Your Design-Builder is an Emotional Decision

Posted on September 30, 2011


In the September issue of Fast Company is an article on “neuromarketing”, or the study of how the brain works on an emotional level in order to more accurately position or market a product or company. If you have seen the movie Inception, you understand how intriguing a theoretical venture into the subconscious can be. Every marketer in the world should see that movie.

Many people would agree there is a visceral, uncontrollable reaction to everything a person encounters in a day, and specifically things we buy; science backs this up. Now companies want to know what that reaction is in regard to their product or service, and then find out how to manipulate it to their benefit, naturally.

Marketers contend companies cannot rely on traditional focus groups with customers and randomly selected individuals because of inherent difficulties with one-on-one human interaction such as lying, or the customer not knowing what he wants. Companies want to tap into the brain directly and measure responses straight from consumers’ neurons.

What does this mean for design and construction, you ask? Later in the article, David Ginsburg from Intel notes that at one time ‘people bought a computer based on specs—processing speed, RAM, etc. But now every computer is sold with power to spare, so decisions to buy are as much emotional as rational.’ Buildings are the same way.

I would contend most hospital administrators do not choose their design and construction teams rationally. How could they? 90% of teams qualified to do healthcare work can deliver a perfectly functional building for their client. Expertise and functionality are not in short supply in healthcare. CEOs are likely to choose on emotion, or some other subjective measure.

What does an emotional decision look like for the healthcare service provider? It means a hospital selecting a design-build team based on:

  • Award-winning design or being an industry leader, which appeals to status
  • Something new / different / cutting edge, which appeals to being unique
  • Partnership and collaboration, which appeals to trust
  • Makes a person’s job easier, which appeals to self-promotion
  • Less risk, which appeals to safe judgment from others
  • Shared culture, which appeals to similarity of values

No, team selection is very much about emotion, even at the multi-million dollar level. It is often said buying is done emotionally and justified logically. There is nothing proprietary about function, so the intangibles like service (since the product, a building, is a given), and company and personal brand are big, which is one reason I have written before pseudo criteria-based selection processes like the RFP provide so little value.

It remains to be seen if architects and construction managers will ever attempt to mine the subconscious of hospital administrators in search of an edge to pitch their companies. However, paying attention to how your design-builder meets your emotional needs is not unimportant.