Check Your Thinking

A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Quick – what’s your answer? Did you say 10 cents? Well if you did, then you are wrong. The correct answer is 5 cents. You would have naturally come to the correct answer in time if you would have allowed your other way of thinking to kick in.

In 2008, two professors from University of Chicago published a book called Nudge. The premise of the book was how to design and ultimately influence people’s choices – ideally for the better. They studied the way we make decisions about our health, saving money and generally being happier. As background, they discussed several factors that naturally introduce bias into our decision making process.

One of these factors is what is referred to as what system we are thinking with. Generally we operate between 2 systems of thinking. Our Automatic System, or gut reaction, can usually be described as uncontrolled, effortless, associative, fast, unconscious and skilled. Chances are you probably used your Automatic system to answer the bat and ball question. Our other system, the Reflective System can be referred to as our conscious thought. The Reflective System is controlled, effortful, deductive, slow, self-aware and rule-following. Had you taken the time to “reflect” more on the question, you probably would have gotten the answer right.

In marketing, you can leverage the automatic system to help make the right first impression. Think about the words, how and where they are placed. Visually, there are biases in our perception, as well. Take a quick look at the St. Louis Arch. Is it taller or wider? Most people think it is taller. In reality, it is exactly as tall as it is wide. Our mind perceives vertical lines to be longer than horizontal ones.

So next time you are working on the new campaign or batch of re-targeting ads, consider not only what you say, but how you say it. Done correctly, you can positively take advantage of the automatic system to drive up the awareness, turn awareness to interest, and then unleash all that great sales collateral when their reflective system kicks in and someone raises their hand.