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With over 25 years of experience in marketing at Unilever, Diageo and T-Mobile, and five years in decision science at Decode Marketing, Phil Barden published his book entitled “Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy” in February 2013.

his book challenges the economic assumptions and beliefs of how people make rational decisions according to objective cost versus utility analyses. Providing a wide variety of up-to- date scientific evidence and case studies, this decision making handbook is a great read for anyone interested in neuromarketing, working in ad agencies, market research, media, product development, communication, sales and business, or those who simply want to understand our perceptions, our motivations and how we make decisions.

Each of the six chapters provides case studies and information about their impact to marketers, building a bridge between scientific results and practice and offering explanations of why consumers behave the way they do in different situations. Barden offers a wide variety of science-based insights for marketers and combats the assumptions economists make and the way marketers implement strategies. He brings another approach for understanding consumer behavior: “As long as we continue to ask the same questions and don’t update our mental model for consumer decision making, we will not be able to exploit the powerful insights that decision science offers. This requires a paradigm shift in marketing, not just a change of tools.”

Phil Barden shines his light on dozens of scientific case studies that explain the success or failure of advertising campaigns or logos. Throughout the entire book, Phil Barden makes references to the “pilot” and “autopilot”, linking them with concepts like “attention”, “context” or “peripheral perception”. A key aspect presented in the book is peripheral perception and how it can maximize the effectiveness of our marketing strategies.

While reading the book, I was impressed by the number of studies explained and I found out how subtle signals can make a difference in the overall product experience. It contains a lot of exciting opportunities to influence behavior, as all signals that we send can increase the persuasiveness of our marketing activities and the explicit and conscious perception of products is a construction that happens inside the consumer’s head.

So are you wondering why consumers make certain decisions, why they buy what they buy, what motivates them and drives the choice between different options on a shelf in the supermarket? Or how perception works and how we can use the core insights to optimize our marketing activities? How a default option can push the consumer toward that choice? How we can influence decision making and purchases without an intermediate step of changing consumer attitudes? Or even how to make consumers perceive a price as less costly? Then this book will provide the answers. Reading it will help you decode consumer decision making and provide you with many options to utilize the results of behavioral economics to optimize decisions. 

By Monica Bercea