How Consumers “Know” Things In Today’s World

From authority, to peers, to something new

If you talk to consumers about their decision-making, you will quickly reach a point where they start using phrases like, "It felt right", "I was drawn to it", or "I just knew.”

Something really important is happening here, and to understand it, you need to understand just how much the nature of consumer decision-making has changed in our lifetimes. 

Not long ago, external authority was how consumers knew a product was good and worth purchasing. That authority could have looked scientific, religious, expert or reputational, in the form of old ads that proclaimed "9 out of 10 doctors agree" or "Winner of this year's best product award". 

We 'knew' because we trusted those smarter than us.

Then came the age of crowdsourcing. Platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, FourSquare, Glassdoor, Goodreads and Angie's List turned user generated content into an entire economy of collective knowledge. 

We 'knew' because we trusted those looked like us.

But today our sense of "knowing" has shifted yet again, and in this week's house episode of the Unseen Unknown podcast, I talk to our Senior Strategist Zach Lamb about what this new knowing is, why it's emerging now, and how brands should leverage it. 

Zach calls it noetics (something he wrote about earlier this year), and it's a sense of knowing derived from intuition. 

It’s inner wisdom, a subjective experience that you feel to be true within yourself. 

In a time of deepfakes and AI, algorithmic echo chambers, falling public trust and a continued onslaught of change, noetic knowledge makes sense - and it feels safe, human.

Consumers are turning inward for their purchasing decisions, and that means brands have to rethink their approach to values-based branding and emotional benefits.

Today, we 'know' because we trust the feelings within ourselves.

In this new era, Zach offers a different approach for brands, as what people sense to be true within themselves is starting to take center stage.

Or read the full episode transcript while you listen here.

Links to interesting things mentioned in this episode:

What Can't Be Seen

Here's what we've been consuming.

What The Doomsayers Get Wrong About Deepfakes (The New Yorker): "The alarmists warn that we’re at a technological tipping point, where the artificial is no longer distinguishable from the authentic...Deepfake catastrophizing depends on supposing that people—always other people—are dangerously credulous, prone to falling for any evidence that looks sufficiently real. But is that how we process information?"

How to spot a true, transformative insight (Contagious): "A real insight isn’t just a data point. And it’s not an observation. Or a simple human truth. An insight is a carefully woven constellation of multiple data points, human truths, observations and cultural tensions, connected together in such a way that you see things with a fresh set of eyes, resulting in a new product design, a new business model, or an innovative marketing campaign that gives your brand a long term competitive advantage."

Bankrupt and loving it: Welcome to the lucrative world of undead brands (NPR): "When a company goes under, it's often sold for its parts, including its intellectual property: the branding, the designs, the customer data. Someone who buys this can attempt a sort of retail taxidermy: stuff new operations inside that familiar shell, give it a new charge and hopefully do better... But nobody makes money on undead brands quite like Authentic Brands Group. It owns more than 50 labels, some of which you may not realize went bankrupt or came close to it."

The Other Ozempic Revolution (The Atlantic): "Rising rates of obesity have created two Americas. Most residents of the Republic of Thinness want to attribute their size to willpower and personal responsibility, rather than wealth or genetic luck. And if thinness is available to everyone, their social capital is devalued. In the Republic of the Fat, there is an unequal distribution of hope. Some people feel that the miracle they’ve been praying for is finally here, and they are glad to leave behind their identity as the “chubby friend” or the “gentle giant” and cross the border to Thinness."

Are our short attention spans really getting shorter? (The Guardian): "When the novel was new, then, deep, immersive reading was not seen as a sign of superior concentration. Rather, it was feared as the means to disconnect impressionable readers from the real world, with deleterious effects on their posture, eyesight and morality. There are some overlaps here with our fussing over the impact of mobile phones, but these past anxieties were attached to the very opposite of what we now worry about."

[Bonus] Our client Feeld just launched their awesome rebrand, and we were fortunate enough to be able to work on their new brand strategy here at Concept Bureau. Working with Feeld gave me two gifts: seeing an incredibly open and accepting side of humanity in Feeld users that gives me hope for the future, and getting a glimpse of what the next 10 years of user behavior and tech innovation is going to look like. I wrote about it in my article "High Fidelity Society Is Reorganizing The World"

All The Riches In The World

Quick hits of insight in socially acceptable places.

Brain Food

Creative inspirations for the other side of your brain.

Something new is coming :)

People have always reached out to me asking if Concept Bureau has any online courses, or if we'll release any workshops, of if I have written a book.

While we don't have any of those things yet, we are working on something new that I am extremely excited to share with you soon.

It will feed your strategy soul. It will allow you to expand your strategic mind and know the world better, every single day. It will give you (and me) a place to learn new things that can change everything.

A kind of exposure therapy for strategists, if you will.

Most importantly, it's where people like us can continue to grow personally and professionally, because if there's anything I've learned about strategists, it's this: we love strategy because it helps us understand ourselves just as much as it helps us understand the world.

I really cannot wait to share it with you.

Just a couple more weeks...


Jasmine Bina
Founder & CEO
Concept Bureau, Inc.