If you’re like four in five others who took on some New Years’ resolutions at the beginning of 2021, you’ve given up on them by now

Oscar Wilde once wrote that “Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”

He would not be surprised that research indicates that 80% of New Years’ resolutions fail.  Apparently, our good will didn’t get the memo.

Behavioural Economics has exploded onto the marketing scene in recent times and one of its most powerful insights has been one of Darwin’s simplest: that life is graded on the curve.  There are two axes at play: ancient evolution (call it intuition) and human evolution (call it rationality).  They are more colloquially known as lizard and monkey brain.

Every time we aspire to a new goal, we set these two axes off in a war against each other.  The impulse of the ancient evolution part of us has the best of intentions, but it hasn’t been changing in response to its new environment in a timely manner (e.g. with more granularity than a 200,000 year increment).  That job has been left to our prefrontal cortex which is the new kid on the block and the seat of rationality.

Old brain wants sugary treats because energy is survival, and new brain knows that that gives us diabetes.  The part of our brain that has been evolving over the last handful of generations is fighting the part of our brain that has evolved over the past few hundred million years.  That anyone succeeds at new year’s resolutions is a remarkable testimony to consciousness, but that’s a story for another day.

What Behavioural Economics has framed beautifully (as opposed to dismally) is the impact of this evolutionary story on our current condition.  We are imbued with a bunch of features that explain a lot of what we do and why we do it.

At TLF we observed that this train of thought seemed to stop at the species level, and didn’t go into, say, buyers of brand A vs buyers of brand B.  In other words, there wasn’t insight around the tails of the bell curve.  Who were these pioneers and laggards?  Why were they different?  Did they have more, or less success in modern life?

Bad habits are universally more enjoyable than good ones.  And thinking is exhausting compared to acting on impulses.  But, while people are generally overly optimistic about their sense of control, how do we differ on that, and what does it tell us about ourselves and our behaviours?

Just like brain damaged patients tell Psychologists aa lot about the average punter, so too does segmentation of evolutionary traits tell us much about the consumer.

So, in 2020, TLF turned over a new leaf, and looked into the process of human thought, as opposed to the content of human thought.  We wanted to understand why people do what they do, and not just what they do.

We observed that concepts in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) (not to be mistaken for natural language processing) mirrored the big ideas in behavioural economics, such that we could start to look at the bell curve of human behaviour in more detail.

We found some fascinating insights.  While Behavioural Economics tells us that we are risk averse, almost half of all Australians have a strong ‘towards’ orientation, going after things rather than avoiding things in their view.  Fear might be a powerful motivator, but it only appeals to the old brain.  Fear with a direction appeals to both the new and old brains.  You’ve heard of loss aversion, but have you heard of regret aversion?

While we have been evolving away (or towards) over the last 200,000 years, our new brain has developed software to help it manage the old brain.  You can turn this software off with enough gins, but you can also measure it, so that is what we did.

Our Mind Goggles, as we fondly refer to them, has given us an ability to look into the working of the mind regardless of the content of the mind, so it is applicable to all contexts.  That’s handy, because consumers, unlike brands, move around in all contexts.  Age is valuable demographic information to marketers, and market researchers make it even cooler by calling it generation; but understanding trajectory rather than good old generation is pure gold.  It doesn’t matter how old somebody is, it matters how they frame it.  Or as George Burns once said “Young.  Old.  Just words.”.

Mind Goggles gives our clients the ability to use the language that resonates with their consumers.  Both subconsciously and consciously (their language of thought and their language of speaking).

Just like neuro-linguistic programming and behavioural economic principles have been used to great success in improving the outcome of new years’ resolutions (effectively changing a 20% failure rate into an 80% success rate), so too has the potential of Mind Goggles to translate into business success by using the very same principles.

By Rob MacDougall
Chief Executive Officer
Asia Pacific Region
TLF Research Pty Ltd

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