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As you saw in Part 2 of the 2019 Yale Customer Insights Conference Recap, the second group of discussions turned toward consumer insights in the television world, as well as two CMO's takes on digital marketing. In Part 3, things took a more academic and analytical perspective.

Dan Kahan: Professor, Yale Law School

"It's not a lack of rationality. It's too much rationality."

Dan’s talk may have been the most counterintuitive, yet in the most entertaining way. To sum it up in one sentence, people who are more numerate—which is the capacity to understand and make proper use of quantitative information in reasoning tasks—are more likely to interpret data incorrectly to serve their personal beliefs.

I’m going summarize the study for the purpose of this article, but you can check it out for yourself here:

KAHAN, D., PETERS, E., DAWSON, E., & SLOVIC, P. (2017). Motivated numeracy and enlightened self-government. Behavioural Public Policy, 1(1), 54-86. doi:10.1017/bpp.2016.2

Participants in the study were posed a simple question about the effectiveness of a skin cream treatment, after they were given some data.
motivated reasoning yale customer insights conference

The key is to look at the ratio of better vs worse. For those who used the skin cream, the rash got better by a ratio of about 3 when compared to the worse. But those who didn’t use the skin cream got better by a ratio of about 5—so the second option is correct. People who used the skin cream were more likely to get worse than those who didn’t.

The same numbers were then used for a different prompt. Instead of the effectiveness of a skin cream—a neutral topic—the prompt was about a gun ban implemented into a city, and the numbers showed whether or not crime increased or decreased.

When looking at the skin cream, a correct interpretation of the data was highly related to the numeracy of the participant. However, interpretation of the data as it related to the gun ban was more dependent on political views—and the differences grew for those who had higher numeracy. That’s right. Higher numeracy meant participants were more likely to confirm their political views than they were to interpret the data correctly. A classic example of confirmation bias.

The reason for this is because those who had high numeracy understood the numbers better—and were able twist the results for an explanation in favor of their political views. In other words, it’s not a lack of rationality. It’s too much rationality. They’re going further into system 2 thinking than they should, instead of simply interpreting the data.


Ari Sheinkin: Vice President, Global Marketing Analytics & Media, IBM

Ari offered a unique perspective on changing the existing marketing model from one-to-millions marketing, to one-to-one marketing. Each person has a unique perspective, a unique goal, and a unique interaction with your brand. In fact, each interaction influences the prospect in some way. So instead of looking at an individual email and saying that it’s not working because of its low click-through rate, look at it as just one touchpoint in the consumer’s journey. They’re also searching your website, seeing you on social media, interacting with chatbots. That email is just another interaction, and it’s the big picture that matters.

Mind you, IBM hasn’t perfected this multidimensional marketing model yet. And this is IBM—they have access to the world’s most intelligent AI systems and the most powerful computers. It isn’t an easy model to approach. But the idea of hyper-personalized marketing and every interaction with the consumer mattering shouldn’t be a foreign concept.

One of the main reasons IBM is turning to multidimensional marketing is because they are B2B. And each deal comes at a pretty high cost. In that type of environment, a prospect becomes more concerned about trust in the brand than in a typical B2C situation. Prospects are making decisions on behalf of their companies and they want it to reflect well on them. There’s an emotional layer to the purchase as well. And as we saw with Spotify and The New York Times, emotion can have a powerful effect when marketing to consumers. By tapping into emotions and understanding every interaction a prospect has with the brand, IBM hopes to improve ROI and better inform where they should invest their next dollar.


Molly Crockett: Assistant Professor of Psychology, Yale University

Molly’s talk was focused on the evolution of moral outrage—how it evolved and how it exists in today’s digital age. At its core, moral outrage evolved thousands of years ago in small group settings. When survival was key, it was important to point out when someone in the group was doing something wrong or immoral. Especially if those actions could hurt the rest of the group. An individual could express outrage and the group could intervene to stop the bad behavior and ensure success moving forward.

Today we have social media. We can see what someone halfway across the world is doing in a matter of seconds. It provides a platform for people to say what they want to say, whenever they want to say it. And on these social platforms, provocative posts garner more attention than other types.

Social posts that express moral outrage are most often provocative by nature. And if social media users are interacting more with provocative posts, the internal algorithms built into these social platforms—the personalization engines—will keep throwing provocative posts our way. In other words, social media reinforces outrage by feeding users more of the provocative posts that get interactions.

Check out the first two parts of our 2019 Yale Customer Insights Conference: 

  • Part 1: 2019 Yale Customer Insights Conference Recap
  • Part 2: 2019 Yale Customer Insights Conference Recap

Want to attend the Yale Customer Insights Conference next year? Subscribe to Ideas To Go (see top of this post) for exclusive discounts on conference tickets. Interested in what went down at the conference in 2018? Check it out here.

Tyler Thompson

Tyler Thompson is a Marketing and Research Analyst at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.