Monday, 21 August 2017

How un-focusing doctors can lead to better brand insights

Scrolling through my LinkedIn on a Monday morning (instead of reading emails), I found an article in the Harvard Business review on the brain’s ability to focus*.

The article talked about how focus is a key driver of success, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. CEOs become CEOs because they are incredibly skilled at focusing on what tasks are vital to a company’s bottom line, whilst the rest of us are powerless to resist a good Buzzfeed article when we should be working.  

The article’s real insight was that, contrary to popular belief, being un-focused is just as vital to our functioning. So vital, that psychologists have given it a technical name: The Default Mode Network.

What is the Default Mode Network (DMN)?

The DMN is what happens when our brain isn’t focusing on and assessing the outside world. It’s when our minds have retreated to the safety and wonder of daydreaming, or when we are feeling particularly sentimental and wish to remember the good times from the past.

This sounds a lot like procrastination - putting off tasks that need to get done - and not at all conducive to decision-making.

However, research has shown that the DMN is heavily involved in activating old memoriesgoing back and forth between the past, present, and future, and recombining different ideas, which is a key component of creativity. When psychologists first examined this neural network within the brain, they saw that it was deactivated during most goal-orientated tasks. But on closer inspection, they saw that this was not the case when those goal-orientated tasks were associated with social interaction and working memory.

With this in mind, it feels as though we might be missing out on the opportunity to use the DMN to help us obtain greater insights from our respondents taking part in market research.

How can we change our approach to gathering insights based on the DMN?

A lot of market research tasks used in interviews place great emphasis on engaging doctors, keeping them focused and making sure their minds don’t wander. This is because we want to download their knowledge in the 60 minutes we have with them, in order to identify how a brand might better communicate to their customers and encourage prescribing.

But what if we did the opposite, and allowed our doctors to become unfocused, activating their DMN?

We might then see the less rational, more emotional responses we seek. It may also help our doctors to be more creative and help us uncover solutions for how to make their brand(s) more compelling than their competitorsBy activating the DMN we can better understand the impact of new drugs in the market, and how their behaviour might change as a result.

This is a topic that Brand Garage – our innovation think tank at Branding Science – are currently looking at. Our aim is to design tasks that activate the Default Mode Network, so we can approach our client’s business questions from a wide range of angles. Ultimately providing them with valid solutions as to how to optimise their brand’s marketing strategic.

Watch this space!

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