At the Marketing Science Conference earlier in the summer, Shaina and I took in the Neuromarketing session. The session was very good, with 3 really great presenters out of the 4.

I learned several important reasons why people make the choices they do. For instance, I saw it empirically proven that self-control is like a muscle: you can hold a certain pose for so long, and then that muscle gets fatiqued and weak. Then you can’t hold it for any longer and you break that pose. It’s a very attractive causal variable for periodic consumption and lapses in self-control. Prospection – the ability to think of the future – when combined with anchor-and-adjust tendencies, cause discount-rate curves to deviate from what classical-economists would predict. This has important implications for trial-bonus marketing.

So many breakthroughs in behavioral economics and marketing science are originating from neuroscience. It’s exciting.

Meanwhile, the great people over at Next Stage Evolution are making advancements in making neuromarketing accessible. You don’t need a degree in neuroscience to use their technology to make things better and get benefits.

Take for instance, web analytics. Right now, in a majority of fortune 500 and fortune 5,000,000 companies, managers and web analysts are making decisions on how to improve their site based on numbers most of them assume they really understand. In fact, it’s a relatively recent development that the Web Analytics Association has worked with vendors to really define what most of those numbers really mean. Among the most misunderstood include “unique visitor”, “time spent on site”, and the actual definition of what a “bounce rate” really is. It doesn’t matter. They don’t have to understand to know that more unique visitors is ‘good’, time spent on site is ‘interesting’, and a high ‘bounce rate’ is generally ‘bad’ – so long as there’s some baseline education and comfort.

You don’t have to understand how an airplane flies to be a passenger on one, no more than you need to know how a light bulb really works to derive benefit from it.

There’s always going to be skepticism and fear whenever a new technology comes about and it starts to be adopted. Electricity and soap were once feared. Flying was too. We’re starting to see some of that around web analytics this year.

That’s not to say that people who aren’t curious about how neuromarketing is done shouldn’t explore and ask. The curious should.

So, when I assert that you should offer visitors with browsing pattern X an offer of $50 paid out in 3 months if they sign up now and visitors with browsing pattern Y an offer of $20 instantly if they sign up now, you might challenge that. Good. Then I’ll explain for 15 minutes about the hyperbolic discount rate curve and prospection tendencies of different browse paths. Then, if I’ve done my job correctly, you’ll trust the science just as you would trust a pilot or trust a light bulb. Abstraction can be a wonderful thing. Getting there is a longer process.

You don’t need to understand it all to use it.

8 thoughts on “You don’t need to understand it to use it

  1. Clever. I couldn’t do it myself, but I guess sometimes shortcuts can help a lot getting things going.

  2. @jacqueswarren You and me both.

    I don’t like that the path to popular acceptance is through abstraction. Ha! There’s a lot that I don’t like!

    There’s a role for expert scrutiny, and there’s a role for mainstream utility. The mainstream doesn’t need to know everything – they just need to know enough.

    Enough is enough for 95% of the population. For the 2.5% on the front tail, enough will never be enough.

    I made peace with it today. I think.

  3. Jim Novo says:

    Related to the Accuracy versus Precision argument, methinks. Too much time is spent tryng to be Precise when being Accurate consistently delivers the best return.

    I don’t need to know the exact mechanism by which I generate a profit, I don’t even need to know exactly what that profit is.

    What I need to know is when I do “this”, “that” happens every time, with a spread to control so large it *must* be profitable.

    If I A / B visitors, A exposed to “normal” treatment (control) and B exposed to Next Stage treatment, and B outperformas A by 25% consistently, then I don’t need to know how Next Stage works or run any kind of significance math.

    All I need to know is what it costs to get me the 25% and what the profit of the 25% is to decide if the 25% is worth it.

    What wastes a tremendous amount of time is people working on situations where they get a lift of .5% and trying to prove that’s meaningful or significant.

    Forget about it; move on to the next idea. There are plenty out there.

  4. @jimnovo

    Well said. There’s so much to try and so much to really pay attention to.

    If there was a way to abstract away the term ‘scientific method’, I think I’d just might end up using it.

    Somehow the term ‘experimenting’ or ‘screwing around with stuff’ or ‘testing’ just doesn’t cut it.

  5. Chris, thanks for the nod. – Joseph

  6. Jim Sterne says:

    I think we suffer from the Shiny New Object Syndrome. What NextStage Analytics offers is truly breakthrough and very exciting – and that’s the problem. If it could be delivered in a brown paper bag or dressed in overalls it would be easier to follow Mr. Novo’s (always) excellent advice. But this stuff is so cool and so mind-blowing that it’s hard to take your eyes off it long enough to Just Use It!

  7. @josephcarrabis Anytime.

    @jimsterne You’re right. We’re having similar problems in social analytics. We’re living through the exact same cycle again and again.

    A continuous focus on business objectives – the abstraction of complexity through focus on results – has worked for you, the WAA and for me, and I hope it will work for both NS and SA.

  8. I was hesitating to comment, but in light of the comments, allow me to do my bit (as we say in Spanish: aportar mi granito de arena).


    Thank you for your post, I completely agree with you: I use cars but don’t ask me how their mechanics work, it’s not something I’m interested in, I just use them to get to places and often Aurélie drives


    If I understand correctly you mean that you need to understand how it works before using it: look under the hood. Well, what I can advise is to read our patent, the extensive list of posts and articles that Joseph has published through the years and finally take some training from him. You can also buy his last book ‘Reading Virtual Minds’ that is going to be published very very soon. And if you do a search on Google you’ll find some PDFs in one of his websites with some draft chapters of that book 😉

    @Jim Novo

    I completely agree with you that people in the WA Industry often loose a lot of time in trying to be precise or as Jim Mentioned some time ago, diminishing returns. One of my first learnings in Web Analytics is that it’s not about the numbers (if you compare numbers from 2 tools they will never match) but about the trends and in the end about your bottom line.
    Regarding your idea of A/B testing, I just wanted to clarify that our aim with our first products is not to do Behavioral Targeting (which is one of the options we foresee for the future) but allow marketers to better understand the WHO and the WHY and provide them with recommendations about how to improve. Because of privacy concerns and our principles we don’t consider at this stage providing individual data that could be linked to personal information.
    Our first product NextStage Advertising Intelligence (currently in testing) allows marketers to understand what audience is going to be best targeted with a marketing material (eg. a webpage or a print ad). We’re currently working on the recommendations engine that is going to be attached to that product. This engine will allow our customers to receive suggestions on what they need to change with their material in order to be more effective. In this case an A/B test could very easily be put in place and compare how the version with NSAI implemented changes performs against the original material. I’ll keep you posted 😉

    @Jim Sterne

    When I started working with Joseph I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory so I completely adhere to your Shiny New Object Syndrome!
    The idea of applying neuroscience, anthropology, linguistics and mathematics to the web, the most measurable channel, in order to better understand how people feel and why they react in a specific way when confronted with online communication is, in my humble eyes, the next step for our industry. In this sense, the NextStage adventure is really exciting but also ground breaking where mentalities need to evolve. What better proof can we bring than “it made a difference”, reason for the launch of our alpha of NextStage Advertising Intelligence (NSAI).
    As CEO of NextStage Analytics my role is to focus on providing the market actionable and readily usable tools as our mission is to help companies be more successful in their marketing efforts. I’ve received many comments from people who wanted to understand how it works but my role is to make products out of this, not do R&D or to explain how it works. I refer them to Joseph’s, Professor Calculus, writings and trainings while wishing them pleasant reading and debate 😉

Comments are closed.