“What are you going to do?”


Traditional methods of market research into consumer buying behaviour are limited in their effectiveness because they only reach the conscious mind. That is because our decisions are so strongly influenced by subconscious thinking, standard analytical approaches can provide an incomplete picture. These omissions can have very significant consequences, as strikingly illustrated during the 2015 UK General Election, when polls failed to predict the outcome.

Colour Word Association is an established and patented technique that reaches the subconscious mind. It is a simple yet powerful method that allows much deeper analysis of consumer preferences and behaviour than has not been readily available to researchers to date.  Powerfully, it is capable of explaining why some of findings from conventional consumer research don’t materialise in reality.  A few typical examples include consumers:

  • Saying one thing and doing another
  • Giving the impression of loyalty but proving to be fickle
  • Saying they like a new product but not buying it – explaining why a high proportion of new products fail


Why does this happen? It all comes down to human nature and that we are far less rational in our decision making than is often assumed. For example, there are many occasions where we don’t know why we really have a preference for some products or brands and why we reject others out of hand.

A better understanding of what is really going on could unlock huge commercial advantages. But to do this we have to find a way to see into the mind of the consumer and not rely on their ability to explain themselves or justify the reasons behind why they do what they do.

Being human

Classical economic theory disregards uncomfortable aspects of consumer behaviour and calls them irrational. However Behavioural economics (described by Harvard magazine as a hybrid offspring of economics and psychology) studies how real people make choices, why their decisions are sometimes irrational and their behaviour so difficult for them to explain – or for organisations to predict.

In his acclaimed book Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman states that “The mental work that produces impressions, intuitions, and many decisions goes on in silence in our minds”.

Yet, to miss or fail to understand the human, behavioural or subconscious factors at play means that any company’s understanding of how its market really ticks will contain some big holes with high impact consequences.

Subconscious mind research

Traditional market research has always been based on the assumption that our purchase decisions are a conscious choice based on rational and well thought out preferences which we can easily explain.

Scientific evidence continues to build however that the very opposite is true and that the vast majority, some experts believe up to 95%, of our decisions are in fact made by our subconscious mind and not, as we would like to believe, by our rational or conscious mind.

If nearly all our purchasing decisions have a high subconscious element, this much raise questions about relying on conventional research data, in which consumers are asked explain their preferences and behaviour, to inform crucial decision making.

That helps to explain why we are starting to see a slow shift away from simply measuring external demonstrations of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours to trying to develop a better understanding of the subconscious perceptions, beliefs and attitudes that actually drive consumer behaviour.

In his acclaimed book Unconscious Branding, author Douglas Van Praet argues “Brands are learned behaviour: unconscious automatic intelligence acquired through experience.”

Seeing into the mind of the consumer

To see beyond the rational brain of the consumer we have to take away the limitations of conventional market research. So here we do away with the usual pre-defined questionnaires, tick-box answers and focus groups.

These are instead replaced by a method that removes bias, doesn’t lead the witness, and taps directly into the subconscious without the need for the respondent to explain, predict or analyse their past or future thoughts, feelings or actions.

The response mechanism uses a strong and proven psychological technique based upon colour. It uses the proven relationship that exists between how people feel and the colours they select for any given stimulus.

These colours become the ‘hot buttons’ that are able to relay and translate information from the consumer’s subconscious mind; to reveal their real feelings and motivations that are so often hidden, even to the respondents themselves.

Applying this method of response alongside association analysis also allows the detection of subconscious associations which people may be unaware of but which can have a profound effect on their decision making.




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