Marketers must become masters of behavioral economics
John BellEditor's Note: The Yahoo! Advertising blog recently asked several agency leaders one question: "How are you integrating social media into your creative?" Here is the (very heady and intellectual) response from John Bell, Managing Director, 360 Digital Influence at Ogilvy.
The list of what is changing in marketing is a mile long. From social media to behavioral targeting to the huge promise of "data," we are all certain the answer is out there. The question is not "how is marketing changing" which is inherently an academic one. The real question is how can we better change behaviors including buying behaviors that lead to the short and long term health of people, brands and businesses.
Psychology over wallpaper
Marketers must become better at using psychology and behavioral economics to deliver behavior change—buying more from a brand, changing their health habits, or supporting a cause. Behavioral economics has been around for years and has gotten a boost with the works of Dan Ariely at Duke University, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman, Influence pioneer, Robert Cialdini and even the Heath Brothers with their Switch and Made to Stick franchises. Each of these guys packages a wealth of academic research into usable lessons.
Old models of impressions and click-throughs aren't relevant. At best, impressions aspire to earn wallpaper status—being in the background wherever we go in the hopes that we will be beaten down by repeat exposure. We filter out so many messages a day amidst a fire hose of information. Figuring out how to interrupt someone with a message at least three to four times to gain their attention is no longer a valid predictor of actual purchase (was it ever?). Likewise, the promise of causality—what is the last most important source of information that caused someone to click through to a Web site—is a diversion from the real game at hand, which is to understand the complex journey we all go through to finally make a decision and pull a box off the shelf and put it in our cart.
The discipline of behavioral economics packages up what we know about emotional and rational drivers of actual behavior. John Kenny, Strategic Planning at Draftfcb argues that marketers have been expert at behavioral economics for years "albeit unwittingly." Clearly marketers have been trying to win the hearts and minds of consumers since the dawn of advertising. Still, wandering into the world of behavior drivers is wandering into and out of effectiveness. It hardly represents the discipline of understanding what would cause people to do one thing over another let alone codify that into some predictive model.
Influence, advocacy, engagement and action
Robert Cialdini's work on influence is really the science of persuasion which ultimately leads to change of a belief of an action. His summary of social proof, reciprocity and the other "six drivers" continue to explain reliably what it takes to persuade each of us towards an action. But what drives people to positively advocate for a brand? Social media has amplified the value of personal advocacy in all it's forms—sharing content via Facebook, writing reviews of hotels, tweeting out a link to a remarkable video, commenting on a blog. We distilled the seven word of mouth drivers from work by Emanuel Rosen to help us create a predictive planning framework for programs designed to build a network effect of sharing amongst family, friends and communities.
When we gain people's attention and then they spend more time and energy with us, we describe them as "engaged." Just like the predictors of advocacy, there are freshly described models for deepening engagement. Game mechanics or "gamification" is the latest darling in this space. Adding scoring, leaderboards and community competitiveness can drive behavior change. That's why I am experimenting with HealthMonth—a digital service that wraps my personal goals around changing a few habits in my life with a game mechanics layer.
Hardly just academic, these models for influence do drive action which is what marketing is all about.
Our work in social media is grounded in the art and science of influence—what it takes to drive behaviors. We have codified from research and our own experience what causes someone to remain highly engaged with a brand in Facebook, how interaction with social media can drive actual sales, and what it means to cultivate brand advocates. But this shouldn't just be the model for social-based programs. The best marketers ought to be tuning up their teams with behavioral economics insights and a new commitment and discipline around driving behavior.
-- Christian Chensvold
Christian Chensvold is a New York-based writer covering business, lifestyle and culture. He blogs at Ivy-Style.com