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August 30, 2007

Belief driven decision making

Being in the agency world for quite some time, I've been blessed enough to work with lots of companies.  But in the end I can separate them all into two basic buckets based on how they make decisions and think of consumers as people.  The first bucket are those companies who cannot and will not make a decision until "research" tells them to make it.  Many hide behind the mantra of being "fact-based decision makers."  Fact is, they base their decisions on business logic, bottom-lines,  legacy and the fear of being wrong.  The second bucket are those companies who make decisions based on a belief.  A belief that people can get behind and benefit from.  Think about the companies who are changing their respective categories, befriending consumers and enjoy the fruits of brand advocates.  Here are a couple:

Method.  They believe that the home is like a second skin, and that the products you clean with should be good for you, good for the environment and look good in your home.  You think Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry (founders of Method) wait for evidence before they act and innovate?  I doubt it.  They act on their belief.  They learn by doing.  In doing so they've started more then a cleaning products company, they've started a movement people want to be a part of.

Southwest Airlines.  They believe that flying should be fun and relatively inexpensive and that elitism is overrated.  We all know that air travel is wrought with bad experiences.  Problem is, most airline people aren't equipped to make the best of them.  But Southwest empowers their employees to deal with problems, and makes sure they have a good sense of humor to make it more fun.  They often make the best of a bad situation, turning a potentially negative experience into a good one.  That's why they have more people running around singing there praises and bringing new customers into the brand.  Want some data?  Check out this post on churchoftheconsumer.  We also did some more recent research at 22squared that confirms these findings.

Companies like IKEA and Target, are motivated by the belief that good design should be available everyone.  That guides their decisions on product innovation and designers.  Doubt if they're waiting on much research evidence to act on those decisions.  What would the Nordstrom's shopping experience be like if a sales associate had to go ask a manager for permission every time they wanted to accept a return, send out a gift card or provide over-the-top service?  I know what your thinking, it'd be more like a car dealer experience.

Wonder if IKEA copy tested this ad?   Doubt it.  It's a big hit on YouTube. 

And by the way, IKEA is a big hit with consumers.  In our research, they have more friends and brand advocates than any other large scale furniture retailer in the U.S.  That's saying a lot considering what you have to assemble your own furniture.


So here's what all the companies in the first bucket can learn from companies in the second bucket:

  • You won't have brand advocates working to evangelize the brand unless you believe in something they can believe in too.
  • Once you have that belief, act on it frequently and do what you believe in instead of waiting for the evidence to validate it.
  • Learn more by doing and less by testing. Sure you'll make mistakes, but learning through structured experiments is much faster and productive than waiting for research evidence to act.

by Brandon Murphy


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I really liked your blogpost on belief. I do believe that there is some experience behind a company's faith in their customers, even if it is just personal experience. I do agree that values marketing is important in a post-modern world where experience, connection and feelings are important. At BrainReactions we help companies find out what GEN Y wants in products--perhaps with just a little research companies can hit the heart of the market.

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