Understand Both What Consumers Say and What Can’t Be Put Into Words

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Brands today need to take advantage of every possible tool to create more meaningful connections with their consumers. One approach that has garnered increasing attention among market researchers is behavioral science. From headlines to conferences and client presentations, behavioral techniques are on the tip of many tongues and for good reason. Some of the most powerful truths are unspoken ones — things that consumers don’t always recognize or have the ability to put into words. And these can be important for brands to know about, address, and fulfill.

Research infused with behavioral approaches can provide ways to uncover and understand reactions, perceptions, and decisions that are the results of implicit or “gut” responses. These are consumers’ automatic responses and reactions. Understanding them helps to provide a more complete picture of the consumer. That’s why we at Insight Strategy Group (ISG) apply behavioral science techniques as part of our social science approach to consumer insights.

Founded by experts in the psychology of decision-making, ISG has always sought to paint a more accurate and detailed picture of consumer motivations. To do that, we ask, “Where do consumer truths live?” The answer is that they live at both conscious and unconscious levels — in what is reasoned and rationalized and what is automatic and intuitive. We analyze how consumers’ lives are shaped by social dynamics and overarching cultural narratives. We listen to and decode how those influences are interpreted by consumers themselves and how they shape stated preferences and practices. At the same time, we look for, study, and analyze unstated beliefs and behaviors.

To probe deeply into what the consumer thinks, feels, and does, we apply a range of methods to capture behavioral science insights. “Naturalistic” methods, such as social media analytics and ethnographic observation, are valuable for identifying how people act unprompted in their own environment. “Structured” approaches — like eye-tracking, facial sentiment coding, and experimental design — enable more control-driven analysis. Regardless of the specific method, the aim is always to detect and analyze the unconscious mind and uncover unspoken drivers.

Using behavioral science techniques along with social science approach graphic

Of course, humans are not machines whose internal “code” can be simply read and deciphered. That’s why it’s important to look at both what people say and what they are unable to articulate. Behavioral science approaches help to provide a truly comprehensive picture of consumers.

 

We use a behavioral lens to get to the full truth:

  • Stated information is critical because it helps us understand how people think about themselves and their identities. However, by definition, these are logical and rationalized responses. Sometimes people behave irrationally, and behavioral science helps us identify those moments and explain them.
  • Emotion sometimes looks different when it’s happening in the moment. In hindsight, memories may become clouded, or subsequent events may affect how a certain instance is perceived. Behavioral approaches can take stock of an event as it’s happening and compare it with stated information later on.
  • When people talk about what they do, they focus on the moments that stand out to them. But when it comes to the least “interesting” parts of their day, habits, and routines, it can be difficult for respondents to explain what they’re doing and why.
  • Sometimes, the most important information is the quietest. Behavioral perspectives help us pick up on subtleties that may not register in a self-report.

These are just a few of the reasons why ISG believes that it’s important to examine both conscious and unconscious minds. As experts in social and behavioral science, our team makes the most of all research methods to uncover a deeper, holistic understanding of consumer preferences, needs, and motivations.

We’d love to share more about how our unique expertise and solutions can help your business move forward. Drop us a line here.

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