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Conscious-Subconscious Model: A Winning Approach to Designing Successful High Technology Marketing Strategy

 

Guest articles > Conscious-Subconscious Model: A Winning Approach to Designing Successful High Technology Marketing Strategy

 

by: Mike Gauba Ph.D.
 

Background Concepts

Today, a very large number of mobile data services are struggling worldwide for the lack of adoption. I in my practice differentiate between purchase and adoption. By adoption I mean the actual usage. Purchase is limited to actually buying of a service or a product. A purchase may or may not lead to an adoption. A person may purchase a service and still not use it. Following adoption, there is another critical phase in the cycle that I call integration (integration with lifestyle).

I come from the perspective that the need that we experience today has existed since time immemorial and it has been addressed through different solutions through different times and the people through the times have adopted solutions that have offered them greater value. In fact, people are constantly considering, knowingly or unknowingly, to migrate from perceivably less valued solution to a higher valued solution and if the circumstances so allow – they take the plunge but they do not immediately discard the former one. During the transition phase, they may have two or more solutions to the same need. This transition phase – in fact is the adoption phase that was referred to earlier. Integration is the phase when a human, having tested a specific solution during the adoption phase, completely accepts it and virtually relinquishes all other solutions to the same need. A service provider would very much like its solution to integrate with the lifestyle – giving it an ongoing revenue and significantly reduced chance of churn

We also know more than 80% of population in any market is technology conservative. This conservatism to quiet an extent is generic but is also compounded by past experiences – leading to gaining preconceived notions. Technological conservatism manifests itself as “sceptical inertia” to technology adoption. This explains why the kids adopt newer technologies much faster than the older.

The technology conservatives may be excited by technology but when it comes to investing on it or its usage, they leave it for another day. Geoffrey Moore’s and others have demographically split the technology adoption cycle into different phases and my study goes beyond that and describes on how the time period of each phase can be squeezed in order to achieve rapid and large scale usage of high technology services. By high technology services I mean those applications that are technology enabled by one of the emerging technologies. These services in general are waiting to be mass accepted.

I have constructed a conscious-subconscious model to design strategies that can effectively communicate with the human mind that makes the ultimate decision for purchase and adoption. These strategies contribute to the development of a successful “go to market” strategy for high technology services – including designing a different marketing mix for purchase and adoption to achieve a quick purchase and rapid and large scale adoption.

Conscious-Subconscious Model

This is not an absolute but an empirical model constructed after studying

  • the differences in purchase and adoption behaviour of everyday commodities and high technology services;
  • well established mass consumer strategies that have been successfully applied to consumer commodities but have failed on their application to high technology services;
  • and understanding the adoption related challenges offered by high technologies services;
  • and analysing the market failures and accidental successes of high technology services.

The focus of the study has been on high technology media and mass consumer markets

Conscious

Not only an active state of the mind but also easily excitable. Its characteristics are described below

  • Receives and stores sensory inputs that it uses for decision making
  • Easily enchanted by glamour and buzz and is quickly excited to take actions.
  • Like to take independent decisions, however, consults subconscious on matters that it considers may have serious and long term implications.
  • Capable of over riding the advice provided by subconscious

Subconscious

Its role is described below

  • Receives and stores sensory inputs
  • Human back office factory – literally runs the human life
  • Supports conscious to make decisions based on the past experiences
  • Very conservative – not easily excitable
  • Has pre-conceived notions
  • Offer inertia to change
  • Governs adoption

Application of Conscious-Subconscious Model to Marketing

Marketing is about communicating with the human mind and marketing strategies can be designed to effectively communicate specific value propositions for both the conscious and the subconscious – leading to the shortening of purchase cycles and ready adoption of products and services.

Unfortunately, the service providers resort to the use of strategies designed for every day commodities, whose challenges are more purchase related. The very fact that a service or a product has become a commodity, very much means that it has been widely accepted and used. The purchase related strategies are designed to excite the conscious. The subconscious requires somewhat different set of values to adopt a service for daily life applications. This set of values may vary from a service to service.

Thus the lack of adoption of high technology services is the result of a serious void that exists in the value chain as it has been experienced that in a large number of cases, people purchase technology enabled services, excited by what these services can do but they do not use them more than once or twice over their lifecycles. This is a serious “value void” syndrome that till now has received little recognition.

