Clotaire Rapaille believes all purchasing decisions lie beyond conscious thinking and emotion and reside at a primal core. He helps Fortune 500 companies discover “the code” (i.e. unconscious associations for their products) that will help them increase sales.
In this interview, he talks about the limits of traditional market research.
They are too cortex, which means that they think too much, and then they ask people to think and to tell them what they think. Now, my experience is that most of the time, people have no idea why they’re doing what they’re doing. They have no idea, so they’re going to try to make up something that makes sense. Why do you need a Hummer to go shopping? “Well, you see, because in case there is a snowstorm.” No. Why [do] you buy four wheel drive? “Well, you know, in case I need to go off-road.” Well, you live in Manhattan; why do you need four wheel drive in Manhattan? “Well, you know, sometime[s] I go out, and I go—” You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that this is disconnected. This is nothing to do with what the real reason is for people to do what they do. So there are many limits in traditional market research.
Rapille argues that for communication to succeed it has to speak to someone’s inner reptile. “We’re cheaper” doesn’t connect with people in a lasting way. You have to go deeper than that. Plus, when you offer a deeper connection, it’s harder for someone else to come along and copy your success.
It’s absolutely crucial for anybody in communication…to understand what I call the reptilian hot button. If you don’t have a reptilian hot button, then you have to deal with the cortex; you have to work on price issues and stuff like that.
In the kind of communication I’m developing and using, with 50 of the Fortune 100 companies who are my clients, almost full time, it is not enough to give a cortex message. “Buy my product because it’s 10 percent cheaper”: That’s cortex. Well, if the other is 15 percent cheaper, I move to the others. You don’t buy loyalty with percentages. That is key. It’s not a question of numbers; it’s the first reptilian reaction…
Everything has to be on code. Everything you do should reinforce the code; not just the packaging or the communication should be on code. The leaflet, the brochures, everything should be on code. And if you are the first one to position yourself like that, knowing all the different aspects, you have a competitive edge. They might try to copy, but they don’t know the formula; they don’t know the code behind it.
Examples of products that are on code after the jump.
The PT Cruiser is a reptilian product…
The PT Cruiser is a car [that] when people see it, they say, “Wow, I want it.” Some people hate it; we don’t care. There is enough people that say, “Wow, I want it,” to make a big success. And then when we tested that, and we say, “How much will you pay for this kind of car?,” people say, “Oh, we’ll pay $15,000 or $35,000.” You know that when you have a product where people say $15,000 or $35,000, the price is irrelevant.
What is it that make[s] the PT Cruiser a reptilian car? First, the car has a strong identity. What people told us is that “We’re tired of these cars that have no identity. I have good quality, good gas mileage, good everything else, but when I see the car from a distance, I have to wait till the car gets close to know what it is, and I have to read the name.” When you go to see your mother, she doesn’t need to read your name to know who you are, you see? We want this reptilian connection. And so this notion of identity, absolutely key, was very reptilian for a car.
Nextel and Hummer…
The Nextel campaign, “I do, therefore I am.” Right, bingo. This is not “I think, therefore I am.” And the campaign for the Hummer—the Hummer is a car with a strong identity. It’s a car in a uniform. I told them, put four stars on the shoulder of the Hummer, you will sell better. If you look at the campaign, brilliant. I have no credit for it, just so you know, but brilliant. They say, “You give us the money, we give you the car, nobody gets hurt.” I love it! It’s like the mafia speaking to you. For women, they say it’s a new way to scare men. Wow. And women love the Hummer. They’re not telling you, “Buy a Hummer because you get better gas mileage.” You don’t. This is cortex things. They address your reptilian brain.
I don’t know if you remember this commercial, but it was really on code. You have a young guy coming from the Army in a uniform. Mother is upstairs asleep. He goes directly to the kitchen, “Psssst,” open the coffee, and the smell—you know, because we designed the packaging to make sure that you smelled it right away. He prepares coffee; coffee goes up; the smell goes upstairs; the mother is asleep; she wakes up; she smiles. And we know the word she is going to say, because the code for aroma is “home.” So she is going to say, “Oh, he is home.” She rushed down the stairs, hugged the boy. I mean, we tested it. At P&G they test everything 400 times. People were crying. Why? Because we got the logic of emotion right.
