If you’ve ever visited a circus, you’ve probably noticed elephants who are tied to a small pile nailed to the ground.
You most probably didn’t pay much attention or thought that it was a long stake going deeply into the ground. Otherwise, how could such a piece of wood hold such a big and powerful animal? With one single tug they could pull up that stake in the ground and just walk away. Why don’t they do that?
As strange as this example may sound, it manages to uniquely explain human behaviour. Not just how we buy, but more generally how we decide or better, how we think we decide. The elephant is tied to this stake as soon as it is born, when it is still too small to pull it out and escape. Growing up, the elephant quits on trying and even thinking about it. It takes for granted that it is trapped. In other words, what keeps the elephant is not the stake but the habit.
Something similar happens to people too. Our past experiences define more than anything else our future ones. Reconsidering everything from the beginning would not only be very tedious but also inconvenient. “Since I’ve been doing this up to now, it must be right”. That’s how the unconscious part of our brain reacts (System 1 that we mentioned in previous stories), further enhancing our habits.
In reality, we think much less than we think we think. Most, if not all, of the decisions we make every day, are not real decisions but rather “automatic behaviours” that are based mostly on our habit and depend on the context, what others are doing around us, and how we feel at that moment, without even realizing it. And guess where we use our logic. To just rationalize our instinctive decisions!
Traditionally, marketing aims at “logic”, trying to influence our attitude towards a brand in order to later change our behaviour, when it should do exactly the opposite. Instead of trying to convince people about your product’s superiority, focus on things that unconsciously affect their buying behaviour and their attitudes will be shaped accordingly. No one was born with a positive predisposition towards alcohol, spicy food or cigarettes. We trained ourselves to like them because we wanted to continue consuming them!