One of the joys of a home office is that the commute time is pretty short – I estimate 65 yards from breakfast to the desk. My preferred option is to get straight into my work for the day – not because I’m one of these incredibly driven types, it’s just that I find it’s one of my most productive times of the day.
However, with two young children there’s some healthy competition for my time. Today I opted for games before school, which meant a couple of games of table football with my son, one with both children and a game called Balloon Lagoon with my daughter. They headed off to school and I started my day a little later than usual, but still considerably earlier than if I was commuting somewhere.
It was whilst I was helping Martha put the Balloon Lagoon game away in the cupboard that I reflected on the packaging for children’s games.
There is, it seems, a fashion with some manufacturers, to put their games in the smallest box possible. Honestly, they must have CAD specialists and mathematicians working round the clock to figure out ways of getting X pieces of plastic and cardboard game components into the smallest conceivable box.
MB Games Mousetrap is hugely entertaining to play, but I can only get it back into the box properly afterwards if I treat putting it away as a Rubik-style puzzle all of it’s own! The children have no chance.
So, you might be wondering, what has all this got to do with worrying about the consumer’s unconscious mind.
Well, here’s the thing. All the evidence points to buying decisions being decisions being hugely influenced by unconscious elements; the apparently irrelevant artistic picture next to the product increasing perceptions of luxuriousness; the classical music playing causing customers to spend much more on wine than they otherwise would; and so on.
Every time I do battle with that Mousetrap box I spend far more time being irritated by their penny-pinching design, than I do being impressed that they managed to fit it into such a small space.
And don’t even think about mentioning Tomy’s Ali Baba! Once assembled it is totally impossible to close the box again, and I can’t believe it’s designed to be disassembled and reassembled each time – the plastic catches would soon snap.
And as I’m being irritated by the Mousetrap box and, now you’ve brought it up, the Ali Baba box too, what am I looking at? A bright colourful logo for either MB Games or Tomy.
Now my unconscious mind is filtering this out as largely irrelevant, but it’s still seeing it.
So when I’m standing in front of the games at the toy store and I’m weighing up how much fun any game might be, those same brand logos are there for my unconscious to detect. If the neural paths linking to that image include some negative associations (which they surely will, thanks to the clown who thought squeezing games into tiny boxes was worthwhile) that brand is disadvantaged.
I won’t necessarily stand there and think about the problem of getting a game back into the box, but I may feel slightly less inclined towards one game and falsely post-rationalise this as being because the game looks less entertaining.
I realise that saving costs is a sensible goal to pursue for any business. I can see that, with large volume products, a penny saved on a smaller cardboard box and the corresponding reduction in transportation costs can soon mount up to a worthwhile amount.
But it is important to understand consumer behaviour and, in particular, the role of the unconscious in consumer purchase decisions. That’s one of the reasons I wrote “The Secret of Selling: How to Sell to Your Customer’s Unconscious Mind”; it explains how apparently peripheral elements can have a profound impact on what customer’s actually do.
It’s always wise to try to see what you’re doing through the eye of your would-be consumer; but it’s even more important to see this through the eye of their unconscious mind.
consumer behaviour, Marketing