We discovered that Jeeps should not have square headlights. That’s a very practical thing: no square headlights. Why? I don’t want to go into anything secret, but let’s suppose the code for a Jeep is an animal like a horse. You don’t see a horse with square eyes. The Jeep people didn’t say that; they said, “Yes, I want round headlights, like a face.” And we use the face of the Jeep with the grille as a logo for Jeep. So when I discovered that, that was like a very reptilian dimension. And since then, no Jeep Wranglers have square headlights.
As for who gets it wrong, Rapaille thinks the airline industry has a lot to learn.
Right now you have a whole industry — the airline industry — that doesn’t understand at all their customers. They’re making big, big mistake. They still don’t understand. Why? Because they have marketing research that goes to the people and says: “What do you want? Do you want cheaper or more expensive?” And of course people say cheaper. So they say, “You see, they want cheaper, so we’re going to give them cheaper airlines, cheaper, cheaper.” Now this is how, in terms of reptilian, [cheaper is interpreted]: “I can’t breathe; I can’t move; they don’t feed me.” This is awful, right? So I’m not flying anymore. I drive my car. Why? Because they’ve not taken care of my reptilian. And then emotionally they treat me like, you know, [I’m] checking [into] a high-security prison.
bradon 30 Mar 07
Brilliant! The “inner reptile” thing explains many purchasing decisions that cannot be explained by logic or emotion. I really think the iPod falls into this category as well. People who champion simplicity say the iPod succeeds because of its simplicity; people who champion good design say the iPod succeeds because of its good design, but really it’s because the iPod speaks directly to our reptilian brain; it’s a pure gut response based on no single quality in particular but rather everything put together. I never wanted an iPod until I actually saw one, and it was instant.
Williamon 30 Mar 07
If you want to see Clotaire in action check on the Frontline speciail Merchants of Cool. It’s excellent and his process is fascinating.
some guyon 30 Mar 07
So is it standard marketing practice to completely ignore the fact that products like the Hummer are abominations?
Why is it OK to take inspiration from the way terrible things are marketed and sold?
MLon 30 Mar 07
William: it’s actually The Persuaders episode of Frontline. You can watch it online (#4 The Science of Selling features Rapaille).
some guy: yeah, i think it is standard marketing practice to ignore the fact that a product is reprehensible. sad but true. on the plus side, someone with a wonderful product could use this approach to sell that positive item too.
Marcon 30 Mar 07
The airline industry example is something that’s intrigued me for years now.
I know someone who works for Alaska Airlines. He told me a story about a year ago about how brutal the online travel sites have been to their business. On a particular route, Alaska noticed that they hadn’t sold a single ticket for nearly 3 weeks. When they checked their competitors’ prices for that same leg, they realized that their competitors were charging $5 less than they were. It wasn’t until they reduced their prices by $5 that they started selling tickets again.
Now I certainly won’t dispute that the airline industry doesn’t understand their customers at all, but it seems to me that online travel sites are inflaming the problem when the put such a huge emphasis on price as if two tickets on two different airlines for the same route is an equivalent product. Quite the contrary … I can guarantee that a flight on Alaska Airlines is quite a different experience than a flight on United. Unfortunately the online travel sites have no way of quantifying that difference.
Why haven’t any of the online travel sites added community features to their applications such as ratings and comments from users? Why haven’t they integrated more information in their listings and search functions like leg room, on-time statistics, and user ratings?
Of course if the airline industry understood this problem and how to fix it, they would have already integrated those features into the travel website that they own, Orbitz.
Christopher Walshon 30 Mar 07
I agree with some guy’s point – the tone of SvN is usually about ways to conduct business that treat the consumer with respect. It’s not respectful to find new innovative ways to deeply manipulate someone to buy ridiculous products for an unfair price.
I suppose it’s good for consumers to be aware of these tactics, so we can at least try not to fall victim to them.
Johnon 30 Mar 07
This brings the whole philosophy of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club” to mind.
