The best guess is that only 0.0004% of sensory processing is conscious: the conscious mind is relatively limited, and therefore doesn’t play a huge role in consumer decision-making.

The major consequence for marketing strategy is that: consumers generally do not think or care about brands.

Byron Sharp and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science have, over the last few decades, helped to make marketing more of an empirical discipline. In so doing, they have discovered that there exist in marketing a number of predictable, scientific laws that govern buyer behaviour – just like laws of physics, chemistry or mathematics.

For example, it has been demonstrated again and again, across a range of brands, sectors and countries, that the majority of a brand’s buyers are light buyers – e.g. those who buy Coca-Cola just once or twice a year.

Although there are loyal brand-buyers (such as those who buy Coca-Cola so much they have hallucinations – or even just those who drink it once a week), they only account for a tiny fraction of a brand’s buyers in the grand scheme of things.

It therefore is inadvisable to focus on loyalty, and the strategies which contribute to it, such as segmentation or positioning. A great case study is the British chocolate bar Yorkie, which, in the 80s, released some fantastically masculine adverts featuring stags, truckers, and real men. More recently, they have been more explict, using the motto “It’s not for girls”.

But what proportion of their buyers are female? 47%.

Indeed, research has shown that penetration is a far more effective strategy than loyalty. One study investigated the IPA Effectiveness Awards, and found that brands who focused on penetration were over twice as likely to win a medal than those who focused on loyalty, and over ten times as likely to win a gold medal.

Coca-Cola itself has always aimed to be “within an arm’s reach”.

In order to achieve penetration, a brand needs to be as available (i.e. easy to buy) as possible  – by, for example, being front-of-mind, being in as many locations as possible, being very easy to recognise, and so on.

Indeed, taking visual saliency as an example, there is a huge amount of research showing that being easy to find has a massive impact on sales:

  • By introducing cardboard ‘fins’ which stuck out into the aisle, Guinness increased its sales by 25%.
  • Studies published in The Progressive Grocer showed that POS materials can increase sales, on average, by 420% to 473%.
  • Placing a brand at the entrance of a store can double its market share in that store.
  • Moving a product from the least noticeable, to the most noticeable, location increases sales by an average of 60%.

There is, of course, much more to it. In essence, however, an understanding of brain science revolutionises marketing for the better: to grow, make it as easy as possible for everyone to buy your brand.


Example of a Negative Binomial Distribution

Illustration of the NBD


Example of a Negative Binomial Distribution

A very loyal customer


Yorkie’s not for girls
Example of a Negative Binomial Distribution

Increased Guinness sales by 25%