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#reThink13 Day 1: The Rise of Superman & The Super Sample Provider

Jonathan Ewert shares his take on a pair of sessions from the first day of re:Think.

By Jonathan Ewert


The Rise of Superman – Steven Kotler

The session covered an emerging sector of brain science called “flow” — that feeling that athletes get at moments of “peak performance” (shout out to Abraham Maslow).  Flow was discovered in 1871 by a geologist named Albert Hein who studied the experiences that mountain climbers shared after they had survived falls from cliffs (Hein himself survived a 70 foot fall.)  Similar feelings to the experiences can be produced by taking psychedelic drugs (and it’s just as addictive), Flow is related directly to the moment of “fight or flight” response to an emergency situation.

Defined as the “optimal state of consciousness,” Flow also sits at the heart of athletic championships and scientific breakthroughs.  Usually governed by evolution, human performance has broken all the rules of what is possible.  In some cases, changes in neurochemistry have resulted in dramatic performance improvements.  People are able to go faster and farther than was thought humanly possible only 50 years ago.  Records are broken — shattered — regularly.

Kotler’s Flow Genome Project thinks Flow can be reverse-engineered based on two developments.  The first is the development of imaging technologies and the rise of quantified-self devices.  The second is the availability of larger and larger specialized data sets, specifically from people in life-threatening situations where the fight versus flight reflex shows up again.

Adventure sports happens to be one of the best places to look for data on the changes in neurochemistry brought on by these situations.  Adventure sports like big wave surfing are high-stakes activities with big consequences where skills are just slightly less than the challenge at hand.  These situations heighten the awareness centers of the brain, both of the athlete’s own body and of the environment around him/her.  Also, the adventure sports environment is usually rich in stimuli which further accentuates awareness.

How all of this gets applied to business is an open question, but one that Kotler will also try to solve.  He cited a McKinsey study and also a DARPA study that seem to be getting close to practical applications of neuroscience to enhance business performance.  That may take a while, so for now let’s go with the Flow.


ResearchNow & Experian Hitwise – Applying Multi-Channel Platforms To Understand the New Connected Consumer

ResearchNow and Hitwise announced their partnership and unveiled the results of their holiday shopping study.  The study leveraged 800 of ResearchNow panelists to measure consumer intent across the Thanksgiving – CyberMonday period of 2012 from a 4 dimensional perspective: survey, digital behavior, mobile survey and behavior, & GPS tracking.   The study focused on the path to purchase as opposed to actual purchase data.  Lots of data was presented in a rapid-fire style but here are the highlights.

Overall, the study found that, regardless of whether the consumer is on-store, online, or on their smart phone, product quality and brand (still) drive behavior.  That’s good news for CMO’s.  The bad news for CMO’s who bet the farm on proprietary apps is that consumers don’t use them — particularly the affluent ones.  They prefer comparison shopping engines.  The study also found that PII is becoming a real concern for consumers in certain demographics.  Finally, even the most satisfied customers are not the most loyal ones — their attention, particularly in the store, is fleeting and mostly devoted to FaceBook (~30%) and texting (18%).  And interestingly, the stores they say they will visit is very different than the stores they actually visit.

Of particular interest around the busiest shopping season of the year is the consumers’ device usage patterns:

  • On Thanksgiving day (when stores are generally closed), people use PC’s but not their mobile devices.
  • On “black Friday” and in to Saturday, mobile usage picks up.
  • On Saturday, mobile really picks up – even while consumers are in store.  One panelist spent an average of 75 minutes per day on FaceBook while “shopping”.
  • This carries in to Monday when the PC is once again the device du jour.

Experian also presented the data in their standard Experian Segmentation of 19 groups and 71 types.  There were no real surprises there.  Affluents and value conscious people tend to shop early (either to get the hot new toy, avoid the crowds, or find the best sale).  Boomers tend to be weekend shoppers, and CyberMonday skews youthful.

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