Gal Josefsbergon 30 Mar 07
Somewhat related fact. I’ve been exprimenting with ads on my blog (www.60in3.com). It seems like people tend to click more on banner ads with pretty pictures but no text. The simple text ads get far fewer clicks even though they have more information.
Seems counterintuitive to me. I always look for more information rather than less. However, I suppose this makes more sense in light of this article.
MLon 30 Mar 07
Christopher: I’ll admit there’s something a bit creepy about some aspects of his approach. But I also think it’s better to discuss it then to ignore it. Effective communication techniques can be used for good or for evil…perhaps there’s a way to use Rapaille’s approach to sell products that have a positive impact too. Plus, I think his ideas about the limits of traditional market research and why “it’s cheaper” isn’t good enough are v interesting.
Anonymous Cowardon 30 Mar 07
Er, why is it a news flash that products that make a deep emotional connection sell better?
Ken B.on 30 Mar 07
Christopher: First I want to understand your point of view a little better. Is it when the product has been already been created and marketers use window dressing and persuasion to convince people to buy it that you have the issue with?
The reason I ask is because from my perspective, Rapaille’s work during the product design phase introduces potential customers’ desires that they may not have been able to articulate. The PT Cruiser had less focus on the mechanics and engine and introduced a lot of luxury features that people valued more.
Malcom Gladwell’s TED talk about spaghetti sauce introduced a similar idea where the outcome was much more variation in spaghetti sauces and I as a customer am much more happy.
From my perspective, and there is a definite business bias, the use of Raipalle’s techniques by themselves do not present a moral issue but using them with the intent to deceive people is where the line is crossed and it is unethical.
Ken B.on 30 Mar 07
I forgot to put the link to Gladwell’s Ted Talk: http://www.ted.com/tedtalks/tedtalksplayer.cfm?key=m_gladwell
Tom Morninion 30 Mar 07
I’ve been asking for years why the airlines would rather fight price wars than give their prime customers what they want!
What business traveller isn’t willing to pay more to fly on an airline that had power outlets in their terminals and on the plane?
First class required to get a power jack? Please!
Peter Feinon 30 Mar 07
Go listen to Shit From An Old Notebook. Now.
Karl Non 30 Mar 07
To me this isn’t about manipulation, though all of the big-shots will see it that way. Put psychology in terms of design and user experience and CEOs think you’re wasting money. Put it in terms of sales and now you’re their best friend.
Paying attention to these psychological details is something that companies like Apple have done all along. And people will pay more for these products because the right attention has been paid to make the product more enjoyable. It’s not a “glitch” in the human psyche that’s being exploited. It’s genuinely what people like. Just because we can’t always explain what we like about something right away doesn’t mean there’s not a valid emotional reason for it.
I still think Hummers are crap, though. But blame the people who buy them. There’s nothing wrong with a design that takes into account psychology. Really, the mistake up til now is that most haven’t.
Ryanon 30 Mar 07
The Persuaders is definitely worth a watch. Rapaille is fascinating, but what floored me was the “Luntz technique”, which is a measurable system of identifying the most effective words for any given topic. It’s like AdWords for politics, and it’s a killer app.
Icelanderon 30 Mar 07
Funny thing is, I look at a car like the PT Cruiser and my first reaction is “What kind of gas mileage does it get.” How a car looks is much less important to me than how well it does the things I need it to do, namely cheaply move me from point a to point b.
That’s one reason I bought a scooter for the nine months out of the year the weather permits me to ride. Yeah, sometimes people look at me funny, but I’m getting 70mpg and I avoid parking hassles.
I didn’t buy an iPod because it tweaked something in my brain. I’m a Mac user, and the iPod provided more functionality than other players, such as address book and iPhoto syncing. If the functionality between the iPod and the Nomad were the same, but the Nomad had better features, I’d have gotten a Nomad.
Maybe I’m just less reptilian than most people.
Christopher Walshon 30 Mar 07
@ ML: I agree with you. My comment reacted to the creepiness, and I first interpreted the post as celebratory.
