Monday, August 20, 2007

Rational Irrationality

This may turn out rather rambled as im writing as I think (in hurry at end of lunch break!):

Brands are rational. Even the idea of desire is rationalised.
People are not rational.

Is this not a fundamental problem with how many ads are planned. Ok, maybe you buy your insurance based on a rational basis "which is cheapest with xxx cover"; but what about your drinks, your clothes, your car? Almost certainly not.

Only the most battle scarred parent chooses their car based on what is most rational for their needs. Most people have a half rational "I need to fit five people in and have a budget of £13k", half irrational choice "I liked this one when I tested it...why? I just did."

Its one of the reasons I am always sceptical about relying on research, because research is almost totally rational... but that moment when the customer goes to purchase the product they scored 5/5 for "I would like to buy" is likely to feature at least bout of irrational thought.

Maybe irrational is the wrong word. But I hope you get my point. When I walk into a shop and choose a drink, half the time I couldnt really tell you why I picked brand a/b/c. So you really shouldnt put too much faith into the reply I give when your brand survey asks me why I just bought it.


Nick said...

I don't agree that brands are rational - I think advertisers have come far enough to realise that it's more important to generate an emotional response than a logical one. I do agree that surveys are rational, so I agree with your final point. However I'd say that the strongest brands are those that invoke the most powerful emotional response - i.e. seeing the brand makes you feel something, not think something.

Rob Mortimer said...

I kind of agree. Emotional response is the closest ads get to understanding (if you ever can) irrationality.

I just worry that because irrationality is (by nature) hard to quantify its not considered.

I hope this makes sense, it does in my head before I type it!

Age said...

Great post, Rob.

All of this reminds me of the Hawthorne Effect. These people, when prompted for answers and opinions in research THINK about what their answer is going to be... and like you said, the results are usually incredibly rational.

I reckon in real life as we're rolling down the aisle at the supermarket all of this rationality goes out the window as we tend to fill our baskets with completely irrational choices. We ACT on impulse, not thought.

NP said...

What's really scary is people THINK they are being rational

Rob @ Cynic said...

If you understand how people think as well as justify their decisions, you can then see how brands emotional and rational attributes can be worked to achieve sales and loyalty - surely the ultimate combination, ha!

I/we call it EMOTIONAL LOGIC and it still shocks me how few people [especially clients] get it.

Rob Mortimer said...


Ive lost count of the time I go into a shop to buy one thing and end up with something else.

Impulse is such a huge part of buying. Yet even impulse is widely rationalised; which it sometimes is... but its the almost total absense of factoring for irrationality that worries me.

NP: Absolutely

Rob C: Its probably the difficulty in quantifying impulse and irrationality.

priest said...

why shouldn't you be able to use rational research to create irrational responses? (and vice versa)