Making use ‘perceptual filtering’ and the ‘confirmation bias’
‘Why Would Anyone Shop At TK Maxx?‘ is the latest winner of the Thinkboxes award for TV ad creativity. Created by Wieden and Kennedy, the quirky, humorous ad is designed to reframe people’s prejudices they might have about the brand.
One of the thing about prejudices is that they are born out of prior experiences so that when we are faced with new information, we undergo what Robert Heath, in his book ‘Seducing the Subconscious’, calls ‘perceptual filtering’. Perceptual filtering is the process of interpreting new information according to our opinions and beliefs. We try to ignore or explain away evidence that contradicts our beliefs whilst also looking for evidence that supports them. It’s this ‘confirmation bias’ that makes countering prejudices such a challenge to marketers – if there is something in an ad we don’t agree with, our minds will naturally focus away from that element and onto the bits that are relevant to us or we enjoy.
What makes the TK Maxx advert so interesting though is that it doesn’t look to contest people’s beliefs and perceptual filters. Rather it looks to turn prejudices into positives through the message that the lack of frivolous in-store perks (like complimentary drinks, attentive customer service, mood lighting and fancy wrapping) all make its central concept possible – they are all small prices that are worth paying for big labels.
This clever ploy of turning beliefs and criticisms on their head is a very different approach from brands that say they are now ‘listening’ to their customers after having made some objectionable decisions in the past (e.g., Ryanair, Tesco, Pepsi). These brands run into people’s perceptual filters and confirmation biases because of their previous experiences, and so run the risk of being seen as insincere and inauthentic – that they’re not really committed to listening and therefore making any meaningful changes.
A couple of implications for tracking are that we would look to understand how triggers and barriers to shopping at TK Maxx change over time and whether people see that ‘negative‘ in-store experiences are prices well worth paying for the rewards of big labels at low cost. We might also hope to see a better connection between people and the TK Maxx brand because of its apparent honest approach and therefore authenticity.