August 22, 2022
Neuroscientists enjoy organizing human thinking into two parts: right brain vs. left brain, rational vs. emotional, conscious vs. subconscious, and so on. The Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Daniel Kahneman, proposes something totally different. In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” he breaks up human thinking: fast vs. slow.
He calls it System-1 for fast thinking and System-2 for slow thinking.
He however makes it very clear that this is an artificial construct. And he demonstrates its utility drawing upon his deep research of many years.
Which system is apt for pharma marketers? Ponder on this.
System-1 thinking as a near-instantaneous process; it happens automatically, intuitively, and with little effort. It’s driven by instinct and your past branding and marketing experiences. System 1 is your brains’ fast, automatic, unconscious, and emotional response to situations and stimuli.
Your mental activities become automatic, reflexive and impulsive. You tend to err because you hardly burn your brain calories. Mental exertion is minimal when you use System-1.
System 2 thinking is slower and requires considerable mental effort. System-2 makes you conscious and logical.
System-2 as Daniel Kahneman says is “the mind’s slower, analytical mode, where reason dominates”. System 2 activity is activated when you do something that does not come naturally and requires some sort of conscious mental exertion.
An example is the slow, effortful, and logical mode in which a pharma marketer’s brains operate is when solving complicated issues. It could be when coining a brand name for a new product. Or when she is trying to differentiate her brand from a strong competitor! It could be when preparing a marketing plan.
What is comprehensive data analysis (CDA)? It is analysing data from three to four datasets. It is looking at data from various sources before coming to a conclusive decision. And this requires the use of System-2.
Slow thinking allows you as a pharma marketer to recognize when your thoughts and feelings could be directed by automatic responses. It also helps you to recognize how this might cause you to react in certain ways.
You may have made an spontaneous decision after the CDA using System-1. But then you stop, think over it slowly and deeply. And indeed that System-1 decision would have been a disaster.
Thinking slowly can help you master the art of decision making. Studies have also shown that slow thinking can help people make better decisions that are noticeable at the macro level. For example, a McKinsey Quarterly report found that why some brand promotions entice consumers (i.e. doctors) and others don’t by thinking slowly. System-1 may not allow that. Where is that time to think? Yet very few marketing strategists, when they make important decisions consciously take this into account.
There has long been growing pressure in the pharma industry, especially in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East countries to produce fast results There is a heavy focus on push strategies. This often outweighs considerations of quality-driven pull activities using science and technology. This will not only lead to mistakes but may affect the expected outcome in the marketing plan.
The benefits of slow thinking should not mean that pharma marketers should banish swiftness from all of your actions. Both thinking fast and thinking slow have important benefits. Everyday decisions can be made using system 1 decision-making. System-1 is useful for instance you are making a presentation to your board of directors and there are questions from the chairman, System-2 thinking at this juncture will send a message that you are ill-prepared or do not have a grasp on the subject matter. You may tend to lose your credibility.
However, at other times, slowing down your thinking is vital in the fast-paced world. It helps you to recognize your emotions, it helps you make superior decisions, and ultimately leads to the better health of your brand and your company. System-1 thinking may not always be rational. It comes from, your limbic system of your brain which controls your emotions. System-2 decisions are rational and comes from your neocortex, your conscientious brain.
Both System-1 and System-2 thinking are necessary for the brand managers. Both thinking fast and thinking slow have important benefits for the pharma marketing team.