Why capturing imagination is more powerful than reason!

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Our imagination can be extremely vivid and is a powerful force in determining our behaviour. History shows that people are often not rational in the choices they make. Imagination is a more important driver of decision making.

For example, the Leave campaign in the EU referendum used the slogan “Let’s take back control” to convince people to vote for Brexit. This slogan was suggesting that by leaving the EU the UK would again become a sovereign state. The UK would be able to set its own: laws, rules and standard for products and services, be able to negotiate its own trade deals and also control its borders.


As anyone who knows about international trade and sovereignty, this was miss-leading, if not a lie.

The only trading-blocks big enough to set regulations and rules are China, the USA and the EU. As the Article 50 bill pointed out the UK parliament had always been sovereign for the whole of the time it had been part of the EU. Only 17% of laws and regulations are set by the EU. The vast majority of these were supported by the UK government. The UK also already had the power to send EU nationals home after three months if they could not support themselves financially. But successive governments chose not to implement such laws.

Although “Let’s take back control” may not have been true. It caught the imagination of voters and that’s more persuasive than a rational argument about economics.

The Target Audience Wanted to Believe the Message

As many people outside of London and the South East felt left behind by globalisation and the prosperity of the wealthier regions they desperately wanted to believe in something.

The problem with a lot of marketing is that it is often based upon reason rather than imagination. A bit like the Remain campaign which only focused on economic arguments and tried to bully people into supporting the status quo.

Similarly, many marketers think customers like choices and they constantly develop new features to allow them to tailor the product to their individual needs. They are always looking at what the competition is doing and spend time discussing how well the latest campaign aligns with the brand values. This is because these issues make sense to rational, marketing people.

Unfortunately people are not rational when it comes to most decisions. The majority of our daily decisions are made by our fast, automatic brain, System 1, with little, if any, conscious thought. People don’t want infinite choice and they rarely change default settings. People create clusters to make their choices easier and then brand preference may make a difference.

A Rational Approach Ignores the Reality that People Want Something to Believe in

Steve Jobs was a brilliant marketer. He knew how to capture people’s imagination. When he got the idea for the iPod he didn’t say he would launch an MP3 player. No, he said he would put 1,000 songs in your pocket.

Capturing the customer’s imagination is much more effective than any new feature will ever be.