June 15, 2017

How To Be A Puppet Master

WRITTEN BY: Penny Norman

As marketers, we will always be students of human behaviour. As individuals change, as habits evolve, as life situations manipulate different ways of thinking, we can study the actions of people and what they reveal about human nature.

In the digital space, these actions are often things like retweeting, hearting, commenting, clicking, purchasing, signing up, the list is endless, but if we dive deeper into the emotional root as to why someone is performing an action, what we find is a much different story.

From a marketing standpoint, here’s a terrifying stat from IPSOS – 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. Now, this might not be news, but as we move forward into a digitally driven world, we can only assume this automation of decision making is going to increase.

"90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously."

Apple is a perfect example of subconscious decision making. When your Mac gives you the ghost after installing the latest operating system, your first instinct is to buy the latest model. The only decision you’re making is what size you want and whether you should spring for the Airpods.

But Apple isn’t alone in understanding this behaviour. Many other companies are getting consumers to buy into their brand and methodology versus the products themselves. Think about subscription models for things like razors, trendy clothes, and even charcuterie. The decision is less about the product, and more about what the company behind what the product stands for.

But when it comes to making a real purchasing decision, people are making them a lot quicker than you might think. In fact, most purchasing decisions take as little as 2.5 seconds. And let’s be real here, other than key pivotal moments in our life (having a baby, getting a dog, buying a new car, renovating the basement, etc.) who has time to do more than find what we already know works?

In short, when it comes to purchasing decisions, everyone is on autopilot. That decision funnel you remember from your first job? It might be time to forget it. That decision journey you studied in school? Unless that journey take 2.5 seconds, it’s old school. People just want to get on with their lives.

The decision is less about the product, and more about what the company behind what the product stands for.

In short, when it comes to purchasing decisions, everyone is on autopilot. That decision funnel you remember from your first job? It might be time to forget it. That decision journey you studied in school? Unless that journey take 2.5 seconds, it’s old school. People just want to get on with their lives.

So how can we break this chain? As strategists, creatives, and marketers, this is where understanding behaviours can be extremely valuable. Behaviour change psychology can help position brands within someone’s routine. And here are 6 tactics to help you harness it.

1. Own Those Trigger Moments

Once you’ve identified when a customer’s behavioural change will be made, you have an opportunity to own that trigger moment. This is typically at the beginning of their relationship with your sector or a new moment in their life. These could be health moments like getting braces, desperate moments like first-time parents, broken moments like when your car fails, and life moments like when you move to a new country.

Own Those Trigger Moments

2. Link To An Existing Behaviour

Linking your product or the action you’re trying to own to an existing behaviour is a great way to generate and automatic reminder. Think about your customer’s existing routine. What do they already do that’s similar to the action your brand is looking for? Then, how to can you link the two actions in a way that fits into their existing behaviours?

3. Macro Goals + Micro Actions

Once you own the triggers and you’ve linked to an existing behaviour, it’s time to figure out how the messaging will best establish a new behaviour. Firstly, people love an aspiration, a dream, a goal. They want to connect emotionally so give them something to emotionally connect to. Next, break it down for your customers. It’s one thing to get someone to agree on a change, but it’s another to get them to do it. One way to ease this transition is to simplify it all and break down the steps for them.

4. Incentivize and Reward

It’s the burning question all customers subconsciously ask, what’s in it for me? This behaviour of being rewarded for a task is something many of us already practice. For example, when there’s a giant pile of dirty dishes, we’ll wash them and then reward ourselves with an hour of trashy reality TV. This is called temptation bundling and brands can learn from this. Also, incentives don’t always need to be tangible. Whether it be a fun game, loyalty points, a competition, or stage development, you should think about what experience you can provide your customer. A great example is how LinkedIn gamifies their profile progression.

Incentivize and Reward

5. Build For Commitment

A change in behaviour doesn’t happen overnight, especially when it comes to purchasing decisions. Studies have shown that it takes a minimum 4 weeks so make sure you’re ready to play the long game. But when you have patience and your messaging is strong, you’ll see a change throughout your business. Think of a brand like Dollar Shave Club or when Amazon implemented the instant buy button. It took a while to kick in, but both have worked out quite successfully.

Build For Commitment

6. Social Validation

How your customers are perceived among their friends is extremely important. Whether that be aligning with a brand that matches their values, or having a brand experience worth sharing, social validation is important. When looking at your customer’s behaviours, consider the ability to share their experience an important one.

Social Validation

Buying products and interacting with brands is becoming a completely digital experience these days. So, if you truly want to understand your customers, listen to them of course, but also study their behaviours. Find out what they connect with emotionally, learn about their existing habits, and create an experience they’ll want to talk about.