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BW Businessworld

Campaign And Clutter

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Marketing takes a day to learn but a lifetime to master, so goes the saying. For every mega marketing success story, there are a number of expensive campaigns that failed.

Phil Barden is a marketer with over 25 years of experience in senior roles at companies such as Unilever, Diageo and T-Mobile. His book Decoded delves into insights from decision science and how they can be harnessed to improve marketing efficacy.

Put simply, our brains have two ways of making decisions — what the author calls autopilot, an implicit system, and pilot, an explicit system. The book seeks to analyse the autopilot using a lot of academic evidence on consumer behaviour from both neuroscience and behavioural economics. Marketing campaigns from the real world have been widely quoted to explain consumer behavioural patterns and the book has used pictures very appropriately to drive the point home.

The myriad examples help the reader to connect with the real world. For example, the consumer brain works very differently when a person goes to a Starbucks — he is willing to pay a premium for the overall experience rather than the coffee itself. Similarly, the brain’s coding equates unhealthy with tasty and, conversely, healthy with not tasty, which perhaps explains the failure of Pizza Hut’s low-calorie pizza or fat reduced Mclean Burgers.

There are many products on display on shelves when consumers go shopping and in order to make a quick decision, the brain’s autopilot sees only blurred images before narrowing down on the choice. The challenge for manufacturers is to ensure that their brand comes through all the clutter.  Marketing campaigns are typically hype, thus making it difficult to dissect them to understand the reasons for their successes or failures. This book is a creditable effort to understand the linkage between decision and neuro science.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 10-03-2014)