• There are several schools of thought about the consumer behavior that explain their decision making process

  • For example, the Psychoanalytic Theory believes that the audiences purchase based on hopes, fears and dreams

  • However, the Reasoned Action Theory says that people only buy a certain product or service to get an specific result

In the last couple years, technological advances have greatly transformed the way brands and agencies carry out their marketing campaigns an techniques. Today companies can reach their consumers through channels that weren’t even in the picture the last century, like social media and search engines. Innovations like Artificial Intelligence and Big Data now promise a more efficient way to promote commercial messages among the audiences, wherever they may be.

Still, there’s something lacking in all these marketing techniques. A central task in marketing is the observation and analysis of consumer behavior. According to Hubspot, brands can obtain this data through careful observation of (and experimentation with) its actions. Kajabi says that the best way to collect the information is in customer reviews, surveys and focus groups. But both experts are forgetting something important, crucial even: All the subconscious responses.

The subconscious marketing: A definition

Even though it sounds like science fiction, several experts and agents inside the industry know about subconscious marketing. Crobox says that a brand can use these techniques to boost sales conversions inside their business. According to CXL, its also a way to trigger emotional responses in consumers that influence the purchasing decision. In an interview with Merca 2.0, Joe Willke, President of Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, provided the following definition:

A lot of our decision making uses shortcuts, has biases and happens very quickly. And at times it all happens below the level of consciousness. If so much of our purchasing process happens at this level, how can we get these insights? Marketing experts began to work with academia and scientists to use encephalograms, eye-tracking, facial coding. All of these are non-verbal markers and allow a better understanding of what happens beyond what surveys can describe.


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Implementing below-the-surface consumer behavior

Grasping the unconscious mind is not an easy task. According to the Universitet Leiden, some knowledge can only be obtained through complex tests, with lots of subjects and constant trial and error cycles. Other studies point out that there is also a need for complex tools that allow brands and researchers to pinpoint precise responses in the brain of the consumers. But Wilke assures that the cost of these tools has dropped a lot, opening the possibilities to businesses:

We can now know, in a second by second basis, if people are being emotionally driven in or pushed away. Wether if they are paying attention. So we can evaluate if, for example, there is no memory activation in a campaign. Then we know the audience will not remember the brand and we can redo that part. Or if audiences pay more attention to a cute puppy or an annoying character than the brand. And all these are things people won’t normally tell brands in a survey.

The future of subconscious marketing

Currently, according to the expert of Nielsen, there are several limitations with the techniques in subconscious advertising. For example, it is still not possible to measure consumer reactions outside a testing facility. And when his firm has solutions to mix these data with the traditional, conscious information brands normally collect, not all brand have fully embraced the trend. At the same time, he believes there are a lot of possibilities to later reinforce these techniques:

I have an smartwatch on, and a couple years ago nobody believe these devices could monitor heart rate and all the data it keeps track of. So I bet that, in 10 years, we can use wearables for subconscious marketing. As our understanding of consumer behavior evolves, it must change how we market products and services to the audience. The state of the industry right now, all over the world, is only beginning to adapt to this more modern way to understand the market.