Don’t turn your customers into swimming cats

If you want to know how to influence and win customers, you need to know how people make decisions and how new technology can make it easy to act on those decisions. As Nobel prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman famously said:

“Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats; they can do it but they’d prefer not to.”

Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking fast and slow’ encapsulates the idea that we have two thinking systems:

• System 1 is our fast thinking animal brain. It’s our intuitive gut reaction to everything we see, hear, smell and feel. It’s why birdsong and gentle ocean waves make us feel calm and safe.

• System 2 is our slow thinking brain, located on our highly evolved pre-frontal cortex, and is what differentiates us from animals. This enables us to express ourselves in words, to plan, rationalise and conceptualise our desires. It makes us critical thinkers, able to analyse statistics and delay gratification.

In the 1980s and 90s, the common belief was that our system 2 brain drove our decision-making. After all, we like to think of ourselves as logical, rational and reflective. As a result, marketing campaigns tended to design functional messages to appeal to this thinking. Advertisers invited us to ‘Buy this because…’ and then listed customer benefits. That could be, Persil Washes Whiter or Volvo: safe as houses.

We’re not as logical as we like to think

However, it turns out most of our decision-making actually goes on in our system 1 brain. System 2 thinking requires effort, whereas our system 1 brain is running all the time. We literally can’t turn it off unless we sleep.

Our intuitive fast thinking is constantly generating first impressions and feelings. We simply post- rationalise our initial decisions in our system 2 brain. We see evidence of this every day.

Why would someone pay £500 for Louboutin shoes with red soles? Why buy a Rolex when any watch can tell you the time? These are emotional purchases that we like to post-rationalise with more logical sounding thoughts such as, “I’ve earned it” or “It’s my treat.”

This breakthrough has transformed marketing thinking and influenced’s development. By understanding your customers’ values, and embedding them in your marketing campaigns, you create a sense of empathy. This reinforces positive associations around your brand and seduces the fast thinking side of the brain.

Converting inspiration into action

Here at, we believe the big opportunity in marketing lies in making your brand the instant, intuitive choice, as well as the longer term logical choice. We help marketers engage customers by linking products with personal experiences. Our technology then allows customers to act on the impulses of their fast-thinking brain – by seeking more information, registering or buying – in the exact moment their emotions are triggered by visual stimuli online or on TV.

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