marketing mind

The Role of the Mind

I have just finished reading “Trout Strategy” by Jack Trout, his main message is about conquering the marketplace, however, I was drawn more to the chapters dealing with the role of the mind when buying, selling, advertising and marketing. I’m sure you will find it of interest too.



The human mind is a lot like a computer, it has a slot or a memory bank for each bit of information it chooses to retain. There is one major difference – the computer has to accept the information you put in. The human mind will only accept information that matches its current state of mind. If it doesn’t match, it will be discarded.

In our information-saturated society, the human mind is a totally inadequate container. Harvard studies show that the average human mind cannot deal with more than seven units at a time, which is why seven is a popular number for lists that have to be remembered.

To cope with the explosion of choice, people have learned to rank products and brands in the  mind, creating a series of mind ladders. On each step is a brand name. Some ladders have many steps, some ladders only a few. If you want to increase your market share, you need to move up
the ladder.



Human beings rely on learning more than any other species on the planet. Learning is the way we acquire information, and memory is the way we retain that information over time. Memory is more than just the ability to remember a phone number, your name or address. It’s a dynamic system that is used in every other thought process – from sight, to understanding language, communication and navigation. So what is the key to being remembered?

In a world where complexity is spiraling out of control, the way to be remembered is to keep things simple. Many products have failed because they attempted to do everything and became too complicated for the mind to remember. The human mind resists the complex and
cherishes the simple.



The human mind tends to be emotional rather than rational. People rarely know why they buy what they do – so why ask them? Experience shows that people buy what they think they should have. They ask others for their opinions and follow the herd. They assume that if they are
doing what others are doing, it must be the right thing.

Minds are insecure for many reasons, and one of the main reasons is perceived risk. To deal with uncertainty, people often look to others to help them decide how to act. That’s why testimonials are one of the oldest devices in advertising. They attack the insecure mind on several fronts – vanity, jealousy and the fear of being left out.

Trying to create a “bandwagon” effect is also a clever strategy for dealing with the insecure mind. This creates a perception that a product is the fastest-growing or largest selling. It shows that others obviously think the product is good.



The marketing industry has long worked on the assumption that new-product advertising should generate higher interest than advertising for established brands. But in fact we are more impressed by what we already know or buy than by what’s new.

Human beings’ innate resistance to change is the most difficult part of reengineering. Changing attitudes and basic beliefs is extremely difficult.

However, having said that, being first on the market with a new idea or product gives you an edge.

Minds don’t like change, so if your product is the first of its kind, when your competitors copy you – and they will – all they will be doing is reinforcing your idea. It’s easier to get in first than it is to convince someone you have a better product than the one that was first.

Harvard was America’s first college and it still has a reputation for being the best. Time magazine still leads over Newsweek, Xerox is the leading copier, and Evian was the first mineral water. These companies get a special status in our minds because they were the first.



In the old days, big brands were clearly perceived by their customers. The mind had a very clear picture of what its favourite brands were about. But then brands began to flood the market with new product lines – instead of just beer, there was regular, light, draft, clear, cold-brewed and
ice-brewed beers.

Loss of focus can easily occur through product line extension. To gain cost effectiveness and trade acceptance, companies will turn a highly focused brand into a fuzzy brand representing two or three or more types of products or ideas. In this environment, the specialist, or the well focused
competitor has a definite advantage.

The specialist can focus on just one product, one benefit, and one message. Marketing can put a sharp point on the message that drives it into the mind. The secret weapon of
the specialist is to be perceived as the best, the expert.

Making the brand name a generic is the ultimate weapon in the marketing wars. Xerox became a generic word for photocopying, FedEx for overnight delivery, Scotch tape for sticky tape. Only a specialist can become a generic in its category. A generalist can’t become a generic in the
mind of the customer.

Posted in Brain Health, Change, Thinking and tagged , , , , , , , .

Anne McKeown