Actions drive attitudes better than words – advertising and behaviour change

behavioural change reactionBehaviour change is tricky. Your actions affect your attitudes more than anything anyone might say to you to try to change your attitudes.  Its remarkable how swiftly people forgot this when making advertising.  All the talk is about what the message needs to say to get them to behave differently.  Tell them whatever you like. But what the best advertising is to create the motivation for trying something different. There are lots of ways to do this. Suggesting that everyone else is already doing it. Incentivising them to act now to avoid disappointment. But the real trigger. Is the behaviour itself. Its coded into the body of the person doing the action. It has a contextual association which will activate next time the person is in that context.  It has a sensory trace AND an emotional trace which is distinctive and goes down in memory.  Communications by itself  can’t do that. But it can inspire the behaviour that does. It’s a chain reaction. Change reaction? Forgive the pun!

Behavioural change because of word of mouth

local aldi store aldi parking enforcement didnt make them friendsI’ll give you an example. I started shopping in Aldi over a year ago. Not I hasten to add because I liked Aldi or aspired to shop there. Actually I had a low view of them because they policed their modest sized car park ferociously and I knew several people who Aldi gave parking tickets to in the first few months after the store opened. If you had surveyed me about Aldi I would have told you they were doing nothing for the town centre and the local community. But because friends told me it was dramatically cheaper than the alternatives I tried it. And it was. So I stayed. I still shop a repertoire of supermarkets. I would still agree with you that the alternatives merchandise a whole lot better. But the extras come with a price tag.  Am I loyal to Aldi? Not really. Do I like them? Sort of.  Quality isn’t bad at all. Packaging is awful. But the relationship kind of works. This is driven by behaviour change. Which in turn has driven attitudinal change.  Not by anything Aldi has told me in their communications.  And it was triggered by word of mouth.

Customer experience is a great place for strategists to make a difference. Because it does drive attitudinal change. And attitudes protect and sustain behaviour change – its habit forming. Behavioural economists have all sorts of triggers they can recommend to get that initial trial – but its the architecture that follows the initial choice architecture that locks in the difference. You can always get someone to try something once. The clever part is to get them to keep doing it.

behavioural chain reaction

Google analytics and behavioural change – its what happens after the goal that counts

I am reflecting on this in the light of spending a few hours refining my Google analytics chops. I am working on setting goals on the way to conversion. And I confess to getting annoyed with what appears to be Google’s enthusiasm for way-points which are not themselves the change we are looking for but the behavioural measure. I wish they would make a distinction. The goal may be the number of pdf or white paper downloads. What matters is what happens when you read the pdf you have downloaded. It’s not signing up for the newsletter which makes you a better prospect – it’s the open rate which signals that you are engaging with the contents of the newsletters you receive.  Of course we need a behaviour – that’s the measurable part. But its the shift after the behaviour which makes the real difference.

But its hard to persuade colleagues that we are in the motivation business first and foremost not the communication business.  Our best work is done indirectly. That’s why what we say is far less important than the effect it has on those who hear it.  And why sales promotion, immersive marketing and video marketing are all powerful marketing tools because what people take out is not factual but emotional and motivational.  So tip 1 start with the attitudinal change you want. then with the behaviour that will secure the attitudinal change. And only then think about what you can do with your budget to bring about the behavioural change. You will be amazed at how many ways you can go about doing this. We’ve never had so many communication tools. But don’t get hung up on the message – its the least important thing.  Its just lighting the fuse for the chain reaction.


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