The Non-conscious Brain – Why Adcepts are better than Concept Statements

Recent advances in neuroscience tell us that at least 90% of the decisions we make are made non-consciously. This is what Nobel Prize winning academic & author Daniel Kahneman calls ‘system 1 thinking’ – thinking that even the individual him or herself is totally unaware of. We make instant decisions using our emotional brains based upon past experiences and associations between what is currently before us and connections in our often non-conscious memory. Our brains evolved this way to conserve energy for conscious thought – the logical, self-aware analytical thinking that needed to be rationed for important matters, known as ‘System 2’ thinking. Our emotional brain has far greater capacity than our conscious brain, operates much faster and never shuts down or tires. Without it, our System 2 brain would be overwhelmed and incapable of functioning. And it is our System 1 brain that makes the vast majority of buying decisions and shapes our feelings about new and existing brands. So why does current qualitative research stimulus – the concept statement – completely ignore the System 1 brain?

Concept statements are simple unemotional descriptions of a possible new brand or brand positioning, stating what the brand does with a reason/s to believe that it does it better than the competition. These are typically shown to focus group participants on boards, often supported by mood boards to give some visual feeling for an idea area. Unfortunately concept statements fail to engage our non-conscious System 1 brains for the following reasons:

1) They are unfamiliar – focus group members are unlikely to have ever seen a concept statement before and our System 1 brains treat novelty with suspicion.
2) Logical arguments create suspicion – our non-conscious minds have been shown to react defensively to being told about something new and set up barriers to protect against salesmanship.
3) They are unemotional – concept statements are deliberately factual and devoid of emotion, the very opposite of how our System 1 brains work.
4) They separate the written from the visual – the non-conscious brain cannot connect the ideas on separate boards, in separate fields of vision.

Not only do concept statements fail to engage our emotional brains, they actively set up suspicions and barriers. Fortunately, there is a better way…

B7 Innovation has developed an Adcept methodology which engages the non-conscious System 1 brain to help develop more effective positioning and communication start points for new and existing brands in the real world. Below are some of the advantages of Adcepts versus concept statements when trying to uncover System 1 thinking:

1) Adcepts are familiar. They are in the everyday language of brands – advertising – so are easily understood and not treated as new and suspicious.
2) Adcepts are emotional – they express personality from humorous to authoritative and provoke an instinctive emotional reaction.
3) Adcepts combine the verbal and visual into one holistic idea so the brain can react to all the elements of the stimulus at the same time.
4) Adcepts have the right blend of familiarity and novelty to engage our emotional brains – the advertising format is familiar, but the idea expressed is novel. Research shows that we are attracted to novelty, but suspicious of it. Adcepts are in that ‘Goldilocks’ area of being sufficiently new to be interesting, but not so different as to be off-putting.
5) We ask focus group participants to quickly scan the 80 Adcepts we typically produce for research and note the ones they like most, without thinking particularly about why they appeal. This means we get a quick emotional reaction to the Adcepts, before the favourite ones are discussed in a more system 2, analytical way by the group.

Adcepts are far better at uncovering areas that appeal to the crucial emotional brain than are concept statements. They are also more effective at uncovering the System 2 thinking which is also vitally important to the success of an innovation. Because of this, B7’s Paul Tidmarsh believes that B7 clients get feedback that is much more accurate and holistic than traditional qualitative research stimulus can provide.

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