11 January 2013

How research misses the human behind the demographic

Be the first to share

Deutsch’s Douglas Van Praet discusses how focus-group feedback, and the whole notion of the consumer, are misguided and how research should focus on understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.

“How [market] research studies are done is at sharp odds with what science now knows. The elephant in the room is that the vast majority of our decisions are made unconsciously. What is a no-brainer for any cognitive scientist remains mind-boggling to marketers. The conscious mind is simply not running the show, but we’ve created an entire industry pretending that it does.

Advertisers are doubling down on this myth, investing in exhaustive investigations of self-reported preferences, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. These deceptions become guideposts for product and campaign development. For $150 and a ham sandwich, panelists are drilled for hours in formal focus groups before two-way mirrors and cleverly concealed microphones that elicit groupthink and inauthenticity. The best become “professional respondents” glibly dominating groups on the topic du jour–from potato chip to microchip.

The problem is we’re profoundly social beings having spent 99% of our evolution relying on vital resources from tribal affiliates whose opinions mattered. Group rejection likely meant a death sentence. So it’s no surprise we still only put our best face forward while artfully maneuvering ourselves competitively in the pecking order.

The brain is designed to hide most of our intentions and promote self-confidence, an adaptive function that improves lives and prevents information overload. So we invent stories and believe our lies and confabulations. Social science experiments reveal that we are inherently self-righteous and consistently overrate our knowledge, autonomy, and abilities. We say advertising doesn’t influence us even though sales say otherwise. And we maintain these self-serving delusions when wired to a lie detector, which means we are lying to ourselves and not intentionally to the experimenters.

Douglas Van Praet is the author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing. He is also Executive Vice President at agency Deutsch L.A., where his responsibilities include Group Planning Director for the Volkswagen account. Van Praet’s approach to advertising and marketing draws from unconscious behaviorism and applies neurobiology, evolutionary psychology, and behavioral economics to business problems.

Be the first to share
27 November 2015
[Book] Research for Designers: A Guide to Methods and Practice
Research for Designers A Guide to Methods and Practice By Gjoko Muratovski - Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand and Tongji University, China SAGE Publications Ltd, January 2016 280 pages Abstract Design is everywhere: it influences how we live, what …
26 November 2015
50 important customer experience stats for business leaders
Esteban Kolsky is a customer strategist, researcher, keynote speaker, and a consultant (analyst for 15 years, 8 years with Gartner). He believes that research has become a commodity and value has shifted from discovery to …
26 November 2015
How Nissan’s using anthropology to make autonomous cars safe
What happens when robot cars meet complex social interaction, like head nods, horn honks, or even road rage? Dr. Melissa Cefkin "is here to teach autonomous cars how to behave". A design anthropologist based at …
26 November 2015
How brands design customer experiences of the future
In today’s digital age, consumers expect more from the business they support and the products they purchase. Consumers, Macala Wright writes, not only expect great brand experiences, they believe they’re entitled to them. This is …
10 November 2015
Why service design is luxury’s new battleground
Ana Andjelic writes in AdAge that most legacy luxury brands are failing at delivering service, especially online: The fact that most legacy luxury brands fail to successfully create and deliver service is unfortunate. The business of …
10 November 2015
For years, Apple followed user-centered design principles. Then something went wrong.
Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini are taking their gloves off and accuse Apple of abandoning the fundamental principles of good design: discoverability, feedback, proper mapping, appropriate use of constraints, and, of course, the power to …
5 November 2015
Customer journey mapping is at the heart of digital transformation
Digital technologies such as analytics, mobility, social networks, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are making old ways of working redundant and forcing companies to transform. According to Raman Sapra, global head of Dell’s …
5 November 2015
[Conference] Design & The City, Amsterdam, April 2016
Design & The City explores citizen-centered design approaches for the smart city. Central theme is the role of design(ers) to create opportunities and practices for citizens, (social) entrepreneurs and policy makers towards more liveable, sustainable and …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

13 October 2015
Experientia report: Design for ageing gracefully

Design for Ageing Gracefully Rethinking Health and Wellness for the Elderly: Public Services Asian Insights & Design Innovation, DesignSingapore Council October 2015

29 September 2015
[Experientia book] Ethnography on elderly health and wellness

As we age, we increasingly depend on public services and the community for support. Well-designed public services can greatly affect the lives of the elderly and their experiences of healthcare. Experientia collaborated with DesignSingapore Council on understanding how the elderly interact with public services and how we can look towards improving their lives with design. […]

2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments

A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the new state of the art for protecting locations with fragile electricity supplies. One of France’s most fragile regions The Provence-Alpes-Côte […]

5 May 2015
Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록 in Design 4 Disaster

Design 4 Disaster features an engaging illustrated safety manual for ship passengers, a personal project by Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록. After the Korean ferry accident last year, Yuluck (who is Korean) wanted to find a way to make safety manuals more interesting to read. He spent one year designing an interactive safety guide […]

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
See all articles