Why is Voss able to charge exorbitant prices for bottled water when blindfolded wine experts can't tell the difference between its products and ordinary tap water?
Why did Tropicana's orange juice sales plummet 20% in just two months after launching a new carton design featuring an actual orange?
Why did the Campbell Soup Company double average purchase volumes when limiting the number of cans that people were allowed to buy as part of their discount promotion?
These are just a few of the fascinating case studies that Phil Barden covers in Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy, and it's essential reading for any entrepreneur. The gist of Decoded is that we don't just make decisions consciously. We have also evolved a fascinating set of heuristics (i.e. mental rules) that we use to process information and make decisions subconsciously.
Heuristic decision making has profound implications for marketing and sales. Most entrepreneurs only plan how to engage with their customers at a conscious level. However, the world's most successful brands take this much further by exploiting our subconscious rules to influence our purchasing decisions.
Decoded provides engrossing insight into the provocative (and sometimes disturbing) intersection between branding, neuroscience, and behavioural economics. Some of my favourite takeaways include value-driven attention (and how it can lead to literal blind spots), decision interfaces (and how you can use them to change behaviour without changing attitudes), and goal-based marketing (and how you can attract more customers by deconstructing what they actually want).
Be warned that Decoded can be dense reading at times. Much of the subject matter is inherently complex, and Barden's decision to flit across topics instead of deploying a more rigid content structure doesn't help. This is also not primarily a practical guide, with Barden prioritising insight over application.
In short, Decoded is a tantalising platter of hors d'oeuvres, not the main course. But if it tickles your taste buds, the buffet of additional reading at the end will satisfy even the most voracious appetite.