Spock vs Homer and the psychology of personalization

Estimated reading time
4 minutes
15th October 2020
Author: Kate Terry
Posted in: Psychology

Challenging traditional thinking about how buyers make decisions, and what marketers need to do instead, Nick Mason, CEO and Founder here at Turtl, and Shirin Oreizy, Founder and President of behavioral science agency Next Step, discuss the psychology that drives growth and loyalty. They cover behavioral science applied to marketing, our cognitive biases, and practical examples.

Key takeaways: 

  • Many marketers, especially in B2B, market as if they are talking to Spock – logical, rational, and impressed with more and more information. 
  • In reality, we need to talk to Homer first before getting through to Spock. Homer likes information that is easy to understand, emotionally salient, catchy, and memorable, and doesn’t take a lot of brainpower.
  • Personalization works well because it ‘greases’ friction in the buyer journey, reduces information overload, and tailors the narrative specifically for your intended reader. In short, personalization satisfies Homer so that you can talk to Spock. 

(If you’d rather watch this than read about it, head over here)

What does behavioral science mean for marketers?

Shirin introduces the concept and why it is so important to get right:

In the most simple terms, it’s the study of how humans really make decisions. 

In behavioral science, we recognize the role that our emotions, our environment (physical or digital), as well as social factors have on our decisions. If you’ve spent more than two minutes with anybody in the human race, you’ll know we’re not always rational. There’s a gap between what we say we want to do and what we actually end up doing. 

Simply showcasing the features and benefits of a product or solution doesn’t necessarily drive behavior. We actually need to design the environment in a way that drives and nudges people to the behavior that we want.  And specific to marketing, the beautiful thing that we have at hand is that a lot of times we’re dealing with digital environments. And so this becomes getting adoption for our products and our signup flow and our landing pages and all of the different marketing materials. It’s really a beautiful medium for us to play with and start architecting the environment and nudging people towards the outcome that we want.

A woman sits on the floor in front of her couch, smiling as she looks at the laptop balanced on her thigh

Isn’t this just for consumer-facing marketers, though?

Nick explains why psychology is even more important for B2B marketers to understand:

People think that when you put on a suit, or at least the top of your suit in the current lockdown times, you suddenly become super-rational, and you lose your emotional side. Gartner and Google have done research into this. And they found that actually, the B2B decisions that we make are far more emotionally influenced than the B2C ones.

If you make a bad B2C decision, the worst thing is maybe you have a bad lunch. That’s as far as it goes. 

But with B2B decisions, there’s more emotion involved. If you make a bad decision, you could lose your job, you could be passed over for promotion, your career could go off track, etc. If you make the right decision, then you might get paid more or get headhunted for that next job that you want.

There are far bigger, more life-changing decisions involved. And what the research shows is that when that happens, we actually revert more to emotion than we do to rationality.

Are we more like Homer or Spock?

Shirin explains what really impacts buyers and customers:

The danger in not recognizing the roles that our customers’ emotions, their environments, and these social factors play into how they make decisions is that we ultimately start marketing to our clients as if they are the Spocks of the world.

In a Spock world, we assume that people are always rational, so we do things, especially in B2B, to show them that we are subject matter experts. We tend to start using a lot of jargon that only we understand. We assume that if we give people all the information they need, they’ll make the optimal decision because rationally that makes a lot of sense.

In contrast, the way you would market to Homer is by making him feel like the expert. You want to actually limit the information so that he feels in complete cognitive control and strategically nudge him towards the decisions that work in your company’s favor. 

A woman presents a strategy meeting in front of a white board

How can we work with Homer to get to Spock?

Nick outlines how personalization brings together principles of psychology:

Personalization brings psychological tricks together, and also adds some of its own. For instance, let’s think about what happens when someone receives some personalized content.

Firstly, the personalization is reducing friction because it gets to what we need faster. It also reduces the working memory that we need to use because we don’t have to sift through lots of irrelevant information, it’s already been selected for us.

With narrative bias, the personalization element can make sure that the story that’s being told is relevant to us. And that it relates to our journey that we’re experiencing. The brand’s narrative can then weave into that.

Personalization also produces something called the cocktail party effect. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it where you’re talking to someone and then you hear your name in a different conversation. It’s like a magnet. Your brain focuses on this other conversation, and you struggle to remain attentive to the one you were originally having. It’s very hard to ignore. So if we’re sending people content that was made for them with their name on it, versus a generic piece of content, it has that same effect and we’re naturally drawn to it.

To delve deeper into these principles and how Shirin used them to help an IoT solution increase inbound prospects by 600%, watch their full conversation here:Spock and Homer face off against each other

Turtl