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Guest Blog: Chris Measures - Consumer psychology and tapping into the herd mind

Tapping into the herd mind

Marketers are often accused of failing to understand their customers. Why? According to author Mark Earls(aka @herdmeister) it is essentially because they treat consumers as rational, thinking beings, when essentially we’re dominated by a desire to avoid thought and follow the herd. As Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahnemann put it: “We are to thinking as cats are to swimming. We can do it if we have to, but we don’t particularly like it.”


Speaking at last year’s Another Marketing Conference Mark outlined four handy principles:

  1. People do first and think later – they might post-rationalise their decisions and believe they acted logically, but that’s after the fact.
  2. We’re far more like Captain Kirk rather than Dr Spock, so you need to make it easy for people to make decisions, rather than thinking.
  3. People aren’t looking for the best, they are looking for ‘good enough’. We’re living in a universe of too much stuff, the vast majority of which doesn’t involve life or death choices. So we’ll generally go with what satisfies the need rather than spend days searching for the best possible option.
  4. People harmonise with other people automatically.  In an uncertain decision landscape we’re most likely to choose what our peers are choosing rather than listen to marketing around us. We learn by      copying others.

What I think is really interesting is how this plays out in social media and online. We tend to Like what our friends Like, we want to follow people that our friends follow and watch the videos that they do. So once something gets momentum behind it (think Psy’s Gangnam Style) it just grows and grows.

You can see this as depressing, as essentially it explains mob behaviour, but as marketers we need to understand how customers operate if we’re going to successfully engage with them. What decisions are independent and what are herd led? Structure campaigns accordingly and you can change behaviour and ensure your message gets across.

Posted by: Chris Measures

Measures Consulting: tapping into the herd mind

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