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July 25, 2006

News & Opinion: Reveal the code

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 2:04 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture


Clotaire Rapaille, author of the new book The Culture Code, is introducing a new way to market to consumers.

To introduce him and his idea, let me start by giving  you some brain background. There are a few key parts of the brain -- the cortex ("the part of the brain that controls intelligence"), the limbic system (which controls emotions) and the reptilian brain ("only accessible via the subconscious, the reptilian brain is the home of our instincts").

In the past marketers have held focus groups to help with product development and marketing plans. Rapaille shows that these don't work because marketers are only accessing participants' cortexes. Participants are caught up in giving what they believe to be intelligent answers or they're trying to please the moderator. "It's not that people intentionally lie during surveys and focus groups; it's that they try too hard to please."

When you tap into the reptilian part, you can understand what consumers are really looking for and what they view as ultimately important. For example, Chrysler came out with a new sedan believing that gas mileage, safety and price were the most important elements to consumers. The sedan wasn't a huge success because it was "'off-Code.'" Knowing this led to the creation of the PT Cruiser.

Rapaille finds these codes by three-part sessions:
  1.  Engages the cortex: "an interviewer takes the role of a 'visitor from another planet,' asking participants to help the visitor understand the product."
  2. Engages the limbic system: it's storytime for participants as they tell about their product experiences.
  3. Engages the reptilian brain: starts with a relaxation exercise and concludes with participants writing about their first product experience, "expressing what was imprinted into their subconscious."

Interesting. Now, what's your code?

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.