Posts tagged "Behavioral Science"

Human behavior and marketing

Mapping the Intersection of Psychology and Brand Communication

June 6th, 2022 Posted by Behavioral psychology, brand advocacy, brand marketing, brand messaging, Brand preference, Brand trust, engagement, Social proof, storytelling 0 comments on “Mapping the Intersection of Psychology and Brand Communication”

Don’t overlook the human in front of you

We’re going to peel the onion on how people think and operate. We’ll show you how this impacts optimizing brand communications strategy to vastly improve engagement and results from your investments in consumer and stakeholder outreach.

But first, the state of the state

It seems inevitable, like a law of physics gone bad, that the majority of CPG and retail marketing is inwardly focused on the brand or product specifics. Communication strategies spin around self-promotion, and a belief that brands must “prove” their value with analytical arguments. As such, marketers are fixated on what has been invented, added or stirred in to the product to “deserve” the purchase or shop. This approach is founded on a view that the hard evidence, pushed even harder at the audience, makes the product or retailer more desirable.

But this is a mistake. Like lies by omission, this approach glosses over the profound truths we know about how people think and behave. Doesn’t it make more sense to design brand communication that resolves the inherent barriers to change people raise, rather than pushing proof points to an audience that begins each day with risk aversion sewn into their DNA?

Neophobia is everywhere

“Fear of anything new” lives in varying degrees with most people. We are, after all, creatures of habit for the very reason people abhor the discomfort of perceived risk in making bad decisions. Staying the course with the tried-and-true takes burning any mental calories out of the equation through default to the familiar.

However, for any brand or business, launching new products, services, ideas are fundamental to generating incremental growth. With resistance baked into human behavior change, it only makes sense to work backwards from how people think to acknowledge the human in front of us in our story.

The driving force behind decisions is…

People are on a constant scan of their surroundings for information that affirms their own point of view. We call this confirmation bias. People see what they expect to see and conclude what they expect to conclude. Try asking a Coke drinker to switch to Pepsi – not likely and a sampling will simply confirm their bias about taste expectations. The importance of insight research to better understand what people already believe can’t be overstated. Confirmation bias is foundational to the human condition and needs to be weighed on the path to optimal strategy.

How do marketers answer risk and bias?

Changing minds and hearts is an invitation to trust creation. Important to note here that trust is a feeling and not a rational experience. It emerges when we sense the brand is driven by values and beliefs, similar to our own, that transcend self-gain. This is the essence of our longing for reciprocity, honesty and integrity – qualities people resonate to and respect.

Specific considerations from human behavior insight come to play in the strategic plan.

Narrow your targeted consumer cohorts to those whose beliefs are closer to the desired opinion or viewpoint you are trying to secure. There is a temptation especially at a launch to go wide and attempt to appeal to everyone. That is a riskier approach. Better to identify the audience closest to your proposition, those most likely to embrace your offer because it is seen as a pain killer. A pain killer is a product your refined audience needs to have now, right now, rather than a nice to have maybe someday.

But what about those consumers who are further afield and more difficult to draw in? Here are three principles to consider when you have a steeper hill to climb.

  • Shorten/reduce the ask – how can you create a stepping-stone approach of a slower, steady path to change that comes at people in chunks and stages. Meatless Monday is a great example of modifying the ask. You don’t need to convert to a plant-based diet entirely, just one day a week opens the door to trial and experience without trying to force wholesale lifestyle change.
  • Switching the field – look for places where like-mindedness already exists, where your brand values and beliefs align. This “unsticking point” can help move your audience closer to you by riding the wave of shared view and aspiration. People are more comfortable with what is familiar to them.
  • Adoption psychology – how easy and frictionless can you make trial? How can you reduce the costs of trial? How do you remove any sense of risk in taking a bite-size swing at what’s on offer? Ease of returns maybe. Years ago, Zappos as an early player in e-commerce created free shipping and free returns as a path to making shoe purchases acceptable and desirable when customers couldn’t try a pair before buying. Now we take that free ship offer for granted, but in its day, that big move raised business results literally overnight.