@ Ken B: I totally respect that you’re happier with more spaghetti sauce choices. Sometimes I feel the same way. But clearly the intent is not to make the me happier, it’s to make me pay to think I’m happier. I don’t fault anyone who falls for this, because the messages are so persuasive. I get nervous about celebrating new, even more persuasive messages.
Rich Collinson 30 Mar 07
Ray Podderon 30 Mar 07
Very cool. I’m also a big fan of Dr. Rapaille’s work. Other than reading the Culture Code (which it seems you are quoting from), there’s also timely wisdom in his periodic newsletters. We ultimately are all pleasure/pain driven animals, he just puts it very eloquently.
Chadlyon 30 Mar 07
The cheap online airfare bit is interesting. Being on a tight budget, I always take the cheapest flight with the least stops. It maybe saves me $10. Once I get to the airport, I’m always angry that I didn’t just fly the airline I like for a couple of extra bucks… Roomier planes, TV’s in headrest, generally pleasant workers (Frontier)... but when you’re sitting there looking at a list of prices, it’s so easy to choose the cheapest one and not take the overall experience into account.
Juan Gonzalezon 30 Mar 07
One can’t help but feel “used” when discovering how sophisticated large corporations have become and the quality of tools they have to continue their race for global reach. Next time you are purchasing any non-essential product question if your decision was influenced by some advanced marketing technique that touched a hidden nerve. It is truly scary that sometimes we just can’t help but obey our unconscious self and that corporations know how to command us through it. Our only hope is to understand the same tools and use them to strengthen our global unconscious so it assigns priority to the things that really matter. More on his book the culture code.
Peter Cooperon 31 Mar 07
So is it standard marketing practice to completely ignore the fact that products like the Hummer are abominations?
I guess you missed the point. Not everyone thinks that way.. and like with the PT Cruiser, enough people like Hummers to make it worthwhile.
I think the “New Beetle” is an abomination.. but the whole shape and the built-in flower pots again make it very attractive to a subset of people who will fork over good money for one.
Search Engine Webon 31 Mar 07
Those perceptions of consumers expressed by Clotaire Rapaille appear to be based on stereotypes of cultures and people.
His marketing tactics appear to reflect this and simplistic generalizations about peoples behaviors and intelligence.
Ultimately, this type of marketing is self defeating – because it does not address the quality of the product – just the conditioning of it in an affluent culture that has so many choices.
Manufacturers who are thriving primarily because of this tenuous marketing strategy, will eventually lose.
Jon Non 31 Mar 07
Couldn’t agree more. I often do the same thing. However, some airlines are starting to smarten up and do more upselling at the airport. It’s interesting psychology… $10 difference in price when you’re looking at a long list seems like a lot. But when you’re standing at the ticket counter, paying $25 bucks for extra leg room seems so cheap.
Perhaps that’s the reason the RyanAir model is working… given ultracheap flights, but upsell for everything… even baggage. It seems sketchy, but, in this day of infinite price comparisons, it might just be the only way to make airlines consistently profitable.
Bil Klebon 31 Mar 07
reallyon 31 Mar 07
Rapaille is all smoke and mirrors. nobody takes the time to check him out…they’d be surprised too see that some of his successes have nothing to do with him.
Joshon 31 Mar 07
If you are interested in this topic I would recomment you check out: Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini
In his book he examines the psychology of compliance. Very interesting read.
Davidon 01 Apr 07
Um, Hummers and Jeep? Does that describe everyone in the human race, or just the dumbass’s that this guy knows how to market to??
Some of what he is saying is true, but he has helped me to realize that the “preacher” mentality exists even in secular culture: you see, this guy “preaches” his philosophy as if it applies to all products and as if he has “ultimate insight”. The reason why some people like this guy is exactly the same reason that masses of people follow preachers around that claim to have the ultimate understanding – except this guy is charging a lot of money to whoever will believe that his viewpoint on Hummers applies to the whole human race. Oh, I forgot, preachers of “God’s word” get their money too!!
But come on, many people make decisions in their “cortex” brain; maybe this guy doesn’t know any of them! Its like the members of church, they want everything to be explained to them by a prophet, someone who “has all the answers”, and for advertising this guy is claiming to understand “the foundation”, “the core”, its the same bullshit as what works for preachers in church. He does understand how to market to dumbass people that are totally “non-cortex” like Hummer buyers and probably folks like George W. Bush.
