The comments on my article, Revealed: How Steve Jobs Turns Customers into Fanatics showed several tendencies. First, they proved my point about fanaticism, as many of the comments were knee-jerk reactions from Apple fans who assumed (incorrectly) that I was attacking Apple’s products. (Did they even read the post?) The reaction was comparable to whacking a hornet nest with a stick.

The more interesting common thread in many of the comments was “Apple doesn’t need marketing, their products sell themselves.” Put in more personal terms, some implied, “Marketing has no effect on me, I buy the products because they are the best.”

Although the impassioned comments by Apple true believers might not be typical of average consumers, I do think that many, many people share a common belief: “Marketing and advertising might influence other people, but not ME. I make my decisions based on what I need, and how well the product meets those needs.”

An acquaintance who shall remain nameless swears that the cover of a catalog has no effect on her purchases. She says she opens the catalog if she needs something, and either buys or does not buy based on the products and prices. Experienced catalog marketers know, of course, that cover design is a key variable. In my own direct marketing experience, different cover artwork and messages could produce a 25% boost in sales when tested in a statistically valid split run. I’m sure there are DMers out there who can cite even more profound effects.

Behavioral psychologists, neuroscientists, and other students of human behavior know that a huge portion of our decision processes are subconscious. (In The Buying Brain, Dr. Pradeep suggests that 99.9999% of our brain processing occurs outside our conscious awareness.) At Neuromarketing, a recurring theme of the research we report on is that unexpected factors influence behavior, and the experimental subjects are rarely aware that their behavior has been changed. Whether the experiments involve priming, branding, or other variables, people don’t acknowledge that their behavior has been affected by anything other than their rational and conscious thought processes.

Marketing denial isn’t a problem when it’s a consumer claiming to be immune to the effects of ads. It’s a different story, though, when that message comes from a business owner or executive who controls or influences budgets.

What’s your experience? Despite all the evidence to the contrary, do you still run into “marketing deniers?” Or are you one of the few totally rational buyers who is never influenced by marketing?

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