Here are rules to observe in risk reduction:

Rule of Similarity

We will believe “people like me” before accepting the assertions and claims made by brands. The opportunities for engagement increase substantially when people are in communities of like-minded souls who share the same needs and concerns.

Curate your social channels to identify audiences most likely to resonate and share similar points of view with each other. This narrowcasting approach is more powerful than ‘all things to all people’.

Rule of Validation

The more risky the ask, the more verification will be required. The use of multiple outside third party, credible voices can help make your communication convincing and validating. We did this for a financial services company whose primary customers were banks – a conservative, risk averse audience if there ever was one. We created a video covering key issues of concern on the path to acceptance. We did this through candid, unscripted interviews with 10 existing banker customers from varying markets and business models. These executives affirmed through their own experiences what we wanted potential bank prospects to believe. The sheer number of voices, the similarity of backgrounds and values, the humanization and unscripted tone made the entire communication more credible, powerful. The outcome was astounding to quicky step bank decision makers beyond perceived risk and resistance.

Rule of Concentration

We often get asked, which is better – a heavy-up concentration of media activity over a smaller geographic area vs. a broader but lighter outreach over a larger distribution territory? The answer is concentration is always best to help confront the desired audience with multiple messages from multiple sources. This generates a bandwagon effect that suggests to the audience, “wow, this might be important” and thus worthy of further investigation. It may take longer to address a larger geographic launch this way, but it will also be more effective.

We often convey to clients that Emergent is in the brand storytelling business. That’s certainly true. But if we step back and look at the integration of strategy to story and what we know about behavior, it might be more accurate to say we’re in the risk removal business.

We utilize our knowledge of psychology and neuroscience to help create interest, change and trial by getting past the elaborate risk barriers every human manifests. We reduce risk by mining our client brands’ higher purpose and values alignment (trust) — while delivering credible evidence and authoritative guidance that gives consumers permission to buy.

If you would like to talk in greater detail about how risk aversion impacts your business, use this link to start an informal get-acquainted conversation.

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to the Emerging Trends Report.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

woman and cat

Pet Care Marketing Upended by New Consumer Insight

April 12th, 2017 Posted by Pet care, Pet food, Retail brand building, retail brand relevance, shopper behavior, shopper experience 0 comments on “Pet Care Marketing Upended by New Consumer Insight”

Emotion Outperforms Rational Outreach

Are pet food purchase decisions rational and considered? No. Here’s why…

Ever wandered through a pet store and noticed the similarity in how brands present themselves and their benefits? The focus on ingredients, nutrition advancements, and percentages of real meat-based protein dominate the conversation.

For the most part, these rational arguments in favor of the competing brands are an outgrowth of a long-held, pervasive view that decision-making is largely a rational act.

We know that’s completely wrong.

Examining the latest studies in behavioral economics, neuroscience and psychology reveal we’ve generally constructed pet marketing on the wrong foundation over the last 20 years. Turns out, human beings operate on two brain systems – the ‘effortless’ sub-conscious and the ‘effortful’ conscious and learning brain.

Here’s the headline:

System 1 – The Nonconscious Brain – is actually in charge of our actions and decisions. And the rational System 2 side routinely defers to its non-rational cousin on a daily basis.

Why does this matter? Because fact-based presentations of information and data play almost no role in the purchase decision. We don’t recognize this is happening because, yes, it’s subconscious.

Pet food organizations work overtime to refine and improve their nutrition profiles, enhance the quality of their ingredient sourcing, optimize their formulations for a healthier pet – and then tout the efforts they’re making. Ironically, all of it largely ignored by System 1. Instead this information comes round in the post-purchase environment as a justifier for making the right decision and remaining loyal.

Is the commitment to superior nutrition a wasted effort? No, it is fundamental to brand efficacy and the outcomes for pet health and wellbeing. But this is a different issue from what actually drives purchase.

System 1 has all the fun

Nonconscious System 1 is capable of processing up to 11 million bits of information per second; System 2 just 40. Thus, our subconscious is far more intuitive, smart and capable than we’ve given it credit for previously. Here’s how it operates:

  • Acts without deliberate analysis
  • Generates impressions, feelings and inclinations
  • Exerts powerful influence on choices and judgments
  • Drives the options we choose; originates the actions we take

This news may rankle pet food C-suite executives who pour such energy and investment into the rational argument stream on nutrition and ingredients. However, this does not mean that purchase decisions are subject to mere whim.

