Press Releases

08 09 2008 - WARNING Your Product May Be Habit Forming

Companies waste vast sums of money and energy marketing to the wrong part of our brains. With the advent of new techniques that allow us to peek inside the working brain, cognitive scientists contend that up to 95% of our behavior is controlled by the unconscious part of the brain. Unfortunately, whenever marketers attempt to communicate with customers, they focus on the conscious brain and its paltry 5% control of behavior. This is why so many products are frustrating to use, customer service is an oxymoron and businesses struggle to hold onto even highly satisfied customers. On the other hand, products that are designed to accommodate the habitual mind are intuitive and delightful to use. The new Samsung Instinct was designed based on these principles to be habit forming. According to Dr. Neale Martin in his new book HABIT: The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore. (FT Press, $24.99, Publication Date: July 2008), we operate under the illusion that most of our behavior is conscious and intentional, when the reality is quite the opposite. Our consciousness, what Martin calls the executive mind, would quickly be overwhelmed with the thousands of decisions that must be made in any given day. But our unconscious "habitual mind"” is the ultimate multi-tasking agent handling routine matters outside of the awareness of the executive mind. The implications for executives, marketers and managers are pervasive and staggering. Companies that ignore the latest scientific research risk losing even their most satisfied customers.

In PART 1, Martin explains that the human mind did not evolve to shop. In summarizing research from leading scientists, he shows how two complimentary mental systems developed to ensure our survival in a hostile environment. Though our executive mind is responsible for higher order thinking and our sense of self-awareness, it is the older habitual mind that learns to act and react to the immediate environment. While marketers spend billions on advertising and customer loyalty programs, their efforts are directed toward the wrong mind. This helps explain why 85% of customers who defect report being satisfied or highly satisfied with the product or service they are abandoning.

Most of our routine decisions are made by the habitual mind. Instead of using traditional market research and customer surveys to ‘understand’ customers, companies need to focus on behavior. Marketers succeed when they establish a beachhead in a potential customer’s habitual mind. Based in the limbic system of the brain, the habitual mind is the prevailing influencer of behavior and has significant implications for companies trying to communicate with consumers:

  • Companies must focus on customer behavior, not attitudes or beliefs.
  • Training the habitual mind is different – learning comes through cause and effect, reward and repetition.
  • To hold on to customers, marketers should keep them from consciously thinking about the company – the key to automatic repurchase/reuse is lack of executive mind involvement
  • To take a customer away from a competitor, you must break the customer’s existing habits.

In PART 2, Martin explains the NEW science of marketing i.e. marketing based on an understanding of the twin mechanisms of the human brain. He uses the iPod as an example of how success comes from designing a product that works perfectly with the habitual mind so that the executive mind can focus on the task at hand. As Martin says “The genius of the iPod’s design is that it facilitated quick habitual mastery.” Using examples from the BMW 745i to Google to P&G’s Swiffer, Martin illustrates how success or failure is measured based on how well a company connects to the habitual mind. Using interviews with leading designers, researchers, and scientists, Martin’s style is both informative and entertaining.

Lastly, in PART 3, Martin explains that to communicate successfully with the habitual mind, companies need to radically rethink their strategies. Using the principles of behavioral training, he provides an enlightening framework to reorient companies around a new vision of customer relationship management. Martin amusingly explains how the techniques used in basic animal training (as well as in training top athletes) can be adapted for use by companies to work with the customer’s habitual mind. The same process of reward and reinforcement that is used to train Olympic level athletes and top-performing agility dogs can take a product or service out of the customer’s conscious mind and locate it at the level of constant, habitual usage.

Neale Martin is founder and CEO of Ntelec, Inc. a marketing consulting and education company. He has helped companies adjust their strategic marketing in the face of rapid technological change since 1995. For the past several years, he has worked on updating the principles of marketing in light of research from cognitive psychology and neuroscience that suggests most of human behavior is under the sway of unconscious habits. Neale developed early insights into the power of habits as a counselor and program director for alcohol and drug addiction programs. After spending a year as a hospital administrator in Texas, he returned to school earning his Ph.D. in marketing from the College of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology. Neale’s insatiable curiosity across diverse subjects illuminates his work as he connects ideas and insights from science, technology, psychology, history, philosophy and dog training. He lives in Marietta Georgia with his wife Diana, daughter Miranda, and two Border Collies.

Habit: The 95% of Behavior Marketers Ignore By Neale Martin, Ph.D Publication Date: August 9 2008 Price: $24.99, Cloth. Pages: 208 ISBN # 0-13-135795-6

Contact: Celeste Balducci, And Connie Perry at 212-832-8183