Good morning. David Elliott here. I’d just like to talk for a few minutes about a pet subject of mine which is basically ‘go with your gut feelings’. Now this covers two specific aspects; one is management, the other is consumer products and the way that people actually respond, particularly in what is proverbially called ‘low involvement catagories’. So let’s go to the former first of all. I was very pleased to learn recently that a highly respected academic at The University of Leeds is doing work with managers at a senior level, and the indications are that managers actually rely on intuition much more than has previously been either accepted or appreciated.
Basically we make decisions perhaps somewhat on the hoof, but these are not blind, they are as the result of unconscious conditioning. What do I really mean by that? Well I can give you an example which was quoted in the recently published paper of a racing driver who was doing close to a hundred miles per hour on a race track, and suddenly to the outside world he inexplicably braked. Now that braking saved his life, because up ahead there was a horrendous crash. Had he not braked he would have driven into that at a hundred mile per hour. Why did he brake? Well, apparently, once they checked into this, what had happened was that at that given moment he realised that the crowd wasn’t looking at him, their attention had been diverted to the crash ahead and this, with all his experience and conditioning, had made him realise intuitively that something was wrong and he braked.
So this is an example of how the unconscious mind can take over, and this is a very interesting area in terms of management and the attitudes towards how managers manage. Previously work has talked about satisficing in that people work on a limited amount of information which they then add to their intuition. So in other words, go with the gut feeling and often the management decision will be right. How can this also apply to consumer products? As I mentioned we’re talking really about low involvement products, things that you buy every day. Your attitude towards those products is not really at a conscious level. So then if research starts to ask questions of “How do you think/how do you feel about this?” the answers you probably give won’t be accurate, because we don’t know what we know because it resides very much in the adaptive subconscious. How can we then pull out what we really think about brands?
A very useful technique is gaining credibility all the time and there are articles on this on the website about metaphor elicitation. This is the work from a highly respected Harvard professor and it indicates that our core beliefs in brands again lie in the adaptive unconscious. So what do I mean by that? Well let’s give an example. Apparently Zaltman’s, that’s the professor’s name, work indicated that people use the product Coca-Cola as much to get a bit of personal space, so it’s an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world and have some private time. Now this had never, ever emerged from research, but it came out very clearly in work that used metaphor elicitation.
So fundamentally on that level we don’t know what we know, and thus going by gut instinct walking round the supermarket we’re much more likely to be doing things unconsciously rather than consciously. It may be possible to pull these apparently disparate threads together, but this is a mere introduction, and I hope you found it of interest.
Thank you very much.