Gaining competitive advantage through targeting customers’ cognitive and behavioural response – Part 1


Hitesh Chawla

April 4, 2015

Ever wondered what makes a product successful? Is it the value proposition or perhaps sheer demand? Is it product design or advertising? Actually, it’s a bit of all this and more. As customers evolve, the competing brands are forced to develop compelling value propositions and effective marketing strategies.

Design thinking has come to be defined as combining empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analysing and fitting various solutions to the problem context (Creative Confidence). There are many examples of big companies like Apple and Google that use design thinking in their day-to-day operations. Design thinking can (and does) work for all types of organisations, big or small. Before diving into the impact of product design and placement on customer engagement, let us take a step back and understand the Neuromarketing concept in brief.


The term neuromarketing refers to the use of modern brain science to measure the impact of marketing and advertising on consumers. Neuromarketing techniques are based on scientific principles about how we really think and decide, which involves brain processes that our conscious minds aren’t aware of. When combined with sound experimental designs and procedures, these new techniques provide insights into consumer decisions and actions that are invisible to traditional market research methodologies. The six major areas where neuromarketing is being used today are product design and innovation, advertising, shopper decision making, customer experiences and branding.

Product Design

Design thinking should be at the core of development of strategy and organisational change in order to create a culture that is focused on this way of solving problems. This way of thinking can be applied to products, services, and processes; in short, anything that needs to be improved.

Product design is not just about creating something, it is about embedding people’s expectations into designing and making innovative new products to be sold to customers. Ask Apple followers why they love their iPhones/iPads and they will answer design, convenience, versatility etc. However, most tablet vendors focusing on similar products traits are not equally successful in the consumer market. Consumer buying decisions are made based on emotional associations with the brand, other users, memories, ergonomics and other human factors that they are not even aware of. For instance an iPhone, since its launch, had curved edges. Our brain loves curves because they signal lack of threat; and execrates sharp edges, which sets off an avoidance response in our subconscious. We also like how it feels, how sleek and well balanced it is. The way a product feels in our hands can be a major selling point. Design thinking shouldn’t stop at just product design, but extend to product packaging as well.

Curves are only one reason for the iPhone’s success, other factors like strategic advertising also contribute to its sale.

Product Placement

Product placement is a common trend in advertising that makes it more subtle. The trick is to move away from in-your-face ads, where the product is the star, to movies or serials that feature “real-life scenarios” with the product(s) hovering in the background. For instance Jack Bauer and his team of the “good guys” would use Apple products whereas the “bad guys” would use Windows and other PCs. Another example is Microsoft’s product placements (Microsoft Press Books, Xbox, and Windows 7) in The Big Bang Theory. 

Image credits [Clockwise from TL]: House of Cards, Up All Night, 30 Rock, House, The Big Bang Theory and The Forgotten

One way to measure product placement is to measure the economic effects it has on a certain product or, in particular, how product placement affects the stock price of a company. It has been found that companies that place products in upcoming box office movies tend to have an increase in stock price starting 10 days before the movie’s release and lasting for three weeks after the movie release (American Marketing Association). Product placement is also measured through implicit memory, namely, to see if participants choose a certain product over other products after seeing a product placement. For instance, a researcher group had children view the movie Home Alone, which featured the cola drink Pepsi. After viewing the movie, kids were asked to grab a drink before the interview began. Ultimately, the children chose Pepsi, which shows that the placement had an impact on their implicit memory (Psychology & Marketing). A third way to measure product placement is by measuring one’s explicit memory. A common method of measuring explicit memory is product recall, where an experimenter asks a participant what brands he or she can remember from a film.

Conversion to will

“Good design means that beauty and usability are in balance, an object that is beautiful to the core is no better than one that is only pretty if they both lack usability” says Don Norman, vice president of advanced technology at Apple from 1993 to 1998. Norman cites research in cognitive science suggesting that people’s emotions affect the way their minds process information. In his 2004 book Emotional Design, he writes, “Positive emotions are critical to learning, curiosity, and creative thought. This aptly applies to product design and media advertising.

Note: This is the personal view of the author and does not reflect the views of Capgemini or its affiliates. Check out the full article here.



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