And, although it’s probably futile, I’ve started to make conscious efforts to work out when unconscious bias might be influencing my own decision-making. Beyond my personal thought processes, I’ve also attempted to apply some of the insights in my work developing new drinks brands. However, whilst fascinating, Kahneman’s work is not a “how to” for marketers – his writing style is dense, academic, and somewhat dry.
Richard Shotton comes to the rescue with his new book The Choice Factory – the subject of his recent appearance at a Marketing Society event in Edinburgh. Having persevered through Kahneman, I was relieved to find Richard is as entertaining a writer as he is a speaker. The book fairly skips along – an engaging whistle-stop tour of various biases and how marketers might usefully put them to work. The book is rigorously researched but a genuinely fun read, packed full of references to primary psychological research and to the entertaining small-scale experiments Richard himself has run to check older findings remain valid. He presents compelling evidence for the influence of bias in consumer decision-making and poses serious questions for marketers about our typical research methods.
I’ve found many marketers don’t like to talk about cognitive bias – the theories challenge both traditional marketing practice and our own sense of “rational self”. But just because it makes us uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Richard doesn’t claim every bias is a tool in every situation – indeed he points out some biases work against one another – but by highlighting the subconscious processes at work in everyone’s heads he makes us all better at understanding consumers.