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Thinking Is To Humans As Swimming Is To Cats

October 8, 2019

Woman offering a Speedo bathing suit to her terrified catAre there any cats reading this blog? OK, show of paws: how many of you like to swim??blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Hmm… don’t all purr at once… 🙀blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Most domestic cats prefer to avoid water (there are some exceptions). Which brings us to this wonderful line from psychologist Daniel Kahneman:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

“Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats; they can do it but they’d prefer not to.” –Daniel Kahneman, psychologist & Nobel Prize winner (click to tweet)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Professor Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. The above line appears in his best-selling book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highKahneman says our minds have two systems of thought: the first is fast, automatic, instinctive– we can’t really control it. The second requires logic and analysis: it’s slow, deliberate, and takes sustained effort; i.e., it’s painful.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What this means for marketers: most decisions are made by gut instinct (System #1). Richard Shotton puts it this way:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Even when we think we’re making reasoned conscious decisions often the conscious mind is merely post-rationalizing decisions that have already been made.
–Richard Shotton, behavioral scientist & best-selling
author (click to tweet)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Shotton goes on to describe a psychology experiment at a food market selling gourmet jams:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They set up a stall at a posh food market selling a range
of gourmet jams. They alternated between offering six and 24 varieties of jam. While the large display attracted more interest than the small one, people were 10 times as likely
to buy from the stall with the smaller variety of choice…

The psychologists concluded that consumers failed to buy
at the more varied stall as the choice became too effortful… (worrying, perhaps) that one of those unchosen goods
would have been a better use of their money.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

A similar “tyranny of choice” has occurred in pop music: rather than wade thru hundreds of little-known independent artists, consumers retreat to the familiar and easy-to-find; i.e., established superstars.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

All of which jibes very nicely with Rory Sutherland‘s contention that most brand choices are the result of convenience, and that in order to justify our choice, we
then decide we like that brand.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Quite a lot of evidence from both behavioral sciences and from neuroscience suggests that we act first and form our opinions in light of our actions. –Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy UK (click to tweet)blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Paul Cash, CMO of Rooster Punk, a B2B storytelling agency, sums up Mr. Kahneman’s findings this way: We
don’t like to think too hard, and our purchase decisions are emotional, not rational. His advice:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Keep it simple. Make sure the content you create is simple, truthful and engaging. Make social, social. Too many facts and figures will turn buyers away. –Paul Cash, CMO, Rooster Punk (click to tweet)blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I’d add the following:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

1. Make getting noticed your top priority– otherwise no one will stop to think about what you have to offer.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

2. Less is more. I see too many infographics crammed with too much information.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

3. Since purchasing decisions are instinctive (emotional), create content that stirs emotions.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

4. Tell stories– because they’re all about drawing people in, emotionally.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

5. Use visuals– because they’re easier to process than text (but please note: stock images will be ignored).blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

6. Use humor– because it disarms. You can’t connect with people who have their shields up.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

In The Adventure Of The Norwood Builder, Sherlock Holmes mentions the supreme gift of the artist: knowing when to stop.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

That’s something every marketer needs to know, too.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *      blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, editorial, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from David Yas, Founder & CEO, Boston Podcast Network, former V.P. Publisher, Mass Lawyers Weekly
blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

blank vertical space, 40 pixels high

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2019 7:02 PM

    Logic and analysis. Makes me think of a recent comment by Scott Adams (and others). When you hear the latest news, wait 24 hours before you decide what you think about it. In 24 hours the rest of the story will probably unfold and your original assessment might change (if you have an open mind.)
    Works for shopping too. A bit of time and distance is often a good thing.


    • October 22, 2019 10:02 AM

      Ha!– excellent. And you have to consider the source, which is often enough to make you dismiss any report out of hand, no 24 hours needed. A lot of wisdom in your “a bit of time and distance is often a good thing.” Thanks, Margy!!


  2. October 9, 2019 9:37 AM

    Hmmmm, I was thinking of adding a witty comment but my thoughts drowned in the fondness for your art. 😉 Some ‘visuals’ to help: 👏🏼👍🏼👊☀️🐱 🐈 🎣

    Great content here as always, mon ami!


    • October 22, 2019 10:22 AM

      Vos pensées se noient? Your thoughts are drowning?? My dear Radhika!!– I’m signaling to the barman at the Ganges Club: she’s had enough!!– no more ginger ale!! 😊

      A thousand apologies– no wait, I always say that– two thousand apologies for this horribly late reply. Your kind words are, of course, the sweetest balm to my cerebellum, frontal lobe, and let’s not forget my olfactory bulb! Hope this finds you filled with health and vigor in body, mind, soul, and assorted spiritual dimensions. Thought of you the other day while reading an article about the famous Mr. Gandhi. He may have greater name recognition, but for me, you will always represent India par excellence, especially southern India!! Always wishing you the best, mon amie!! 🌹🌹🌹🇮🇳👳😊


  3. Steve Campbell permalink
    October 9, 2019 6:29 PM

    As a writer self-publishing my e-books, I am among hundreds of thousands of other authors at the cyber bookstores vying for customer attention. As a reader, I shop for new authors, but I think most people go with authors they know, or at least make someone’s list of recommendations. Books are like the music albums you mentioned.


    • October 22, 2019 10:38 AM

      You’re so right, Steve: music, books– there’s a direct parallel there, and you could throw in all manner of crafts, services, and artistic endeavors as well. I think you could argue that every freelancer is a “self-publisher” in a way– and today that makes for some very crowded fields. I liked your point about getting recommended– which brings us back to figuring out a way to get noticed, and generate word of mouth. Thanks so much for your comment and all your support!



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