How People Choose, Look Back. A Long, Long Way Back

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As marketers we get obsessed with what’s happening next.  What technology is going to drive engagement over the next six months?  What’s going to win — Periscope or Meerkat (that one seems to have been decided already)? What meme is going to blow up in pop culture and spawn a slew of imitators?

While all of this may be important, in my book The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumers’ Instincts I argue that our obsession with what is next means that we don’t focus enough on what we are learning about how a rather older force, human nature, drives people’s choices.

Whenever I talk at tech conferences I start out by saying “Most of the people talking at this conference are here to tell you about what will happen in the next six months. I’m here to remind you what has happened in the last six million years.”

In The Business of Choice I explain the importance of understanding the decision making shortcuts that that have evolved over millions of years to become hard-wired human instincts.  These shortcuts have driven the choices that have allowed us to thrive and survive as a species and are the bedrock of how people make choices today.

At the end of each chapter of the book, I summarize the key pointers for marketers.  This is the summary for Chapter 3, The Natural History of Choice…

  • The brain that guides our decisions today has its roots in the brains of hominids that lived five or six million years ago. Human nature has a very long history, and isn’t changing anytime soon!
  • Our decision-making systems have helped humans make the choices that have let us survive and thrive as a species. When thinking about how to get your brand chosen, remember to align it to human nature, and how humans have evolved to choose.
  • The best marketing and advertising have hooks that appeal to human nature. Think about this and try to identify them when you see ads you like. How are you incorporating an understanding of human nature in your own marketing?

As one of the reviewers of the book put it

As marketers we are so wrapped up in the minutiae of the day-to-day competitive bustle that we rarely get our heads up enough to think about the deep human truths that have driven behavior not just over years and generations, but for millions of years. Get that right for your brand and the chances are you will be tapping into something truly fundamental.

And long lasting.  Because as I’ve said before, human nature isn’t changing anytime soon…

Matthew Willcox is Executive Director at the Institute of Decision Making at FCB, and author of “The Business of Choice: Marketing to Consumers’ Instincts”, published by Pearson FT Press and available on Amazon http://amzn.to/1B4ENam