The mantra that I have pioneered is “Excite the Conscious” and “Comfort the Subconscious”. Any attempt to excite the “subconscious” will fail for that by very “creation” is not excitable. The marketing strategies should be designed to make the subconscious comfortable with the different aspects of the service and effectively address the key concerns that the users may have.

Selling to subconscious requires a set of “value attributes”, each enhancing the value of the specific process across the value chain. The challenge in fact is much greater than that perceived for it requires migrating the user from a service or application it is currently using to the new one, which in this case is technology enabled – bringing in all the barriers associated with technology conservatism.

Thus what is required are not only the relevant “value attributes” but also the value of these attributes must be very high to over come the barriers to migration. The primary challenge, however, is to identify these attributes and then work to enhance the value of these attributes.

The market experience has also shown that a high value of one attribute can little compensate for the lack of value of the other and should not be considered as an option. Service adoption requires at least a minimum value of each required attribute. Higher values can positively impact the adoption, however understanding the full dynamics of the impact needs further study. Pricing is an important value attribute but zero pricing does not guarantee adoption of high technology services

The experience also tells that the cameras on mobile phones excite people to buy these phones but not necessarily excite the users to conduct some serious photography with them. The users who take pictures with the cameras on their mobile phones are generally not excited to transmit those pictures to the server there and then itself. Thus an additional technology at very little extra price does excite the conscious to purchase the mobile phone but does not excite the subconscious to adopt it.

“Harmony” or “harmonizing with the lifestyle” is one value attribute that is often not included in the design, leading to poor adoption. One of the reasons why MP3s and iPods have succeeded to be mass adopted is that they do not stop their users from performing other lifestyle activities – offering high harmonizing value and encourage millions to migrate from the disc based solutions.

Nokia promotes Mobile TV on phones. While “on the go”, who would clasp a phone in its two hands, hold it at arms length and watch television as well as perform other activities. The clear message is that the product should harmonize with the lifestyle to be used as a lifestyle activity. It is not surprising that Nokia is struggling to sell Mobile TV enabled mobile phones.

“Eat all you can” is a very comforting pricing strategy that reassures a sceptical subconscious that it would not have surprises at the end of the month. The providers of newer technology enabled services must consider this as a part of their larger strategy to encourage users to quickly adopt their service

The mobile operators offer eighteen or twenty four months contracts requiring their customers to pay a very small sum of money (five to ten dollars) a month over the contract period for new handsets. This strategy excites the conscious to make an arbitrary decision to go for it. If the monthly payment was to be fifty dollars then the conscious would refer it to the subconscious for its advice, asking, if it can fund such a lifestyle activity. This not only lengthens the decision making process but also there is a good chance that the subconscious may discourage the conscious from buying it. Thus the recommended strategy is to package an offering that easily excites the user to buy it without referring it to the subconscious.

The conscious – subconscious model questions the market research methodology used by the technology companies like Nokia to gauge the interest of the public at large for using newer technology enabled convergent or solo services. The reason for that is - the researchers ask interviewees if they would like to use a particular high technology enabled application or convergence of such applications and the immediate response obtained from the interviewee comes from the conscious, which gets easily excited by a technology or its very mention. Also the conscious is not aware of its own or others’ experience from such a usage as the service has not been tried in the past.

The usage at the end of the day is governed by subconscious which is very difficult to be probed. The conscious can at the best provide a “considered” reply by sitting back, brooding over the challenges that it is likely to face, when it moves from one paradigm to another. This normally does not happen for the replies that are provided by interviewees are instantaneous.

It may also be noted that during the usage of services, the conscious becomes aware of the experiences and is in a better position to provide its feedback. Thus the accuracy of the market research results from the tried services is significantly higher than from those which are yet to be used. The greatest challenge for conscious is knowing and understanding subconscious.

I have used failures and successes of high technology products and services in the mass consumer market to understand the attributes that excite conscious and comfort subconscious and design successful design strategies that can effectively communicate the desired values to achieve rapid and large scale adoption.

This is an introductory article and its discussion is limited to the introduction of concepts and conscious-subconscious model and providing an initial discussion on the application of this model to explain the user behaviour as regards the adoption of high technology services. This discussion also demonstrates the potential offered by the conscious-subconscious model to design successful high technology marketing strategies.


Mike Gauba Ph.D. Vibrant Bits Pty Ltd mikegauba@gmail.com


Contributor: Mike Gauba Ph.D.

Published here on: 2-Jun-08

Classification: Marketing, Psychology

MSWord: Conscious-Subconscious Model v0.5a.doc

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