July 26th, 2008
As you examine your life, what affects you most deeply about your best and worst paramours, jobs, bosses, songs, movies, paintings, victories, vacations, homes, and cars? Is it what you process mentally about them? Far from it.
The exceptional people, escapades, possessions, and experiences of your life make visceral impacts in your gut. The gut is the nexus between, the confluence of, your mind and heart. It is the true barometer of your body’s reaction to the world. So, heart-only and mind-only decisions are, by definition, suboptimal or wrong. Instead, one always must make gut-based decisions. I’ve regretted it every time I ignored my gut.
Watch Tiger Woods hit a tee-shot. When it’s perfect, he immediately bends down to pick up his tee, without ever watching his ball in flight, and begins walking to the fairway. Meanwhile, the TV camera has been trained on the shot from beginning to end. How does Tiger know, without looking and analyzing, that he executed perfectly? He can feel it in his gut.
When a person has a big decision to make, he typically likes to sleep on it. Why? During sleep, the whole body will process that decision, culling the data from mind and heart. Upon awakening the next morning, the decisionmaker can feel the right answer in his gut, where his body places it. Unfortunately, all too often, we ignore our guts. Anyone who’s married the wrong woman, when his gut clearly told him not to, understands this phenomenon all too well.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell is a bestselling book about rapid cognition, making decisions based on what occurs in the first two seconds of any situation. Overthinking always takes one away from the solution his gut knows is right. To me, Blink validates the gut as a powerful decisionmaking instrument.
Have you ever watched Donald Trump decide which candidate to fire every week on The Apprentice, or which one to hire at the end of 13 weeks? He begins each series with a slew of highly accomplished candidates — they look amazing on paper — but, until he can get a “feel” for them in action and interaction, he cannot discern one from the other. Trump often struggles with his personnel decisions but always admits that they’re based on gut-feel.
Oprah Winfrey, arguably one of the world’s best decisionmakers, said the following in her commencement address at Stanford University on June 15, 2008:
And how do you know when you’re doing something right? How do you know that? It feels so. What I know now is that feelings are really your GPS system for life. When you’re supposed to do something or not supposed to do something, your emotional guidance system lets you know. The trick is to learn to check your ego at the door and start checking your gut instead. Every right decision I’ve made — every right decision I’ve ever made — has come from my gut. And every wrong decision I’ve ever made was a result of me not listening to the greater voice of myself.
The Essence of Consumer Behavior
Allow me this caveat: Because the gut combines and processes data from the mind and the heart, it is only as good as the weakest of those two organs. Nevertheless, the gut is what people use to make decisions, good or bad. Accordingly, their guts are what marketers must occupy to sell them products and services.
So, if the gut is our chief decisionmaking instrument, why is so much ink devoted to the mind? Countless books, articles, seminars, and business strategies are based on mindshare, universally understood as that portion of space in the customer’s mind that a vendor’s product occupies.
People obsess about mindshare because, in my opinion, they “feel” more comfortable (ironically, a gut reaction) discussing decisionmaking in “intellectual terms.” A Google search on the word mindshare yields 1.74M listings — a lot of fealty to a marketing concept that doesn’t grasp the essence of consumer behavior.
The essence of consumer behavior is the gut. Consumers — residential, commercial, industrial, military, and scientific — make decisions with their guts. So, a marketer who can resonate the customer’s gut, as a bowed string resonates a violin, will sell him a lot of products and services.
Yet, the preoccupation with mindshare persists. It is a mistake. Just as you can’t win a prize at the carnival without hitting the target, you can’t win a customer without hitting the target: his gut.
I have lots of product names stuck in my head — from intellectual absorption of the endless print, Internet, TV, and radio advertising I see and hear — but this plethora of information overwhelms and bores me. The only product names that matter are the ones that move me.
Because one advertiser outspends its rivals on commercials, its product might occupy the most share of my mind. So what? Without moving me, though, I’m not going to buy that vendor’s product — unless it’s the cheapest one I can find. I have, many times, bought the highest-priced product in a category because its vendor moved me, got the biggest share of my gut.
The true measure of marketing effectiveness is the ability to grab GutShare™, that portion of space in the customer’s gut that one’s product or service occupies. GutShare is what makes certain brands — such as Apple, BMW, Comedy Central, Fox News, Google, IBM, Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz, Michelin, Rolex, Starbucks, Tide, Tiffany, Windex, Wall Street Journal, YouTube — break through the white noise to stand out.
What’s the secret of grabbing GutShare? Communicating to prospects and customers with the right signal: a balance of logic and emotion (mind and heart) that resonates the gut. Chasing mindshare cannot accomplish this.
It takes guts to go for the gut — to buck convention by grabbing GutShare — when the rest of your competitors are fighting for mindshare. But, hitting any target doesn’t win the prize; it must be the right target. Whoever wins GutShare wins the customer.
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2008 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.
Tags: business strategy, Donald Trump, Fox News, Google, gut, gutshare, Malcolm Gladwell, Marc Rudov, marketing, mindshare, Oprah Winfrey, Stanford University, Starbucks, Tide, Tiger Woods, Wall Street Journal