But we know that
“We don’t know about most of what we know that we actually know it. Usually, we seem to be taking our actions consciously, but it’s an illusion.” Daniel Wegner
These words were quoted by Gerard Zaltman in his book “How Customers Think”, in which he questioned the thesis that people think consciously. In his opinion, the opposite is true; most of the thoughts take place without our knowledge and even conscious thoughts come from an earlier unconscious process. This should be borne in mind when learning about the needs of potential customers.
Some could say: “That’s supposed to be a discovery?!”. After all, this knowledge is now widespread among people who create advertising messages and design interfaces. Indeed, but to know isn’t the same as to be fully aware and to apply in practice.
It’s not so simple
Since most thought processes take place in the unconscious, one doesn’t fully understand the motives of one’s own behavior and isn’t able to analyze them. Let alone, if someone from outside tries to tackle it, who, if one wants to know the needs, the way of thinking and perception of the consumer’s world, must try to reach the world of his unconscious thoughts and feelings, which are, after all, the driving force behind most human behaviors.
The understanding of consumers’ thoughts based solely on their behavior and statements is insufficient, and it must be assumed that there may be large discrepancies between the declared and the actual needs. This is confirmed by neuromarketing studies, which use methods based on observation of the activated areas of the brain.
Appearances can be deceptive
One such study (described by Magdalena Jagielska in her article entitled “Romeo Drinks Zero, Juliet — Light”) examined people’s responses to the commercial for Pronto cleaners. The woman shown in it’s a traditional housewife, tidy and smiling, for whom cleaning seems to be a pleasure, especially if she uses Pronto.
How did the men respond?
They didn’t show any satisfaction while watching the commercial. However, as the EEG record of men’s emotional responses shows, their real feelings were quite different. The sight of the cleaning woman caused them positive emotions.
Where does this discrepancy come from? Apparently, they preferred not to show that they could enjoy looking at the lady of the house, bustling around. Why? They probably didn’t want to admit to stereotypical thinking about dividing the duties into male and female ones. It’s not modern, after all, and they, as modern progressive men, support the equality of women and promote the fair sharing of responsibilities.
How did the women respond?
From the very beginning, one could notice their dissatisfaction. These negative emotions could also be read from the EEG. It’s surprising — after all, women’s reaction to the advertising of a product which can make cleaning easier for them and which makes a house shine and clean should be positive. Meanwhile, it was the other way around. Why? In order to explain this, another study was carried out, measuring the responses of women of different ages.
Different experiences — different responds
Research has shown that advertising aroused negative emotions in mature women, while female students usually perceived advertising positively. It’s likely that such reactions are due to different experiences with age. Younger women participating in the study certainly have less experience with running a household, so they don’t associate it with effort or monotony. That’s why it’s easier to convince them to buy Pronto products, thanks to which cleaning can seem extremely easy or even quite pleasant. For mature women, on the other hand, the sight of a cleaner housewife is not necessarily to their liking, even if they are offered a wonderful solution. Perhaps the memory of cleaning evokes the formation of negative somatic markers in them.
The pitfall of self-gratification
It’s not easy to read the real opinions and feelings of consumers, and those declared or presented by them (as research has shown) often turn out to be untrue. If we take another fact confirmed by Zaltman into consideration, that people don’t think in words but in pictures and aren’t able to express their thoughts verbally, the matter seems even more difficult. All the more so because it is easy to fall into the pitfall of self-gratification, as Zaltman puts it, “to love oneself and one’s own thoughts”, creating an inappropriate picture of consumer behavior. This danger threatens not only those who create advertising messages but also all those involved in designing for users.
You’ve completed many successful projects, you’ve had many successes, you’ve gained solid knowledge, your boss appreciates you and, in addition, not many people like their work as much as you do… and “you fell in love with yourself”, you’ve fallen into the trap of self-adoration completely unconsciously. And so it doesn’t come to your mind that something that is obvious, simple, and perfect for you, doesn’t need to be so for the recipient at all. What has worked in one case doesn’t necessarily work in another, intuition can let you down, and the routine, stereotypes and perception of users through the prism of only their own knowledge and experience can lead you astray.
Designing requires a lot of humility. Whoever forgets this will sooner or later get burned.
Suppose you have not forgotten. You are humble, you know that you cannot be complacent, you have to do research and you have to try to get to know the real needs of the users. You know all this, but in general, you don’t design for yourself, but for a particular client. This is where the next problem often arises. Because it seems that the Principal knows everything about his clients and expects you, a professional, to design a good product without unnecessary (read: expensive and time-consuming) research and analyses of users’ needs. What happens then? Then you’ll certainly have some hard time, because, on the one hand, you know that you’re right and to create something valuable, you have to force your way through and, on the other hand, you cannot act completely against the will and taste of the Principal. Besides, you should humbly assume that he/she may be right as well. In such a situation, it’s worthwhile to try to negotiate. Good luck.