How to change behaviour

Behavioural economics (BE) is getting more and more pofile these days. The idea behind BE is that changing the situation people are buying a product in, or the way information is presented, can have a big impact on behaviour. But how to make practical use of it? Richard Hill of Atomic London made some usefull suggestions in Marketing magazine.

1. Define the change

Richard suggests you start by clearly defining the behaviour you want to change. This is important, as not all communication or marketing has a clearly defined objective. Too often the brief is to "improve brand image" or "modernise the brand". These are the means to end, where the end objective is to drive a change in behavior.  

For example, I posted here about the Axe/Lynx "Spray More, Get More" campaign, which encouraged all-over usage with the promise of, er, more sex!

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2. Connect 

Richard's second  point it to emotionally connect with people when trying to change behaviour. He suggests "People are emotionally inspired or compelled to change behaviour, rather than rationally persuaded." I posted here on the often quoted example of VW's Fun Theory, which sought to make people exercise more and be more environmentally conscious whilst having a laugh.

This is not entirely true though. One of the key points of behavioural economics (BE) is that people don't need to be inspired, engaged or persuaded to change behaviour. In an earlier post I gave the example of a university canteen that was re-designed in a way that people ate more healthily, without even noticing. For example, by moving the fruit from the end of the queue to the start, fruit consumption rose sharply, without any rational or emotional persuasion.

3. Easy

This third point is perhaps the most important. Richard suggests we need to "The easier, quicker, campaigns are, the more they will incentivise, attract and engage us." A good example of making change easy is the Impulse Saver red button from the Australian bank Wesptac. This simple app has a huge red button which allows people to save money with one click, rather than having the hassle of logging in, setting up a debit etc.

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In conclusion, anchoring marketing on behaviour change is a good idea, but needs careful planning. In particular, clearly define the objectives, and then make the change as easy as possible for people to execute.