?

Posted on June 2, 2014
Written by Hunter Thurman

Boomers

Imagine you’re passing by the kitchen here at Thriveplan, and overhear the following conversation:

Geoffrey (the evolutionary psychologist):
“Phenotypic plasticity drives costly signaling among the Boomer tribe in order to demonstrate social fitness and mating value.”

Hunter (the translator):
“I agree. Boomers ARE constantly seeking new information in order to show the world they’re still relevant, attractive, and worth hiring and hanging out with.”

Geoffrey:
“What’s more, this dynamic will compel high openness in navigating complex environments.”

Hunter:
“You said it! Boomers ARE totally open to new products and ideas as a result of this motivation, which is baked right into their subconscious thought process.”

Boomers Yearn To Learn

The 450,000,000 Boomers worldwide are seeking education in record numbers – both formal via universities, and informal via a voracious appetite for information. And the simple reason why is that it’s in their DNA. Evolutionary psychology explains fundamental human motivations, and Boomer self-education serves as a prime example. The innate desire to remain a relevant, vibrant, and desirable member of the tribe is pure human instinct.

The lesson for marketers? Start with the human. Knowing why a human acts the way she does – before worrying about how it compels consumption of your brand – taps dramatic potential for brands to reach her in more relevant ways via strategy and new products.