In practicing their craft, experienced POP display designers often tap into a variety of disciplines such as art, engineering, psychology, and economics. What if there were a scientifically-proven phenomenon that was so powerful that its impact on the success of point of purchase displays could dwarf all the other disciplines combined? What if the undeniable power of collective social consciousness could be harnessed in a way that could yield a multiple-fold increase in sales for your product or your retail enterprise?
In the 1950s, Japanese scientists studied a group of monkeys on the island of Koshima. The monkeys were given sweet potatoes that were dropped in the sand. The monkeys liked the sweet potatoes but didn’t like the taste of the sand. One of the younger monkeys learned to wash the sweet potatoes in a nearby stream. Virtually all of the monkeys copied the behavior and learned to wash the sweet potatoes. When the hundredth monkey learned to wash the sweet potatoes, the scientists found that colonies of monkeys on neighboring islands began washing their sweet potatoes using the same technique. Scientists concluded that once a critical mass of collective social awareness is reached, the awareness is somehow mysteriously transferred to an entire species, thereby strengthening the species’ collective consciousness. They called it the “Hundredth Monkey Effect.”
Numerous other scientific studies have been conducted on what has become known as “Morphogenetic Fields” (also known as form-generating fields). As far back as 1920, scientists in Southampton, England studied the Blue Tit bird and discovered it could tear off the tops of milk bottles on door steps and drink the cream. Soon, birds of the same species over 100 miles away began using the same technique. Shortly thereafter, this species of bird in Holland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany had also mastered the technique.
Despite what we’ve learned from Darwin about survival of the fittest and the way in which our society is programmed to be governed by competition, scarcity, and separateness, science has slowly been uncovering evidence that suggests that we, and all of nature, are genetically wired for connection, cooperation, unity, and democracy. It’s in our DNA. Even Darwin concluded that sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature.
This notion of cooperation and democracy is evident throughout the animal kingdom. For example, scientists studied herds of red deer over an extended period of time. One of the most important decisions the herd needs to make is when to go to the watering hole and which watering hole to choose. With predators lurking nearby, the wrong decision could have grave consequences for the herd’s survival. Scientists expected the herd to follow the lead of the alpha male. However, what they found instead was that the herd took a much more democratic approach. When some of the deer starting pointing toward a particular watering hole, others in the herd also began pointing in the same direction. As soon as 51% of the deer were pointing in the same direction, the deer headed for the designated watering hole. This phenomenon was repeated day after day and across multiple herds that were studied.
The science of connection and unity is rooted in the mystery and magic of the human heart. The heart sends the brain more signals than the brain sends the heart. Our emotional connection with others is so strong because we are hardwired for a compassionate response toward the pain and trouble that others experience. The deep interconnectedness of the human race and the desire for social interaction and relationship is the driving force behind the meteoric proliferation of social media. In a sense, social media is the vehicle by which our inherent desire for connectedness plays out. But, there is something more. Our collective emotional state is central to the development and power of social consciousness.
For example, there are about 65 electronic random number generators throughout the world whose sole purpose is to continuously generate random numbers. Amazingly, at the precise time that the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, the worldwide network of random number generators stopped generating random numbers. After studying the behavior of these random number generators over the course of 50 years and 250 natural disasters and tragic events, scientists have concluded that the presence of intense human emotionality- either positive or negative- creates a collective consciousness that is so strong that it can create a new natural order, even to the point of changing the physical world.
So what does all this have to do with your next POP display? Well, potentially a lot. First, it reinforces the importance of thinking through the best way to connect emotionally with your target audience. It’s not just about succinctly laying out the 3 intellectual arguments about why your product is the best on the market and why someone should buy it. It’s about finding a way to tell your story in a way that connects with people on an emotional level. What we have discussed here is not some New Age hocus pocus. There is real science behind it, and although we may not understand exactly how it works, the fact is it is a very real and very powerful law of nature.
Second, the idea that there is a certain critical mass that is required to influence the herd, create a movement, or give rise to a collective social consciousness could have significant implications for your POP display. It supports the science behind the concept of first mover advantage and viral videos. Could it be possible that once you have enough POP displays in the field that can generate enough market presence and product mindshare, that you could be creating a level of collective social consciousness around your product? If this phenomenon has been reliably observed in nature, why would it not also be true for higher-level beings like humans who possess greater intelligence and capacity for emotionality? Maybe, just maybe, if we study the data it will show that once you have 100 displays out in the field, knowledge of your product and the buying behavior of your customers will be transferred to customers in other geographic regions, which in turn, will drive a visible surge in your sales. When that happens we’ll write a scientific paper called “The 100th POP Display Effect.”