Marketing to the human mind

What if everything you did was based on a premise that you later learned was wrong?

Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling about marketing since I finished reading a book about the human mind.  I thought, “wow, that really changes how I understand the ways our minds work.”

And then it struck me: If marketing is “the battle for your mind” then we better have the right model of the how the mind works. But all of the marketing books, from “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” onward are based on an out-of-date model of our minds.

In other words, marketing has been waging a battle with a wrong map of the battlefield!

Here’s something to think about.  In the “Mind’s Eye”, the neurologist Oliver Sacks shares many stories that demonstrate the plasticity of the human brain.  By this he means that we use many different areas of our brains for even the most simple task.  This is the new model for our minds.

In the old model each part of the brain was hard-wired to specific tasks such as memory, taste, sight and so on.  That’s the battle plan of Positioning.

Oliver Sacks shares many examples of how in the last 20 years there has been a gigantic leap in our understanding of how our minds work.  New technologies such as the fMRI (functional MRI) make it possible to watch the insides of our minds as we react to pictures, words, movies, ads, sounds, scents.  This technology suddenly made it possible to follow what happens inside of our heads over time.   There is a tremendous amount of activity when we hear music we love, a photograph of close family members, or even go into the supermarket to buy food.   Much of this activity in our minds happens below the level of conscious perception for most people — and profoundly influences our behaviors.  Our memories change.  Our  “knowledge” changes.  Perception in our minds is like an explosion of fireworks filling the sky.

Sacks shows how old model no longer fits the actual evidence of how the brain works in the real world.  This new evidence is leading neurologists and cognitive neuroscientists to reinvent their understanding of how our mind works.  From a hard-wired model to a plasticity model.

Damn!  Marketing is using the wrong map of the battlefield (assuming we are still waging war for people’s minds).

If we reinvent our understanding of our minds, then we need to reinvent marketing.

Wow, Oliver Sacks really opened up my eyes.  Metaphorically speaking.


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