The reality is that most people use their “higher brains” in a lot of decisions, and he is wrong about his viewpoint of all humanity’s buying decisions; he is also wrong in his self-assessment that he understands “the core” of all humanity’s buying decisions.
Jameson 01 Apr 07
What scares me is this type of idea is getting more sophisticated. Why do movies like SpiderMan sell so well? Because as children we formed a bond with the brand. In fact bonds from childhood are scarily strong. What if we could do the same … for shoes? Or cars?
Then again I think that evil corporations unintentionally do good in the name of profit. Often they fund fringe art initiatives in the hope the association with a new cool up and coming thing will endear them to a demographic. In a sense their greed is a fertilizer for some forms of culture. Perhaps that is why our culture is so commercial these days (a sort of feedback loop).
Enzonenon 02 Apr 07
This kind of psychological blabla is popping up every once in a decade. It points to a neurological black box and then suggests that this primal code explains anything. It is much more interesting to try to understand why people make different choises in the same environment. A simple ‘oh it is in my code’ is very behavioristic. And that is so outdated. @David: I think your respons is spot on.
enzonenon 02 Apr 07
Now I have the right URL to our blog connected to my name. An edit function that is active for the next 5 minutes after posting would be sooo convenient!
bashonon 02 Apr 07
I wonder how Rapaille would fair in Topsy Turvy Land where yes means no and no means yes. Drink up.
Brachinuson 02 Apr 07
David 01 Apr 07 “Um, Hummers and Jeep? Does that describe everyone in the human race, or just the dumbass’s that this guy knows how to market to??”
Not just them. IIRC, when Toyota made the Prius look less “hybrid-y” and more like a regular car, customers didn’t like it as much. They cared about the image of the car, and how they looked at it, just as Hummer and Jeep owners care about the image.
We may think the Hummer is an abomination, but for the people who buy it, an abomination is what they want (“take that, tree-huggers!”).
And I think some people are missing the point—it’s not about marketing and selling products that appeal to our inner reptile, it’s about building them that way.
Scotton 02 Apr 07
It’s surprising when you learn how our rational minds are not often in control. Check out “Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious” by Timothy Wilson.The quick takeaways are: —Unaware mind assembles, interprets, and assesses information and emotions —Unable to accurately express why we do something —Liable to “concoct” explanations based on logical, plausible and reasonable. —“Sense-making.” is more of an extrapolated rationalization than a revelation of our true unconscious reasoning.
In usability testing we often see the disjunct between the rational mind and the emotional response. Testing has responded back with the PETscan technique (Persuasion, Emotion, and Trust).
Auguston 02 Apr 07
I’m just wondering… there were more comments in this discussion when I last looked, including mine, where I recommended that folks read Vance Packard’s book The Hidden Persuaders, where most of these theories were put forward back in the 1950s.
It’s still relevant… are comments being deleted now, or did I just imagine things?
bobon 02 Apr 07
I haven’t read too deeply about Rapaille and his thoughts beyond what’s in this post. But I’m surprised how offended some people seem to be. Seems like the simple message is focus more on brand and personality and less on your quant when designing a product and communicating to your customers.
I’m a pretty analytical person, but I don’t feel duped if I buy a product with superior design and branding than a competing product. I just like it and enjoy it more.
There’s an art to creating things people want, and it goes beyond running regression analyses on what they’ve wanted in the past. In fact, I’d say some of the stronger reactions to this line of thinking demonstrated in these comments reinforce Rapaille’s idea of a reptilian reaction. An emotional rejection of emotion. Funny.
Clark Valbergon 02 Apr 07
Sounds like “positioning” (Al Ries and Jack Trout) extended and reborn for the Blink generation. That said I think it’s brilliant.
Paulon 03 Apr 07
I haven’t read Culture Code, but this seems very much like an alternative approach to The Purple Cow, by Seth Godin. If you are interested in this kind of approach, I recommend you give him a read.
