The Grand Illusion of Marketing To A Consumer’s Rational Mind


Can we do a simple exercise? While sitting in a chair, lift your right leg and make a clockwise circle. Easy? Now life your right hand and draw “6” in air using right index finger? What happened?


Don Norman in one of his books, mentions an example. Take a 6m long 1m narrow plank, keep it on the ground and walk the plank. Do you fear walking the plank? No. Perhaps, you would be fine to dance on them. Lift the plank 3m off the ground. You may still walk now….but with a little caution. Right? How about lifting the plank 100m off the ground? Though walking the plank remain same whatever the height of situation, do you feel confident to walk? Does fear dominate for some people? Though the rational mind(Reflective part of the brain) may tell you that it is safer to walk, your emotional and intuitive mind controls the mind against walking the plank.


A social science researcher did a blind test on taste. He gave two cups with one having Pepsi and the other having coke but didn’t label them. Most people preferred the taste of Pepsi than coke, but when they go out to shops, they purchased Coke? How can one brand preferred in taste and another in the purchase? Coke visuals are stored in our sub-conscious mind, associated with past memories, experiences and taste.


The first time, when you saw the following image, you would have felt that the top line is longer than the one below it.


A group of Japanese people were shown the images of Volkswagen Jetta. Everyone told the researcher that he or she considered the car as a utility vehicle to take them from A to B. He or she was happy with Toyota and proud of Japanese culture focusing on functionality.


One researcher did an experiment by showing a video clip of car accident to a group of people. She then asked the following question to some users- How fast would you estimate the car was going when it ‘hit’ the other vehicle? To other users, she asked the questions — How fast would you estimate the car was going when it ‘Smashed’ the other vehicle?


Habits are formed by the gradual learning of associations between an action and their outcomes. A cue in the environment unconsciously activates the behaviour, before we are aware of what’s happening. When you are in the supermarket and you are conversing on the phone, you would have sub-consciously picked up some products from the shelf. Our conscious interpretation of the behaviour occurs after it happens.

  • It is clear that many processes in the brain occur automatically without involvement of our conscious mind.
  • Most of our daily behaviour is governed by our intuitive mode. Once you see the cue, behaviour happens automatically due to the learned behaviour.
  • Conscious minds are engaged only when we are in a novel situation. The conscious mind is the gateway to enter sub-conscious mind as we saw in Illusion example.
  • A Conscious or rational mind is in control is an illusion.



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