Why capturing imagination is more powerful than reason!

The slogan "taking back control" captured voters' imagination

Do customers want to believe in what you are offering?


Our imagination can be extremely vivid and is a powerful force in determining our behaviour. History shows that people are often not rational in the choices they make and imagination is a more important driver of decision making.


For example, the Leave campaign in the EU referendum used the slogan “Let’s take back control” to convince people to vote for Brexit. This slogan was intended to suggest that by leaving the EU the UK would again become a sovereign state. The UK would be able to set its own laws, set rules and standard for products and services, be able to negotiate its own trade deals and control its borders.


But, as anyone who knows about international trade and sovereignty, this was miss-leading, if not a lie.


The only trading-blocks big enough to set regulations and rules are China, the USA and the EU. As the Article 50 bill pointed out the UK parliament had always been sovereign for the whole of the time it had been part of the EU. Only around 17% of laws and regulations are set by the EU and the vast majority of these were supported by the UK government. The UK also already had the power to send EU nationals home after three months if they could not support themselves financially. But successive governments chose not to implement such laws.


Although “Let’s take back control” may not have been true, it caught the imagination of voters and that’s more persuasive than a rational argument about economics.


What was important was that the target audience wanted to believe the message.


As many people outside of London and the South East felt left behind by globalisation and the prosperity of the wealthier regions they desperately wanted to believe in something.


The problem with a lot of marketing is that it is  often based upon reason rather than imagination. A bit like the Remain campaign which only focused on economic arguments and tried to bully people into supporting the status quo.


Similarly, many marketers think customers like choices and they constantly develop new features to allow them to tailor the product to their individual needs. They are always looking at what the  competition is doing and spend time discussing how well the latest campaign aligns with the brand values. This is  because these issues make sense to rational, marketing people.


Unfortunately people are not rational when it comes to most decisions. The majority of our daily decisions are made by our fast, automatic brain, System 1, with little, if any, conscious thought. People don’t want infinite choice and they rarely change default settings.  People create clusters to make their choices easier and then brand preference may make a difference.


A rational approach ignores the reality that people just want something to believe in.


Steve Jobs was a brilliant marketer. He knew how to capture people’s imagination. When he got the idea for the iPod he didn’t say he would launch an MP3 player. No, he said he would put 1,000 songs in your pocket.


Capturing the customer’s imagination is much more effective than any new feature will ever be.


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  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as the innovator incubator RGAx, the music streaming  brand Deezer.com, online gambling brands Foxybingo.com, partypoker.com and Bgo.com and the e-commerce retailer Very. Neal uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.

By Neal Cole

Neal is Chief Optimisation Consultant at Conversion Uplift Ltd. He has over 10 years experience of A/B testing and improving conversion rates for major international brands across multiple sectors, including gaming and financial services.