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System 1 / System 2 and Market Research

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The need to look beyond what the consumer says has now been identified as one of the fundamental issues in marketing studies: a consensus has been established concerning the key role of emotions and unconscious reactions in decision-making.

The seminal work conducted by Antonio R. Damasio on this subject ("Descartes' error” – 1995) has been confirmed and complemented by recent developments in behavioural economics. Authors such as Dan Arriely (“Predictably Irrational” – 2010) and Daniel Kahneman (“Thinking, Fast and Slow” – 2010) have proved the lack of realism in the paradigm of the "homo economicus" in which it is assumed that as rational human beings we make choices with the sole aim of ensuring maximum individual utility while being fully aware of the offers available and remaining uninfluenced by the behaviour of our peers.  

The “system 1 / system 2” metaphor used by Daniel Kahneman provides a very effective description of the way our brain functions when faced with making a decision:

.System 1 is a function that is systematically and unconsciously deployed without requiring any particular effort (automatic pilot), and which enables us to answer a question such as "2+2= ?". This concerns the emotional register, that of the somatic markers which Damasio describes as being fashioned by instinct and experience.

.However, if we are asked to answer the question “235 + 4 195 = ?”, we need to activate system 2; this involves conscious thought which is slower and more costly in cognitive energy, hence our reluctance to deploy it. Daniel Kahneman evokes “our lazy system 2” (how many of you have made the effort of calculating 235+4195 ?) which nevertheless plays an essential role in validating or invalidating the choices made within system 1.

To better understand the consumer we need to understand these two systems. System 2, which is of the realm of rationalisation, may be approached via questioning, however, more generally the subject is unaware of the reactions involved in system 1 and will therefore not be able to accurately explain this process.

Qualitative studies, through their prospective nature, have always made it possible to look at what lies behind rational discourse. However, this represents a real challenge for quantitative studies, more limited to a traditional line of inquiry.   

At Repères we have positioned ourselves for several years within this field of investigation which attempts to gain access to the unconscious emotional side of the consumer and to quantify it, which has led us:

. to develop the method of Emotional Monitoring which, by using prospective tests administered to a large number of respondents, aims to determine the rich diversity of ties between a brand and a consumer.

. to conduct research on non-verbal communication (VideoEtude) applied to testing ideas or products, which enables us to explore another dimension of consumer reaction such as: what happens before the consumer expresses an opinion? Access to this new dimension provides an original source of information for discovering and testing the potential of products and services.

. and more recently, to complete our tool box by collaborating with Gaël Allain from the company Mémoire&Marketing, to include implicit tests within our service offering. The aim in this case is to measure the impact of a stimulus. What are the representations that are activated, consciously or unconsciously, following the perception of a stimulus? The principle of the implicit test is not to question the consumer but to measure the response time for performing a task such as recognising the word “desire” when seeing the logo of the BMW brand as compared with the response time for recognising the same word when seeing the logo of the Audi brand.   

Our first use of implicit tests was conducted by Pierrick Rivière at Danone Research on packaging tests, and was presented at the Printemps des Etudes in April 2012. You will find a version minus the Danone Research results and completed with results from a pilot study conducted by Repères on the relation between different competing brands and basic emotions (desire, joy, sadness, shame, mistrust…). In the two protocols the contribution provided by implicit information proved very rich and complementary to that obtained by explicit questioning.

Please contact us if you require a more detailed presentation of these different tools and results.

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