Marketing to Mindstates: The Practical Guide to Applying Behavior Design to Research and Marketing

Reviewed by Susan Fader, susanfader@faderfocus.com

Reviewed by Susan Fader, susanfader@faderfocus.com
Fader & Associates, Teaneck, NJ

Will Leach writes a fast-paced and practical book focused on marketing communication that is relevant to the marketing, advertising, and market research professional. While some of the material covered may not be new to the reader, Leach does provide a unique and helpful way of presenting complicated theoretical topics of behavioral science and cognitive heuristics and translating them so that it can be easily understood and applied to real life marketing, advertising, and research situations. He also introduces what he has dubbed the “Mindstates Behavioral Model,” which he presents as a practical way to apply insights of behavioral science to real-world situations in research and marketing communication.

I felt the only misstep was a throwaway where he unilaterally wrote off the value of all central location in-person focus group research. His reasons for not using them are related to the problems that arise when an unskilled person designs the methodology and moderates the sessions, and that should have been highlighted rather than writing off the entire focus group research methodology. Even so, this book includes very helpful summaries of how and when to use a multitude of research and messaging techniques, and that is what makes Marketing to Mindstates a helpful book.

Leach started his career as a US Army combat engineer, moved into civilian life as an engineer, eventually landing the role of a strategic insights guy at PepsiCo, before his worldview of how consumers think and make decisions was changed. This happened through a combination of a research study where two identical rounds had completely opposite findings and his reading of Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational.

Leach then immersed himself in the world of behavioral economics and started his own consulting firm, TriggerPoint Design, which focuses on behavior research and design and their impact on consumer decision-making. In his role at TriggerPoint, Leach became a regular on the Strategic Insight, Innovation and Market Research conference and talk circuit. A roundtable at one of these conferences was the genesis for this book, when Leach was asked to recommend a book that would provide a practical how-to guide of integrating behavior design in research and marketing. While there are a lot of theoretical books on this subject, neither Leach nor anyone else could think of a book whose focus, they felt, was about the real world of informing brand strategy and practice.

So, Leach wrote Marketing to Mindstates: The Practical Guide to Applying Behavior Design to Research and Marketing. It focuses on how to influence consumer decision-making. Leach references that the average person makes over 35,000 decisions a day with nearly all being non-conscious automatic processes. Marketing to Mindstates provides a manual for how to reach those consumers when they are making those non-conscious and often irrational decisions.

Leach feels the “core [of] this book is about one ‘thing’ understanding and activating the temporary, nonconscious mindstates that heavily influence consumers’ decisions in their moment of decision making.”  He defines Mindstates as “a temporary state of mind in which we’re under high emotional arousal…and you can use behavior design strategies to get through consumers’ nonconscious filter”.

The author has a very enjoyable writing style, and his mixture of short case studies —many of which star him—combined with very useful how-to lists and breakouts serve as both a good refresher for the experienced pro and a very clear practical guide for others.

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