Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy, Phil Barden. Wiley. €24.99 The author spent 25 years in Unilever, Diageo and T-Mobile trying to influence consumer behaviour in favour of certain products and brands. The information accumulated provided him with models for what generally worked.
Yet, his belief system was shaken four years ago by a new model for marketing and consumer decision-making based on decision science.
This fuses learnings from neuroscience, behavioural economics and cognitive and social psychology. Barden credits it with startling business results for his then employer, T-Mobile, including a sales increase of 49 per cent and an increase of almost 150 per cent in a brand in the Republic where he applied it.
While some in marketing may have suspected some of the findings from research, we now have a more analytical, evidence-based framework to access consumer decision-making. We learn that the brain recognises an objective at lightning speed, it also evaluates its value within a fraction of a second and this valuation determines where our eyes and our attention will move.
The book is rich in examples of how consumers react to brands, what influences purchasing decisions and how marketers can profit by aligning brands to subconscious preferences and behaviour patterns.
The Decision Maker, Dennis Bakke. Pear Press. €25.92
Leaders often don’t make use of the expertise of the people closest to a situation. Instead, many organisations control behaviour through top-down leadership that enforces procedures and rules. Not trusting people at the coalface to make decisions leads to poor morale and disengagement.
That’s the premise of this book by Bakke that makes a strong case for empowerment rather than lip service. It is written in the form of a business fable inspired by the story of Bakke’s journey as chief executive of a Fortune 200 company where he pushed decision-making down to those closest to the action.
Nothing affects an organisation more than the decisions the people in it make and decision-making is at the heart of all business education, Bakke notes.
Nearly a hundred years after the case-study method was invented at Harvard, it is still the foundation of the world’s best business programmes. Why? Because the method puts top business students in the role of decision-maker, he notes.
But few business leaders tap into the value created by putting important decisions in the hands of their people. Instead, “team players” are taught to do what they are told.
This takes the fun out of work and it robs people of the chance to contribute in a meaningful way, he says.
The Party Line, Doug Young. Wiley. €19.99
Former journalist Doug Young attempts to lift the lid on how official views are shaped by the Chinese government and draws on his experiences and contacts in China. He shows how outlets such as Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television transform international news stories into prescribed public opinion.
The book addresses the question of why the Chinese are so uniform in their opinion on a wide range of issues.
He cites examples such as the curbing of reporting on the Arab Spring in 2011 amid concerns that they might remind some of the Tiananmen Square protest that ended in a violent crackdown.
Yet the picture Young paints is more complex than subservient media kowtowing to party officials. For example, financial reporting has now become more Western-style, playing the watchdog to keep China’s corporate world in check.
One of the more fascinating aspects of the book is the way Chinese newspapers attempt to circumnavigate their way around censors to win readers and Young also provides a comprehensive analysis of how the media has evolved and adapted to economic progress and the rise of the internet and social media.
The book will be of interest to businesspeople with an interest in trading with China, among others.