Here are six insights that help optimize and influence System 1 conditions:

1. The Exposure Effect

Science proves we have a natural inclination to favor what comes most easily to mind. In fact, we imbue brands that are familiar to us with a host of beneficial qualities. It’s not the features and facts that are driving this, rather it’s the familiarity.

This desire for familiarity prompts planning a holistic, multi-channel media strategy that’s always on and aimed at breeding awareness. To help along this path, it’s important to deploy sticky, memorable phrases and ideas.

2. The Power of Social Proof

We are drawn to prefer products other people like and endorse –whether in a live setting or online. We make positive assessments of brands that are well liked and recommended.

Our depth of affection grows with perceived popularity.

3. The Primacy of Emotion

System 1 responds to emotional communication because it uses emotion. So a surprising, personal, heart-rending story from a pet parent is far more effective than a surprising statistic.

The goal of pet care marketing is to fulfill one of the most important motivations for buying a high quality pet food – the expression of love for your pet. Emotional tugs are far more powerful than rational reasons.

4. Role of Reciprocity and Reward

We are hardwired to reciprocate in the presence of unexpected and magnanimous acts. If we want to ask pet parents to do something, to take action, make a donation, or attend an event – doing something generous and unselfish ahead of the ask will cause reciprocal obligations and behaviors.

Similarly, rewards should be viewed differently. System 1 loves immediate and assured rewards. And rewards that are emotional and social in nature are more motivating than financial.

Case in point – are we motivated by saving 50 cents or being perceived as a smart, caring and sophisticated pet parent?? Are we motivated by the superior nutrition in a bag of kibble or acquiring a path to a healthier, happier pet?

5. Actions more powerful than words

We are impacted by what people and brands do more so than what they say. We place greater stock and belief in actions over words. By tapping into real-world events and experiences, this emotional connection helps make the stories you wish to tell more meaningful

6. System 1 responds to Art

As ad legend David Ogilvy once said: “You cannot bore your customer into buying your product.” System 1 responds positively to artistic expression. So it’s important for brand communications to be clever, interesting and entertaining.

The creative use of words, pictures, sound, style and images can combine virtuously to help make communication compelling and memorable.

System 2 is rarely used

The learning part of our brain isn’t inert. However, it is lazy and allows the subconscious to hold sway over our actions and decisions. Because this is happening outside of our conscious awareness, we don’t really recognize it’s happening.

For example: Was your choice of spouse or significant other truly driven by a deliberate analysis and evaluation of the pros and cons before you took the leap?

Of course it wasn’t. That life-changing decision was based on your feelings, your gut instincts – and that is System 1 at work.

Now we are designing a new go-to-market platform for pet brands that incorporates this new understanding about how people operate. As we respect System 1’s power to drive how people operate, we gain discipline in our marketing approach and confidence in the outcomes of marketing investments.

What do you think?

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

ROP eBook on iPad

Purpose as Center of Business Strategy

November 17th, 2016 Posted by Human behavior, Insight, Uncategorized 0 comments on “Purpose as Center of Business Strategy”

Pros weigh in

Emergent recently formed a collaborative relationship with Toronto-based Fresh Squeezed Ideas, a firm focused on helping brands build stronger more relevant and powerful strategies through Behavioral Science research.

This move is consistent with our belief that deep understanding of consumer interests, passion and motivations is required to build communications that engage consumers powerfully and credibly.

Today, we are releasing our first joint publication Purpose: Driving Business Strategy – addressing one of the most important issues now at the forefront of building sustainable growth: rallying business and marketing plans around a company’s Higher Purpose.

Purpose Driving Business Strategy
Why? The purpose-built organization is in a much stronger position to generate meaningful relationships with consumers, who increasingly seek from the brands they care about values and beliefs that mirror their own.

Click here to download our featured article. I think you’ll find it an interesting overview of our shared insight.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Looking for more food for thought? Subscribe to our blog.

Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies.  Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.

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