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Make the Most of Your Implicit Research with System 1 & 2 Thinking

October 26, 2020

Imagine walking through the cereal aisle, faced with what seems like a hundred brands to choose from. Which one do you gravitate to and why? Of course, shelf placement & price play a role, but there are also underlying perceptions and gut intuitions pulling you to put a particular box in your cart. How did you come to develop these instincts about the brand you chose? How did the brand’s marketing work to create the associations you have about that product—be it healthy, classic, or fun?

Understanding how advertising influences consumers’ “autopilot” feelings about brands has become critical to savvy marketers. Ever since the 2010 publication of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, marketers have been incorporating Dual System Theory into their advertising. Dual System Theory frames consumers’ cognitive processes in terms of System 1 (our fast, automatic thinking mode that is driven by instinct) and System 2 (our deliberate reasoning and analysis functions) thinking.

However, incorporating implicit System 1 measurement into the ad lifecycle is a work in progress for many organizations. There are key obstacles, especially in the age of COVID, that must be overcome in order to fully and properly integrate implicit techniques into advertising measurement platforms.

The experts at Phoenix recommend three methods to enhance advertising measurement plans and make the best use of implicit research:

Recognize that Systems 1 and 2 work in tandem

It can be tempting to view the two in a hierarchical manner, leading to the prioritization of System 1 over System 2. However, in reality, the systems are complementary and should be treated as such. We make decisions based on rational thought (where we compare costs), as well as emotional instinct (where we just reach for the product). The best measurement plans will include KPIs on both fronts, and interpret them together & in the context of one another instead of in isolation.

Emphasize in-market & real-world measurement

Most implicit research is done only in the pre-market phase, without follow-up or continuation of insights gathering to fully understand what is happening in the real world. Yet once an ad takes flight, there are so many factors that can influence how well it meets your brand objectives, ranging from competitive messaging to industry trends.

For example, an ad designed to make viewers feel nostalgic and loyal may end up instead leading viewers to think of the brand as old news—especially if they are being inundated with competitive ads hawking more innovative products. Knowing exactly how well your ad ties back to your brand goals and the creative brief (and where it maybe went off course) is critical to ensuring that you build and sustain the right perceptions about your brand.

Consider practical ways to conduct System 1 research during a pandemic

Amid the continuing effects of COVID-19, consider System 1 methods that can be done remotely, such as semantic priming testing, to understand whether your ad is truly influencing consumers in the way you want. Semantic priming testing, which involves measuring a consumer’s reaction time in milliseconds to gain insight on the association strength between a brand and concept, can be easily done in a cost-efficient way at various stages throughout the ad lifecycle, enabling seamless and flexible System 1 measurement. Facial coding and eye tracking can also provide second-by-second insights into how consumers process your ads.

System 1 testing is most valuable when combined and understood within a process that combines it with System 2. Both systems are independently important, and using pragmatic methods to evaluate the two together, they can provide the deepest and most well-rounded understanding of how your campaign is truly performing—and how to make it even better next time.

Phoenix Marketing International is uniquely positioned to help clients make decisions across the advertising lifecycle–from strategic planning to creative development to in-market measurement. Our integrated AdPi/Brand Effect platform leverages both system 1 and system 2 methodologies and enables our clients to drive their brand’s communication strategy to its full potential.

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