Marketing Mind Shift - part 2

Hello all, finally I got the time for the second part of my musings on the fantastic new thinking from Decoded. In the first part here, we saw how the brain makes purchase decisions. Now, we'll go on and analyse the interface (the surface of the world that sends out signals to our lazy brains).

Decoding the Interface

Knowing the rules and mechanisms that determine what we perceive (taller bottles hold more than wide bottles - it seems), enables us to design our interfaces (touch points) in an optimal way. Perception is based only on the blurred input from the periphery complemented by a small spot of high resolution. In other words, our conscious mind focus on just a small part of the world. The rest of the signals that surround us are processed by our System 1 brain.

So for example, if packaging changes are not perceivable though blurred vision, we should not expect any impact on sales.

Recognition - how does it work? Recognition is based on those signals with the highest diagnostic value. For example, for the chair, the four legs and back. Or charicatures. The key is to know the diagnostic cues - beyond that, we have freedom to change the packaging or layout. In other words, we have to keep those elements that define what a thing is, and we can play around only with those elements that are not 'core'.

Context is equally valid and important for recognition to work. We don’t recognize objects in a vacuum. This also explains why people often remember having seen things in a advert that are not there or having seen recently and ad that hasn’t aired for 5 years.

Concepts - signals we send - from colors to shapes to logos - are recoded into mental concepts based on learned associations in memory. Perceived value is based on the mental concepts triggered by brand and product. Purchase decisons are based on these mental concepts and not on signals as such. Think roses=love, SUV=status. The most important function of a product’s appearance for consumers, apart from bringing aesthetic pleasure, is the portrayal of mental concepts. > we should not judge packaging or ads on the basis of them being aesthetically pleasing but rather on what signals they give off and what concept they trigger. Maybe, if we manage to incorporate this thinking, it would bring objectivity in board rooms where most packaging decisions are based on "I don't know...I don't like doesn't feel right to me"

We should not judge packaging or ads on the basis of them being aesthetically pleasing but rather on what signals they give off and what concept they trigger.


Familiarity - we know it is important for advertising effectiveness. Yet, to stay relevant we also have to change. What is the way out of this dilemma? If a signal was expected, our theory is confirmed, our neurons switch off to another activity (it makes sense not to spend energy on things we already know). The way out  - marrying consistency with newness - is to be consistent at the meaning level, but new at the signal level. Think of Axe advertising: be it a hoard of naked women, or Amazons, or beauty-pageant winners, the meaning is the same: using Axe will make you a desirable male in whatever setting.

The MAYA (most advanced yet acceptable) principle: a moderate degree of newness in cobination with some familiarity, is the most effective for marketing communication.

Value-based attention: what we want is what we see

Relevance is a key driver of attention: we see what we want. The point is that we need to signal the value that people are looking for in a way that the autopilot can detect and perceive. If people are looking for skimmed milk they will look for blue or green. If they look for a Coke, all red signals will be perceived more readily.

Attention is also driven by contrast: colors, shapes etc that stand out and “cut-through” clutter.

Perceptual fluency also adds value (e.g picture of cake with fork placed on right is more appealing than the fork on the left because we are accustomed to seeing things from the right). For perceptual fluency to work the visual, perceptible link between the TV ad, the packaging and the POS is crucial. Information written in capitals is more difficult for the autopilot to process.

Human faces also have value > attract attention.

Price perception has value. The way in which price presented is, in itself, a powerful lever, without even having to change the actual prices. To really make a perceived difference require less of an absolute price increase/decrease in low-priced categories than in high-prices categories. So when we reduce prices we should think about whether the propose discount really is making a difference or it just reduces our margins.


  • Our brands communicate with consumers mainly through peripheral blurry images. We need to use signals which convey our messages even through blur.
  • The core driver of attention is the fit of peripheral signals with consumers goals. The higher the fit, the more we attract “pull”.