One of the primary tenets of Purple Cow is that the old style of marketing was all about the “TV-Industrial Complex”: you buy TV ads, people buy your product, and you use some of the money to buy more TV ads. As choice exploded and consumers became more discriminating, this broke down: people didn’t pay much attention to your TV ads anymore—too many other ads, too many other choices, and so on.
Now, people (you, me) want unique and intriguing – hence the (wow, weird!) Purple Cow. Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink, claims that not only do we want the purple cow, but we want it to be recommended by a friend, because otherwise, sorry, we just Don’t Trust You.
It seems that Rapaille is combining and advancing these theories. Unless I am greatly over-reading the summary information above, we’re not just talking about a rehash of persuasion theory, we’re talking about an attempt to marshal and capture the major shifts in marketing in the last 50 years – and add at least two catchy, persuasive concepts I haven’t heard elsewhere: “the code” and “the reptilian you” – new ideas? Not necessarily—but the packaging is great!
So the question I’m now interested in is: as Godin explains about the TV-Industrial complex, it became less effective as it became more familiar, and as it became more heavily used. Will the Purple Cow/Blink/Culture Code also become less effective as they become more heavily used? I have to think so. And then I have to wonder : what’s next?
JFon 03 Apr 07
And then I have to wonder : what’s next?
We believe it’s clarity. Truth in advertising. Toning down sensationalist language (“revolutionary!” “cutting edge!” “breakthrough!) and replacing it with common language (“we think you’ll like it” “solves some common problems” “a focus on the basics”), etc. Clarity with character.
Clark Valbergon 03 Apr 07
Right, using sensational language only adds a layer of abstraction to the experience you’re creating for the subject. Sensational words that attempt to tug at the emotional strings of consumers often end up getting the message blocked. Imagine that we’re all running a sort of ad-blocker in our minds and the heuristics used to spot “interruption” SPAM is keyword based. By avoiding the use of sensational language you leave the subject open to constructing an authentic “emotional position” on the product / brand.
Patrickon 03 Apr 07
Customers strongly respond to visceral reactions – I don’t think anyone’s disputing that. The car industry understands this well in their efforts to upsell. Despite all sorts of creative ideas, the original big glossy photos of the car racing down a road and sumptuous interiors still work the best. Why aren’t the airline companies adopting this approach? If they want to sell business- and first-class tickets, they should be blowing up huge photos of what the customer would be getting. How many times have you been herded down the aisle of a plane and stared regretfully at the business-class section while muttering that you should have splurged a bit? On the website and at the airline counter, I should be staring at huge video and photos of the seats, beautiful stewardesses, power outlets, and TV amenities and coming up with excuses why I should NOT be paying for the upgrade for my 13-hr flight. “Now with 13% more leg room” does nothing for me.
Robert C.on 03 Apr 07
Interesting. I have heard it said that the Prius benefits from its unique identity. It’s not just that it’s an environmentally friendlier car, it’s also that it identifies itself as such.
So maybe some similar strategies can be used in positive ways.
I do think this guy’s products tend to speak to some primal impulses in people. Some of those impulses seem dumb to me (e.g., the instinct that makes people buy Hummers)—but we shouldn’t deny their existence.
Pius Uzamereon 04 Apr 07
This is a fantastic post . . . thanks for the insight!
Steveon 04 Apr 07
“Why haven’t any of the online travel sites added community features to their applications such as ratings and comments from users? Why haven’t they integrated more information in their listings and search functions like leg room, on-time statistics, and user ratings?”
Because in this particular case, price is what is hitting peoples’ buttons. We all delight in being able to find the absolute dirt-cheapest price on a ticket, and the travel sites were created in response to that desire (not vice versa.)
At the VERY SAME TIME, we all complain about how freebies are being cut from flights, bad meals, paying for headphones, etc. Obviously, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. We want airplane travel to continously get cheaper and cheaper, yet still maintain the exact same perks that we used to get when air travel cost more.
When you relate your anecdote to all of this, things make pretty clear sense to me. In a focus group, we’d all blather on about paying more for good service, etc. But in the real world, plane travel is a pretty utilitarian purchase (we’re paying to get to someplace else, not for the experience of the flight.) So people end up always taking the cheapest flight possible.
