Introducing the concept of relational intent

I have been reading research articles and thesis on the concept of relational reasoning. It is quite an interesting concept that is deeply rooted in the fields of cognitive science, neuroscience and artificial intelligence. Humans are generally regarded as relational beings as we constantly seek interaction and affection from others. The ability to discern meaningful patterns in a stream of data ensures we are not prisoners of our own senses. We utilise our senses such as sights, smell, sound and touch to encode data on a daily basis. A small portion of these data attains a sense of meaning when we find useful patterns. These patterns enable our ability to understand concepts and take necessary actions.

Businesses around the world are preoccupied with the intents of their potential customer. An airline will be interested in customers who type such terms such as ‘flight tickets from Rome to London’ or someone who likes the ‘Sky scanner Facebook page.’ These intents expressed by customers are usually not in isolation. It is always important to analyse the entity of a flight ticket and understand its attributes or elements. The next step will entail understanding the relationship between the attributes of this ticket. Some great attributes of flight tickets are: made of paper or card, contains a unique ticket number, issued in exchange for cash or air miles, vary in price depending on seat class, cost more in peak periods and closer to departure, presented before boarding, printed and verified at stations or airports and has designated or flexible dates. Understanding the attributes of a flight ticket helps you dissect the relational nature of the intent of ┬ácustomers researching for a flight ticket.

Intent as a product of relational thinking

Every product or service a brand sells is a percept. We are reminded without relational thinking or reasoning, the numerous percept humans are flooded with via advertising, branded placements, sponsorship or content marketing will remain as separate entities and fail to influence human thought and action. The power of patterning helps transform the percept of an airline ticket advert to Barcelona become a concept of an airline ticket to watch a Barcelona game for a football fan or an opportunity of a culture traveller to visit historic landmarks in the Catalan city.

In our earlier post, we discovered relational thinking is spontaneous, less personal and shallower than it’s relational reasoning counterpart. In terms of user or customer intent, relational thinking could be used to transform percepts to concepts where the item or service of interest is inexpensive or an everyday item. Using the airline ticket example, one could adopt a relational thinking perspective through spontaneity by buying a cheap ticket from London to Barcelona. When it comes to purchasing a ticket from the UK to Australia, relational reasoning may need to be adopted as it is a more expensive purchase.

Intent as a product of relational reasoning

In the example of buying a flight ticket to Australia, relational reasoning may have to be employed as it is quite an expensive and long haul experience. One will have to dig deep into a personal narrative to justify the purchase. It could either be going to see loved ones or fulfilling a childhood dream. There has to be a deeper and personal narrative for most individuals to inspire purchasing a flight ticket from London to Australia. Relational reasoning is considered a higher-order form of cognitive thought process. Our ability as humans to perceive patterns will help us understand the connection between an airline ticket and spending time with our loved ones in Australia and the happy feeling that will arise as a result of that visit.

We’ve discovered the higher-order form of thinking (relational reasoning) is made of four different types. The first is analogical reasoning which looks at similarities between a source and a target. Using the airline ticket example, we could draw similarities with when we purchased a train ticket. As they both need to be paid for, usually have a departure gate or platform, a departure time, need to be presented to gain entry and may have allocated seats.

The second form is known as anomalous reasoning which refers to a discrepancy, gap or deviation between the source and target. This could also be applied to the flight ticket example. You can easily compare a flight ticket to a musical concert ticket and discover a gap or deviation between the two entities. A concert ticket allows you entry to a venue and does not transport you from one destination to the other.  A flight ticket, on the other hand, will usher you into an aeroplane that takes you from one point to another.

The third type is known as antithetical reasoning which identifies an opposition or disagreement between the source and target. It is basically a target that’s the opposite of the source. Let’s say you are marketing coffee to customers and exploring the relational elements of these intent to drink coffee. The common sense reasoning toolkit reminds us of some common properties of coffee which include served hot, bitter and good in the morning. As hot is an antithesis of cold, you’ll understand It will be best to position your product and content as an opposite of cold. I.e coffee is not cold but hot enough to keep you warm. Producing more coffee during the winter or cold climate is also an antithetical reasoning approach.

The final form of relational reasoning is referred to as antinomous reasoning which depicts incompatibility between the source and target. Chilli spice as a source is incompatible with coffee as a target. As people do not usually add chilli in their coffee. Looking at the airline example, we are also able to detect incompatibility with booking a flight ticket for more than a year in advance  People are only able to book flights for the next 12 months. Supposing you’re an airline planning to advertise to music festival fans in a source destination. You’re the best advertising to these set of the audience about 12 months ahead of the festival date than anything further.

Customers all have intents when deciding to purchase your product or service. Their intent does not exist in isolation but exists in connection or relationship to other events.