Sunday Musings – The Subconscious Mind of the Customer: The model formally known as search

Our brains are the most powerful “computers” on earth.  We store memories from childhood onward that stick with us for the rest of our lives.  We create habits that shape how we think for decade after decade.  We’re exposed to thousands upon thousands of images, articles and ads every day that refine how we think.   Our brains are always on and they are capturing far more information than we realize.

We create our subconscious mind for our entire lifetime.  It drives our intuition.  It helps us form our immediate first impression.  It causes us to flinch or laugh immediately.  Our subconscious drives more of our decisions than we truly appreciate.  It is the best partner of our conscious mind.

Of course, we don’t often appreciate this as intensely as we should in the marketing world.

We often ask questions of our potential customers, which means that short-term memory kicks in and we can only remember an average of 3-7 items per topic.  So, our life’s knowledge reservoir remains largely untapped.

We monitor conversations of our customers to judge how they view our brands, yet 90% of us don’t engage in writing content or speaking online on a regular basis.  We are really analyzing the 1% and the 9% who do shape the market, but don’t represent the total market.

Too often, we focus on the conscious mind and forget the subconscious aspects of reaching our customers effectively.

The cynic might say “yeah, but if we really know exactly what everyone is saying, we basically know all we need to”.   My simple response is the following: “Would you mind sharing all of your political, religious, familial and other personal updates on all social channels every day?  If you have any health questions or issues, could you share those with us also?”  All of us know we don’t do that.  We ask our “friends” at Google or Bing to help us out in private.

In the future, we’ll think of search as not a tool to just reach people who ask questions, but as a body of evidence that shows exactly what the subconscious mind is of a customer or a market segment or even an industry.

It sounds daunting, but it isn’t that bad at all due to the simple fact that human beings always follow predictable patterns.  When it comes to queries, you can usually focus on about 100-150 queries made for any topic, look at as many screens as you like (let’s say 10) per query and then analyze this body of content to come up with a gold mine of insights.

We can see which outlets matter and why.  We can see which people and organizations drive the SEO experience.  We can see which topics are trending well before they make a difference in the mainstream.  And more.

We are basically peering into the subconscious mind of our customer.  If we look close enough, we can find new answers and see what’s next a tiny bit earlier than our peers.

The result is that “search” is really about to become (Re)Search and it will lead to a series of new models that improve media relations, issues management, media planning, trend analysis, competitive intelligence and, of course, search itself.

My colleague, Alan Garcia, is pioneering a new suite of models that can address many of the core customer experience issues raised for years by luminaries such as Pete Blackshaw, start to build new media efficiency models that will make it far more clear where waste exists for advertisers and it will make it easier for all of us to create solutions that represent the whole brains of customers.

It also means we need to stop thinking of search in the way we’ve been taught and start thinking of search as a gold mine of customer experience and a way to increase our knowledge base.

In Prince’s case, he changed his name to disassociate himself from his record label.  In this case, we just need to stop pigeon-holing search as “one tool in the toolbox” and realize it is a Permian Basin of insights ready to tap into.

Will be fun.  More in posts ahead.

PS/Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers out there.  Make sure you thank the Mothers and Grandparents who make it possible to be a decent Father.

Bob Pearson
Bob Pearson

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