Changing behaviour without changing attitudes

To change consumer behaviour you have to first change attitudes using communication, right? This is the conventional advertising-led theory of marketing, summed up with the AIDA model: awareness->interest->desire->action. Well, in fact this is wrong, as Phil from Decode marketing shows in an excellent paper you can download here.

"Behavioural economics" shows how you can in fact change behaviour without changing peoples' attitudes at all. Changing the situation people are buying a product in, or the way information is presented, can have a big impact on behaviour. Phil illustrates this with a fascinating experiment to encourage healthier eating in a university canteen, carried out by Brian Wansink of Cornell University. Instead of trying to advertise to encourage healthy eating, something governments spend millions of dollars doing, the team instead changed the way food and drink was presented. With incredible results, such as:

– Placing vegetables near the
beginning of the lunch line: consumption +15%

– Salad bar moved close to the checkout: consumption +200%

– Moving milk to front, fizzy drink to back of chiller: fizzy drinks -17%, milk +47%

– Smaller cereal bowls: consumption -24%

People ate more healthily, even though they had not changed their attitude to eating. Behaviour in fact drove attitudes, not the other way around.

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Another of Phil's example is the vast differences in organ donation consent rates in Europe. Some countries have very high rates
(e.g. Austria, France), whereas others have very low ones (e.g.
Germany, UK). This is not because people in Austria have a different attitude to saving lives by donating organs. Rather, the difference is down to the "default" option. In the UK you have to
actively register as a donor (‘opt-in’). In Austria, people are donors by default, unless they
decide against it (‘opt-out’). Changing the default option in the UK would be much more effective than spending millions of pounds on advertising encouraging organ donation.

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So, what are the implications for marketing teams? 

1. Think context: if you are in a service business, then how your products and services are presented can have a huge impact on your sales, as the canteen example above shows. Just presenting fruit in a nice bowl made it look more attractive, and boosted sales.

2. Make it intuitive: give people cues to make decisions intuitively, without thinking. This applies to range architecture for example, where the use of colour, price and shapes can help people navigate a range without the need for communication (e.g. "I'll have the little black jar, not the big red bottle"). 

Another of Phil's examples is a brand giving signals that an online enrollment program was under way, which increased completion rates by 79%. 

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3. Use social proof: I've posted before on the power of social proof, which is the idea that people are influenced by what other people do. Phil's uses an example on energy consumption in Germany. By showing people their energy use versus their neighbours energy use was cut by 3%, a reduction equivalent to a 20% price increase. Again, peoples' attitudes to energy use hadn't changed, yet they changed behaviour.

Another example of social proof is selling your popularity, such as Hartley's jam putting on their packs "Britain's Favourite Jam".

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