UNDERSTANDING WHAT MAKES MARE TICK
What are we the proudest of at MARE? The people. In a nutshell, MARE boasts an interdisciplinary lot, who put the hard in work hard, play hard. About time then to shine the spotlight on some of our in-house talent. First up: Understanding What Makes Waldo Tick.
Waldo Swijnenburg, Managing Partner at MARE, is a philosopher, sociologist and psychologist who does DJ gigs in his spare time. He wrote a book about the beauty of a world without God and lately he’s been making waves with his critique on the hype around the unconscious consumer. Last week he wrote an article on the ongoing discussion in the research business about what drives consumers: unconscious causes or conscious control.
Aside from your work at MARE, you are involved in the discussion of the conscious vs. the unconscious and you wrote a book about nonexistence of (any) god. What is the motivation behind your work? What makes you tick?
What drives me is the necessity of independent thinking and critical reflection about themes that matter. For me two topics standout: what makes us human and does a god exist. In both cases many people seem to accept ideas without questioning them, namely that humans are controlled by uncontrollable unconscious causes and that some kind of god needs to exist. This could be true, but you have to look for the truth yourself and dig deep: think and read as much as you can.
How would you describe the discussion on the battle about the human mind?
The discussion about if humans are unconscious robots or in fact embody the unique human quality of conscious control has been going on for decades in the cognitive sciences and has more recently entered the realm of market research. Many advertising agencies, marketers and of course neuromarketers claim that 95% of our decisions are controlled by our unconscious mind. Now this sounds both scientific and very interesting, but when I challenge them to explain the calculation behind this claim, I never get a satisfying answer. I know that much of our behavior is ruled by unconscious powers, but I also know that humans can control their thinking and their doing to some extent if they put their mind to it. There is a lot of solid studies about both topics, but commercial stakeholders only promote the ‘unconscious’ robot view. This is what I address in my article.
How would you say that this relates to MARE’s approach to market research?
MARE specializes in unravelling (un)conscious consumer behavior. It is important to realize that a good researcher not only poses the right questions but also considers what the answer means for the clients and their brand, organization or campaign. It is key to know how the consumer’s mind works, how culture influences them and what trends will shape the future. Of course, you can’t know everything, but at MARE we try our best to know as much as we can. MARE’s trend team examines the underlying context in order to understand how certain trends affect consumers. This is an essential step in helping our clients anticipate what’s next. In other words, one can only read between the lines if one knows what the entire book is about.
Where do you think the discussion will go from here? Is the hype really over?
I think that people in the commercial business will continue to believe in the unconscious mind because on short term this is what they benefit from. However, in science there is clearly an ongoing shift away from the simple neo Freudian view to a more realistic model of human behavior. My advice: keep yourself posted: they are talking about you.