I spent a day in Frankfurt recently with friend and colleague Dan Ariely.
He spoke at Lufthansa’s Global Social Media Excellence conference before leading a hands-on workshop exploring how brands can be genuinely consumer focussed in the digital age ...through the behavioural psychology lens of course.
Human behaviour is fascinating and surprising. Dan recounted a number of experiments, all of which delivered unexpected results, and all of which are entirely relevant to companies and brands that need to engage, and motivate, their stakeholders.
Here are just a few of my many key takeaways:
Motivation comes from unexpected places.
In one experiment a group of recent parents was divided into two. $500 was deposited into a college account for the new born of group 1. Group 2 had no such investment. The cognitive skills of the babies in both groups at a year old.. Group 1 had significantly higher cognitive skills than group 2. We can’t be sure why, but something about the investment, small though it was, motivated Group 1 parents to put a little more effort into making sure their child made it to college.
Story telling is at the heart of successful communications. To tell the right story we need to understand the realities of how we make decisions. Don’t assume that people make rational decisions. Look at the facts.
We text while we drive. We don’t rationally weigh up whether that text is worth the risk of potential damage to ourselves, our property, others lives. This is clearly not rational behaviour, but it’s the way we behave. The majority of people have had unprotected, unplanned sex; neither sensible, nor rational. But hardly unusual.
Decisions are driven by emotions and environment, not considered rational thinking.
How we report behaviours has little to do with way we behave in the heat of the moment.
What does all this mean to the accuracy of traditional market research results?
What response do you want to elicit? What action do you want to prompt? How do you want your stakeholders to feel?
Understand cognitive predispositions before trying to figure out how to nudge the right feelings, responses and behaviours.
As an example, there is a direct relationship between value and effort. We will pay more, and be more tolerant to imperfection, if we are can see the time, thinking and energy that is goes into finding a solution.
And yet most companies continue to hang an impermeable curtain between the workings of the company and the products and services they deliver.
The swan floats still and elegant above the surface while the little legs paddle away, clumsy and frantic, out of sight.
Which is fine until something goes wrong. Which inevitably does.
In silence lies fear, confusion and irritation. We are far more patient and appreciative if we can see something is being done to solve a problem. Understanding and trust is driven by clear, transparent communications inside and outside of corporations.
Even search engine users are happy to wait for an answer… if constantly reminded of the level of complexity of the task in hand.
People become accustomed to things surprisingly quickly. Patience thresholds fall dramatically over surprisingly short periods of time. As an example, Broadband would have seemed nothing short of magical just a few years ago. Now, constant robust connectivity is expected. Anything less is intolerable.
If you want to turn your customers, or employees, into brand advocates, tell a powerful story about how amazing your product or service is, and remind them about the continuous level of effort that goes into providing it for them.