Thinking Fast, and Slow: a must-read for any marketer

When you know how people think, you know how to communicate. Get yourself acquainted with Daniel Kahneman’s brilliant work.

Every marketer needs to know their stuff. And that stuff is aplenty. Marketing automation? Just scribbled a new nurture flow on the back of this napkin. ABM? In two weeks you’ll see the first calls come in. The importance of branding? Well, that’s kind of a no-brainer isn’t it?

Back to that last question: yes branding is important. But why, exactly? Why does a brand add value to a company’s balance sheet? Why do people buy more from brands they know? Or like? For a long period of time, I couldn’t come up with the answer myself. But then I found it.

Not in the latest copy of the Harvard Business Review. Not in the otherwise excellent B2B Marketing blog. Or one of Ogilvy’s classic books. I found it in Noble leaureate Daniel Kahneman’s seminal book: Thinking Fast, and Slow.

This book delivers so many fantastic insights, it’s hard to find a place to start. But the key takeaway is this: by helping you understand the way in which people truly think, you’ll understand the ways in which marketing works. And that makes you a better marketer.

Let’s cover 5 key insights:

1. Rational thinking – just a thought

We humans are masterful thinkers. We have complete control over our minds and reality. We take grounded, deliberate decisions, especially at work… right? Wrong. As human beings, we think mostly intuitively and sometimes rationally. We arrive at decisions through automated though processes and shortcuts, also known as heuristics.

Is that one supplier really the best choice, or were they simply the first that came to your mind (availability heuristic)? Is the share price of car builder X really going up, or do you simply like their brand (affect heuristic)? Do you really think that one product is better, or are you too narrowly focused on the few parameters you got (what you see is all there is)?

2. Familiarity breeds trust

Here’s another shortcut our mind takes: we confide in what we know. That means that, when we see a message from a brand we know, we’ll be much less critical about the content of that message. We’ll simply assume that it’s right.

It’s the essence that drives modern mass marketing: get your logo in front of your audience time and again, and they’ll pick your product from the supermarket shelf. But the same goes for B2B. Your brand also needs to gain that exposure to build familiarity and trust. Thanks to today’s digital marketing channels, you finally can.

3. Easy works better

Our intuitive mind keeps on going, until things get complicated. When sentences get unnecessarily long or overly complex, with too many bits, pieces, punctuation marks and industry lingo like thermoceramic sintering, our brain kicks into slow, deliberate thinking mode.

Suddenly, we’re starting to wonder whether what we read actually makes sense. We lose our dreamy sense of comfort and trust, and your message is facing a much more difficult task. That’s why your communication should always read and feel easy. Short sentences, easily distinguished from the background, and bolded if necessary. Your audience can keep up, and your message gets more impact.

Want to go all the way? Then move on from simplicity to a positive feeling. Make your audience feel creative or important. That makes them even more receptive of what you’re about to say.

4. The power of stories

As humans, we’re pretty much incapable of grasping the enormously complex world around us. The solution? Stories. Stories create simple causal relations between one event and another. They follow an unmistakable hero along an easy to follow plot past a clear conflict.

In your communication, you need to tell stories as well. Help your customers understand the complex reality around them by presenting your own simplified version. Present a clear conflict or challenge, and make logical connections between your solutions and the outcomes they seek.           

5. Your customer always wants to avoid a loss

Imagine I toss a coin. Heads, and I’ll give you € 100. Tails, and you give me € 50. Would you take the bet? Most people would refuse, because they hate losing. We’d be much quicker to respond to a possible loss, than a possible gain.

That’s why you should point out the things at stake for your customers. Interestingly, you can count not reaching a specified target as a loss. You can also apply the principle of loss aversion to retain customers: people dread the possibility of a negative outcome, especially when they break away from convention. So if you’re at a risk of losing a customer, try to position yourself as a force of stability.

There are so many more valuable lessons to be found in Thinking Fast, and Slow. Lessons that apply to your profession, but also to life in general. I urge you to go and discover them for yourself.

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