Headspace: Behavioural science & consumerism
by Tenielle Maris. Behavioural science, and its role in understanding and predicting behaviour, is receiving increased attention, specifically when it comes to getting to the bottom of why consumers remain in relationships with brands. It’s been identified as the examination of how psychological, social, and emotional factors often conflict with and override economic incentives when individuals or groups make decisions.
A nudge in the right direction
Through the work of psychologist, BF Skinner, the influence of positive reinforcement on behaviour was already highlighted decades ago; however, with the abundance of data at our fingertips, we now have access to the kind of insights that enable marketers and advertisers to predict consumer behaviour better than ever before. The difficulty lies in that human behaviour is irrational: despite a number of traditional key factors influencing consumer actions, choices are ultimately swayed by a cocktail of variables that tend to get overlooked when failing to see the bigger picture.
The premise behind behavioural science is that small interventions stand to guide people through subconscious influences to take a desired action, something that has been coined “nudging”. As the name implies, this is the gentle process to get consumers a little closer to the ultimate end goal that impacts both the consumer and the brand positively.
According to Prof Richard H Thaler, author of “Nudge”, marketers and advertisers should always “nudge for good” or ensure that the encouraged behaviour is unequivocally transparent and will improve the welfare of those being nudged.
Mastering positive reinforcements
The role of recognition in driving (or nudging towards) positive behaviour comes into play when one considers ways in which brands stand to really influence the people that they’re trying to connect with. There’s a global shift — especially when considering some of the most-popular retailer-reward schemes — towards rewards that encourage long-term loyalty and deep engagement vs short-term sales spikes. This is the premise behind the increased focus on consumer engagement vs sales transactions, which means that brands and retailers need to work harder to ensure that their consumer base is motivated, beyond the perks, to interact with what they have to offer, time and time again.
It has, therefore, become evident that consumer behaviour should be rewarded in a way that is sustainable in order to drive long-term behaviour for the brand, without compromising the perceived benefits of what you have to offer. Without constantly relying on tangible rewards, however — something that has come to be expected as the norm — brands need to consider other meaningful ways in which to make consumers feel valued and recognised.
This is where a deep understanding of consumer behaviour is required: being in tune with the drivers that stand to engender the most-desired and -prolonged positive behaviour towards your brand.
Getting it right
Purina identified that pet owners in Greece — a country with reports of the highest percentages of job insecurity and stress in Europe — were spending less time with their pets, due to increased work pressures. This was a challenge that impacted Purina’s performance in ways that special offers or similar short-term tactics wouldn’t have solved with a once-off campaign. Purina decided to address this issue head-on through its “Pets at Work” campaign that encouraged companies to create pet-friendly environments — an initiative that was later rolled out across multiple markets. By doing so, pet-lovers were provided with the long-term solution to embrace pet ownership in a way that plugged seamlessly into their lives and created a value proposition for the brand that benefitted the greater community.
Brands are demonstrating the art of nudging in simple ways that go back to human-led insights and don’t necessarily rely on traditional rewards. The challenge is to look beyond the data and the short-sighted tactics, and rather to go back to the consumer pain point standing in the way of your brand succeeding — consistently delving deeper to understand why.
Beginning her career in branding and communications, Tenielle Maris has spent the last decade and more in the marketing industry, where she has worked upon big brands spanning the African continent. Having found her passion in understanding what drives human beings to connect with particular brands, her time is spent getting up close and personal with the people whom brands are trying to connect with. Tenielle contributes the monthly “Headspace” column, which unpacks anything and everything that helps marketers and advertisers understand why people connect with brands, to MarkLives.com.
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