Martin Lindstrom is a fundamental representative of Marketing and Communication for anyone is working with that.
As a child, he built a whole house in Lego bricks, inside the family garden. He won’t never come out of there, emotionally. Thus, he managed in turning a double syndrome (Peter Pan syndrome and Lego addiction) into a successful job as a counselor for Branding and researcher in a new scientific sector: neuromarketing.
Lindstrom is convinced that traditional surveys and marketing researches are not useful in order to understand why we fall in love with some brands while we don’t even remember the name of some others, because «what people say in surveys and focus groups has no relationship with how they behave. Far from that…» (from Neuromarketing, p. 20). So, Lindstrom became interested in neuroscience, convincing himself that brain activity examination connected to certain stirrings could provide more reliable answers.
With the help of two neuroscientists (Gemma Calvert and Richard Silberstein), using advanced techniques for brain scanning (fRMI, SST), Lindstrom measured neuronal responses of some volunteers who took part in the experiment for three years, he has identified some strong signs marking more effective advertising. Neuroscience validates the theory about successful brands forcing the consumer to be attentive by conveniently tickling his or her emotions. The choice of one product wouldn’t be determined by rational judgement, but by a mixture of primitive forces and feelings such as fear, empathy, uncertainty, love, indeed. Almost every time underneath our consciousness.
Results of the researches of this danish guru, looking like an eternal child ready to make depraved fun of you either to reveal you the truth, are explained in many best seller (Marketing Lies, Hoepli; Neuromarketing, Maggioli; Small Data, Hoepli).
Tests on neuronal reactions in volunteers taking part in your researches allowed you to identify the most significant emotional status affecting our buying habits. Can you list them briefly, from the more important to the least important one?
«Fear, aspiration, insecurity and love».
Some people think they can resist a brand attraction. They carefully read labels, they are caring about green solutions; they usually buy – if possible – no logo products. What kind of strategies brands choose to catch these consumers?
«Well, exactly that – build ”no brand” solutions. In Australia there indeed is a very popular brand called ”No brand” and yes people buy the brand because it isn’t a brand (needless to say it is). Other ways is to play on the ”authentic” values, to build on ”local” dimensions (i.e produced by the nearby farmer) or push an image of being from the ”good old days”…»
In your books you often say that if you just talk about “time” consumers are more likely to purchase. Sometimes this connection is very clear, sometimes not. Can you list a few examples of hidden – but effective – formulas about time?
«You’ll see the concept of time used everywhere – like Black Friday – where you need to show up or buy something within a certain time limit, on Amazon where a clock is ticking down – before the offer disappears – but also at a psychological level where time is used in sentences – often reminding consumers about their life and the urgency of ”living it right now” – and thus as a reflection making the decision to buy now rather than tomorrow. Time in short reminds us about our vulnerabilities and makes us act».
«An excessive variety of similar products confuses consumers» it is said by many supermarket managers. Do your researches confirm this statement? What kind of strategies would you suggest in order to avoid confusion leading to missing purchase?
«Simplify – studies with chocolates shows that when consumers were given 24 options of various pieces of chocolates they only choose 2 – when given 8 options they choose 3. We today know that the fewer options one is given the more likely one is to make a decision».
You have already demonstrated how ineffective writings on cigarette packages are. Anyway, very little has changed: labels are now bigger and writings more dramatic. Effectiveness has remained the same. What kind of dissuasion strategy would you suggest?
«In the new labels soon to arrive in Europe there’s no longer a healthwarning printed on the cigarette packs – following the guidelines I outlined in Buyology. This has been tested in Australia and Canada with great success. The best you can do is to remove cigarette product placements in Movies – this is today one of the biggest factors to encourage smokers to smoke, followed by product placement in bars and restaurants».
You state that neuromarketing is just a means, so it is neutral: it can be good or evil, depending on how you use it. Can you give us an example of depraved use by a company and of virtuous use by a conscious consumer?
«The design of dashboards on cars is today guided by neuroscience – helping to understand when a driver is distracted (with projections of data on the dashboard) versus not. There’s also an extensive use of neuromarketing usage going on when it comes to cease smoking, drink driving and other health related campaigns – all helping to understand our subconscious mind. On a bad note – the tobacco industry continues to use neuromarketing in order to figure out new ways to make consumers smoke».
In your book “Small Data: the tiny clues that uncover huge trends” you say that Big Data are not enough. The have to be integrated with Small Data, objects and daily habits, both digital and real: clothes, passwords, rubbish, tweets, food preferences, rituals etc. Anyway, these clues are different from one country to another, in spite of globalization. Can you give us an example of Small Data very significant in Italy and little significant elsewhere?
«The entire fashion industry is based on small data – picking up seemingly insignificant clues about consumer trends which later on helps to dictate the next season. It could be the way people dress on the street, the music consumers are listening to, the way they (as I write in the book) wear their shirt – and collar (flipped up – as they do in Southern Italy) vs. Northern Italy – all indicating the aspirational level among consumers and thus how to market a brand».
“Small Data” introduction is by Chip Heath, stunning communicator and author of Made to Stick. Heath really appreciates your conclusions about Small Data necessity, but he also warns about nonchalant use of statistics. This original introduction, the evocative chapters titles, conceptual neologisms (such as subtexting, small mining, twin-self) in your book can be considered Small Data as well in order to affect the decision of purchasing the book and spreading the news?
«Absolutely. I think one of the main reasons why Small Data has received as many awards has it has (voted top book by Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Business + Strategy etc) and the reason why the term Small Data is spreading like wildfire is because I indeed my self used the very technique writing the book. One of the things I realized when writing the book was that business people no longer read business books. They buy them… Yes, but only read what’s written on the back – then they store it in their library. That’s the reason why I’ve written the book as a novel – one giant (and hopefully fascinating) story… So that it doesn’t feel like a working book but like a book where you relax at the same time as learn».
What is your most satisfying success and, on the other hand, your most educational failure?
«On a personal note I love to see how the techniques of Small Data has helped turn around hundreds of companies around the world. Just recently a store manager from Lowes (a supermarket chain in the U.S.) reached out to me and said – our work had changed his life. He now enjoyed going to work again – after 26 years of depression. It is also – always great – to catch up with students whom wrote their thesis on one of my books – and later on choose carrier based on my thinking.
On the negative side – oh wow – there’s a ton of these – like when I by mistake managed to upset 100,000 LEGO fans by sending out a Christmas message via email – unknowing (back then – some 25 years ago) that not everyone share the same religion. Or when I invented the next generation of McDonald’s happy meal – a great idea – yet an idea which failed because i didn’t understand the essence of corporate politics. It is my failures I learn from the most – and yes I’ve made of lot of them over the years».
Can you tell us a book, a movie and an artwork you really are grateful for? And why?
«Well I don’t read books – simply because I’m afraid of copying other authors – so can’t help you here. But I do love Michelangelo, not only his ability to capture a mood and a message but also his ability to infuse symbols into his art, his ability to tell stories and his ability to… Well I guess… Build his own brand – still lasting today almost 500 years later».
Italian version here.
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Martin Lindstrom is an international speaker, business consultant for Lego, Red Bull, Nestlé, Walt Disney, American Express, PepsiCo, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble. As a master in Branding he wrote 8 best sellers in New York Time’s chart (translated into 50 languages). We canl list Small DATA, Buyology, Brandwashed, BrandSense. For magazine TIME is one of the 100 more important people in the world.