If you can’t feel it, you won’t do it: Fame, Feeling, Fluency.

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Whatever marketing principles you have held thus far, if you have not encountered System 1 thinking, and in particular Fame, Feeling & Fluency, please read on. This will change your thinking forever and open up a more simple and sustainable future of brand success!

Fame, Feeling & Fluency – the mental shortcuts that drive our System 1 decisions – are at the heart of successful marketing and profitable growth.

System 1 and System 2 are the two ways human beings make decisions. System 1 simplifies decisions and allows judgements to be made more quickly & easily. System 2 evaluates options more deliberately. But in most cases, the evaluation is little more than a rubber stamp: System 1 is so effective in simplifying decisions that no great consideration is needed. Daniel Kahneman pioneered much of the thinking, and his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ is a fabulous read. He calls System 2 the “lazy policeman†– it monitors System 1 decisions and has the authority to intervene, but seldom does, because it is effortful to do so. System 1 helps us to conserve energy and react to situations quickly and efficiently. System 2 decisions require far more effort, and ultimately are draining, so we depend on System 1 whenever possible. This covers the whole breadth of decisions we make every day, including of course what brands we buy!

Improving your brand’s performance on Fame, Feeling and Fluency will make it a faster, easier and more attractive choice for people.

So ….contrary to what we might think, on the whole people don’t evaluate options carefully, but instead rely on mental shortcuts – rules of thumb – to help them decide between options quickly and effortlessly. There are 3 key mental shortcuts that help people decide between brands. System 1 Group call them Fame, Feeling and Fluency. To our System 1 mind:

If a brand comes readily to mind, it is a good choice – Fame

If a brand feels good, it is a good choice – Feeling

If a brand is recognisable, it is a good choice – Fluency

These mental short cuts are what behavioural scientists call the ‘availability heuristic’, the ‘affect heuristic’ and the ‘processing fluency heuristic’.

Fluency – making the new feel familiar – is at the centre of innovation.

Feeling and Fluency – making emotional ads, and building in brand assets and Fluent Devices – are the engines of great communication.

And Fame, Feeling and Fluency – making your brand familiar, emotional and easy to process – are the keys to profitable growth for your brand and your business.

People rate brands they use as better on almost every attribute! ‘We like what we do’ rather than ‘we do what we like’! The idea that a brand succeeds through unique functional advantage is hugely overstated. Differentiation suggests an analytical comparison by customers and the involvement of System 2. Distinction suggests simple recognition and rapid processing, which is the domain of System 1. And it is System 1 that guides decisions. So, worry less about differentiation, and focus more on creation and nurturing of distinctive assets, which consumers immediately recognise. Recognition speeds decision.

Fluency = the speed and ease of processing information. If a brand is easily recognised and processed, to our System 1 minds, it ‘must be a good choice’. That hands a huge advantage to brands with distinctive logos, slogans, colour schemes, jingles, and other unique assets.

Fluent innovation finds a creative way to make the novel feel familiar. For fluent innovation, aim for surprisingly obvious. Delight, don’t disrupt.

Uber made getting into strangers’ cars normal by making it fluent, in two ways. First it called itself a “ride hailing†app, adopting the language of taxi services (while avoiding the regulatory issues that come from actually being one). Second, it gave people a sense of control and reassurance with its user-experience and reputation systems (the map with moving traffic) and e-commerce sites (user ratings), and incorporated them to make Uber seem far less risky and more fluent.

Feeling. Positive emotion is the driving force behind profitable advertising, particularly over the long term. The same applies for profitable brand growth in general. Advertising helps us feel good about the brand – and if a brand feels good to our System 1 minds it’s a good choice. Brand usage and experience, sponsorship and great advertising create these positive associations.

As Kahneman puts it, “The answer to a simple question – “how do I feel about it?†– is an excellent proxy for the answer to a more complex question – “what do I think about it?†Emotion guides and simplifies our decisions.

Fame, referred to by psychologists as the Availability Heuristic: The more readily a brand comes to mind in a decision context, the better a choice our System 1 assumes it to be. Fame is what gets a brand on to a person’s mental shortlist. Anyone buying a category fairly regularly has 3 or 4 brands on that category’s shortlist. So it is essential to get on to the short list. And so too is ensuring that the brand is available when people are making their choice, .i.e. mental availability and physical availability – is it distributed on the physical shelf, featured on the digital shelf.

Brands originated as markers of trust, designed to make decisions quicker and easier, not to initiate a complex comparison process. But even though every brand owner has read the studies showing how quickly decisions are made in store, and even though most of their own lives as consumers are governed by habit, there is still a temptation for marketeers to create complex constructs of brand image, personality and points of differentiation, and to believe that consumers crave meaning, interaction, and relationships with their brand. They like to see their brands as special and different. In fact our System 2 brain is drawn to simplicity and most successful brands play to that.

Stop wasting time & money on market research that encourages analytical appraisal. This is system 2, and most human decisions are not made that way. How long are your concepts, packed full of news and detail, that in real life consumers will not consider?! How long are your tracking questionnaires or advertising pre-testing questionnaires, that force consumers to think in System 2, which they are not going to do when they are making real life choices?! Start holistic system 1 testing, start pilot-&-learn, and most importantly base your marketing on Fame, Feeling & Fluency. To learn more please check out https://www.system1group.com

With thanks to John Kearon and his team for the inspiration to write this article.

Peter Soer
Peter Soer
Peter combines experience as a coach, marketing leader & someone who has faced the fear of being found out. He harnesses this experience with his natural optimism & determination, to help people thrive in their work and enjoy the life they want. To achieve our dreams, we have 2 resources, time and energy – so use them well.

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