Steve Langon 04 Apr 07
Forgot to add- I think Rapaille has many great points and is right on overall, but I disagree with what he says about the airline industry. You fly when you need to travel someplace far, you drive when it’s close. The automobile is not the competition that is hurting the airline industry, it’s other airlines.
The airline industry didn’t create the online travel sites, if anything they’d love for them to go away. Because the internet has turned air travel into a commodity. We’re the ones who ignore another flight en masse because it’s $5 more than the cheapest faire.
The good thing about more discussion of consumer buying habits is that we as consumers can also wise up to how we shop, even as businesses attempt to optimize or exploit (pick your loaded term) their marketing efforts.
Steve R.on 05 Apr 07
I have a reflexive disgust for ‘reptilian’ buying, and while I’m sure I’ve done it, I try aggressively to avoid it. Forcing myself to wait and think before buying works well – and I buy a lot less. I won’t be the nut who says ‘ban it’ or ‘sellers who do this shold be baked into pies’, but I’ll go this far – someone who spends their lives trying to maneuver into someones reptile-brain in order to ‘trick’ a sale on a badly engineered (1)product is not worthy of my respect, nor of the common courtesy I (try to) extend to everyone I meet based on the fact that they are fellow human beings. Such cretins give marketing and sales a bad name.
(1) ‘Badly engineered’ as in ‘I need a vehicle but bought a tank that consumes a massively disproportionate amount of resources for no benefit other than to my overinflated ego’ -not as in ‘it doesn’t work’.
Jamesonon 05 Apr 07
What fascinates me (from the “Frontline” clip) is Rapaille’s client, talking about his experience with the “code” theory. “I strongly believe in what he is doing. Strongly.” Does this guy ever wonder if Rapaille is getting this response by pressing his “reptilian hot buttons” for market research genius? Maybe he’s discovered that expensive champagne and lots of fancy cars will convince people that whatever he says is gold. As a businessman, he’d be crazy not to make use of that knowledge. No discredit to Rapaille; I’m sure his techniques are valid and they’re certainly fascinating. I just wonder, if you’re behind closed doors hearing how easy it is to persuade people to pay you for something – do you wonder about the guy you’re paying to hear this from? Your intellect tells you he gets great results, but he’s telling you your intellect has nothing to do with your purchasing decisions.
On the airline thing, I think the reason the pricing is our main focus is that there’s nothing else to focus on. Commercial air travel is a universally miserable experience – across all (domestic) carriers – so every ticket seems too expensive. $65 round trip from NYC to LAX is more than I want to pay. The security hassles, cramped cabins, delays, delays, delays – they should pay us! It’s hard to justify spending any money on something that is, at best, a necessary evil. If I were to form a positive brand image for a particular airline (comfort, convenience, efficiency, or just a modicum of customer service), I would probably be willing to pay $20-$40 more for their ticket vs. their competitors’. Or, at least I would coordinate my trips to align with their cheapest fares rather than scouring the web for the cheapest ticket on my travel date. The problem is, no airline is building that brand relationship. They can’t afford to, because they’re so dismally mismanaged that all their attention must focus on keeping flights in the air and keeping their workers from striking. They’re taking schizophrenic, shotgun approaches to branding (cf. Song, an experiment that’s already been abandoned in the time since the PBS piece aired). It smacks of desperation, and with good reason: they’re desperate.
They should look at those who like to fly. People with private jets. They love it! It’s on their schedule; there are no long lines; flights are never canceled. Now obviously Delta can’t bring all of these things to commercial air travel, but maybe they should look at where their model diverges and why. For me, it’s all about time. “Arrive 2 hours early.” “Allow time for security.” “Be at the gate when you’re called.” We have to rush, rush, rush; and if we’re late? We’re screwed. What happens if they’re late? Right: we’re screwed. We have to deal with delays and cancellations and missed connections. I’ll pay $100 extra for the next airline that offers me a $10 refund for every 10 minutes of delay. And I’ll still end up flying for free.
Danielleon 05 Apr 07
If anyone is interested in a reality check on Rapaille and his antics, see this Fast Company profile on him:
This discussion is closed.