As a frequent speaker on applying neurological and behavioral science to marketing, I often get asked some version of the following question: “Why do people make this stuff so difficult to understand and explain?”
I totally get it. As the CEO of a behavioral research and design consultancy that helps brands understand and change consumer behavior, I’ve become adept at integrating behavioral science and psychology into creative analogies.
But it wasn’t always that way. When I started my journey into understanding human decision making, I muddled through academic journals and brand consultant decks, trying to make sense of jargon like “hyperbolic discounting” and “framing effect.” I tried to boil down these heady, theoretical concepts and present them in an approachable way, but I often saw glazed eyes on every audience member who heard my presentation. They couldn’t make sense of what I was saying or see how it could help them psychologically optimize their marketing.
So, I kept working. After a year, I had an epiphany one summer afternoon while planning a road trip with my son. What I realized is that we can better understand consumer decision making — and even learn to influence it — by looking at it as the planning of a family road trip.
With the Battle of Winterfell behind us and Starbucks making its presence felt in this week’s episode, the final season of Game of Thrones is taking shape. As we near the finish line, it’s becoming clear that the three main contenders for the Iron Throne are Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen, all of whom are still alive.
On a show that has no problem killing off characters—be it an entire Dothraki hoard or Leanna Mormont, the baddest 13-year-old queen to ever rule—nothing is ever certain, but it does appear likely that Jon, Cersei, or Daenerys will be the last one standing.
This article is the second in our series of looking at behavioral psychology through the lens of Game of Thrones characters. Last month, we saw how Jon Snow exemplifies the Cautious Belonging mindstate and the impact it had on his decision-making.
In this installment, we turn our attention to the manipulating, evil Cersei Lannister, who embodies the Optimistic Empowerment mindstate. In case you missed the first article, let’s start with a brief mindstate primer before diving into Cersei’s twisted story.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know we’re about to start the final season of one of the most popular TV series ever: Game of Thrones. Since the show’s debut in 2011, we’ve watched heroes and villains play a sophisticated game of chess to win the Iron Throne. This month, we’ll begin the final season to answer that question.
Aside from the rush we’ll all get from watching this play out, what can we as marketers learn about behavioral psychology from the key characters in the game?
Specifically, how to drive consumer behavior—otherwise known as mindstate marketing.
In this article, the first of an ongoing series, we’ll look at how Jon Snow, arguably the most beloved character in Game of Thrones, exemplifies the Cautious Belonging mindstate.
As the founder of a behavioral research and design consultancy, I spend most of my days thinking about behavior design and how it can be applied to marketing.
For those not familiar with the term, behavior design is the process of applying the latest neurological and behavioral insights to the development of customer interactions to psychologically influence and change consumer behavior.
It’s the recipe behind today’s best marketing—marketing that gets people to act.
I’m used to introducing this concept to our clients when they approach our company about finding a more effective way to connect their brand with consumers.
So imagine my surprise when someone approached me about behavior design.
In 2010, I was a senior manager of marketing research for PepsiCo, working on the brand marketing initiatives for our SunChips brand. In my position, I got invited to a lot of conferences, most of which I couldn’t attend. But on a whim, I chose to attend the Future of Persuasion conference, mostly because it had a cool name.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting much. However, within the first forty minutes of the keynote speech, I realized that every aspect of marketing and marketing research was going to fundamentally change within the next ten years.
The keynote speaker said that the world is in a state of VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Technologies are scaling faster than ever, he told us, so we’re going to have to adapt quickly, which creates a VUCA world.
How many decisions do you think the average person makes every day?
Would you have guessed 35,000? Well, it’s true. That’s a lot and it impacts our lives in ways we will never truly be aware of.
Just to wade through this ocean of choice and make it through each day requires the use of time-saving mental shortcuts called cognitive heuristics.
Heuristics help people simplify decision making by eliminating the need to conduct cost-benefit analyses for every decision. Instead, we can simply use a mental shortcut.
On a daily basis, these mental shortcuts help us make hundreds of decisions, and can make brands a lot of extra money if they are understood and triggered correctly.
But how exactly does that happen? Let’s hop into a Yellow Cab taxi and chat about it.
In the world of marketing, mindstates represent vast untapped potential.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a mindstate is a temporary state of mind when a shopper shifts from rational to emotionally driven decision making. In thee moments, people often act irrationally and against what we would expect based upon past purchases or behaviors. These aren’t personality profiles or attitudinal segments that you use to segment your customer base. Rather, mindstates overlay on-top-of your attitudinal segmentation to help you gain much greater clarity around the nonconscious, behavioral psychology driving purchase behaviors.
Smart marketers are constantly seeking to answer one key question:
What drives consumers to act the way they do?
This is the billion-dollar question. If you can figure out what motivates consumers in their decision-making process, you can market your brand to them on a deeper level.
After years of studying motivational psychology, we have discovered there are nine psychological motivations that drive most of our decisions and actions.
These motivations are universal to all people, and while it’s possible to see two or three motivations working in tandem, there will always be one primary motivation.
Here are the nine motivations and examples of brands in that space.
When marketers conduct consumer research, they often ask their customers what they “think” about an idea or advertisement and how they’ll act in the future. There’s a problem with that approach:
Most people can’t explain why they do the things they do and are really bad at predicting how they will act in the future.
People are great at creating rationalizations that explain why they believe they do what they do, but in reality, most don’t really understand why they act in a certain way.
As marketers, we’re often more capable of understanding the why behind our customers behaviors because we can remove ourselves from our own biases and focus on the most important driver of human behavior - decision context.
Behaviors are highly influenced by the context surrounding our decisions, so there are four contextual factors that marketers can use to understand and affect consumer decision making.
In this article, we’ll look at those four contextual factors and see an example of how this all works.
As a marketer, your first job is to understand the goals of your consumer.
Why? Because goals direct all actions and behaviors. A goal reveals the discrepancy between where the consumer is now and where they want to be.
In trigger point moments where a decision must be made, goals dictate our desires, which dictate our behaviors. The famous Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler once wrote, “We cannot think, feel, or act without the perception of some goal.”
If you’re hungry, your goal might be lunch. If you’re driving, the goal might be a good parking spot. If you’re exhausted after a long workday, the goal is probably a nap.
Let’s look at what marketers need to understand about consumer goals to connect with them, then discuss strategies for marketing to conscious and nonconscious goals.