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Changing Behaviours, Not Just Attitudes


Geometry Global CEO Sarah Todd on the importance of understanding decisions in a world of choice

Changing Behaviours, Not Just Attitudes

Too often tasked with shifting attitudes rather than changing behaviours; marketers’ true capabilities are consistently underused.  Sarah Todd, CEO of Geometry Global considers how our connected, data-rich world gives agencies a foundation on which to build campaigns with real commercial and social value, and in turn a chance to reassume their position as indispensable cogs in the brand machine. 

Times are getting tough for long established marketers.  While once all that was needed was channels, connections and creatives; the tide has quickly turned and an in-depth understanding of people – not just in their market capacity – but as actual people, is the currency in which we trade.

But this understanding must run deeper than simply grasping the likes and preferences of consumers.  Instead, it’s all about changing behaviour.  Acknowledging the conscious and unconscious choices consumers make, the drivers behind them and using this to deliver new engagement and purchasing.  The renewed focus on data and insight has spearheaded this change. Marketers now have an opportunity to harness information about how people make decisions and use that to influence them in favour of not just our brand but the market in general.

Over the past few years, there has been too heavy an emphasis on changing attitudes towards brands, or the way shoppers think and feel about the brand rather than – perhaps more effectively – changing the way people buy.  As Ogilvy’s vice chairman, Rory Sutherland identifies in his 2007 Campaign article a “dangerous assumption that behavioural change is the product of attitudinal change: in reality it happens more often the other way round.”

We know, for example, that one of the biggest hurdles faced by brands – particularly in the FMCG sector – is overcoming shopper autopilot.  Many shoppers simply buy the products and brands which are tried, tested and safe.  Often, items have filled shopping baskets for so long that shoppers can no longer remember why they bought them in the first place.  This is a strong force to compete with and its roots run deeper than the shop floor.

As Sutherland outlines, it is time for us to adopt the mantra of ‘make people buy and hopefully they’ll love you’ rather than ‘make people love you and hopefully they’ll buy’.  To turn this on its head effectively is a more complex task, founded in influencing the action people are consciously (or unconsciously) taking. Are they missing messages?  Are they intending to try a new product and forgetting?  Are they determining value through price?  Are they buying simply on price points? 

While crucial to answer these questions, marketers must go further. To effectively challenge entrenched behaviour patterns among consumers, a more holistic understanding of pressures and stimuli that affect how we behave outside of the economic sphere is needed.  What are the things, moments, messages and experiences that make people behave the way they do? By identifying these triggers, brands can begin cultivating the right environment for these to take place.

The Guatemalan sneaker retailer Meat Pack is an example of how this is being done well. Despite being a lesser-known brand, the retailer developed an innovative and exciting way to capture the attention of potential customers and spark a call to action. Meat Pack developed an app, with a time sensitive discount feature, that used GPS to map when shoppers were in rival stores. When checking out products in a competitor store, shoppers would be alerted to a 99 per cent reduction on Meat Pack trainers via the app. But, with every passing second, the discount reduced by 1 per cent. To get the best deal shoppers literally had to drop everything and run to Meat Pack.

Meat Pack’s app achieves relevancy in a very direct way – identifying where customers would derive value (discount), delivering via the channel they use most (mobile), at exactly the right time (when they are in competitor stores). By understanding the drivers behind customer purchase decisions, Meat Pack effectively married a creative idea with data insight to break through the familiar and drive engagement among customers.

On a more subtle level; Westpac Bank in New Zealand during the throes of the global recession, introduced an impulse savings product to help New Zealanders save as impulsively as they spend. Brought to market as a smartphone app,  the Impulse Saver is a fantastic illustration of a brand setting out to create behaviour change – in this case for a social, rather than commercial benefit – and reaping the rewards of attitudinal change – trust, loyalty, societal and political acclaim – as a result. 

In 2014 and beyond, conversion will be the word most uttered by marketers across the globe, as they begin to consider economists, anthropologists and sociologists as the gateways to understanding the complex behaviour patterns of our fellow human beings.  Pairing this intelligence of context with the finest, most prodigious creative content is a proposition poised to change brands, advertising and the business landscape beyond recognition, and much for the better.

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LBB Editorial, Mon, 10 Feb 2014 16:08:13 GMT