Drive New Consumer Behaviors by Marketing to Mindstates

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.  

Consumers in these emotional hot states are much more susceptible to influence because they’re relying on nonconscious decision making. When a consumer makes decisions within that mindstate, decisions are effortless and immediate.

Marketers who are able to trigger consumers into that mindstate will be able to influence them and make them more receptive to their marketing.

But to do that, you’ll need to know what makes up a mindstate, how to market to them effectively, and what steps to take when developing your creative materials.

Two Components of a Mindstate

A mindstate is the combination of two core components:

  • Regulatory Approach: When making decisions, does your consumer favor a promotion focus strategy (striving for success) or a prevention focus strategy (avoiding failure) to reach their goal?

  • Core Motivation: What’s driving consumer behavior in the moment of decision? There are nine human motivations: achievement, autonomy, belonging, competence, empowerment, engagement, esteem, nurturance, and security.

People can have the same motivation—achievement, for example—but go about it differently depending on whether they’re optimistic (promotion) or cautious (prevention). One approach isn’t better than the other, as we all use both at varying points.

To identify which mindstate is most important to your consumer, all you need to find out is their core motivation and their preferred regulatory approach. That’s it!

For example, you may determine that a large group of your customers are driven by achievement motivations, and their main regulatory approach is promotion.

You now know the optimistic achievement mindstate is the right behavioral design strategy to build your messaging against.

Another group of your customers may be driven by the belonging motivation and their main regulatory approach is prevention. Therefore, this second group is under the influence of the cautious belonging mindstate when making decisions so yoru strategy and tactics must change to tap into this mindstate.

Moving from Theory to Action During Creative Reviews

Using these mindstate profiles to drive creative strategy and tactics helps you have much richer, science-based conversations about your creative strategy and executions with senior executives. You no longer need to make decisions based on subjective opinions.

Let’s take a look at how your creative could change based on a mindstate profile.

Imagine that you’re planning to use the optimistic achievement profile because your customer is driven by achievement motivations and their main regulatory approach is promotion. Below are just a few ways you can activate this mindstate:

  • Evoke feelings of determination, success, accomplishment, and closure.

  • Portray your customers successfully overcoming barriers to achieve their goal by showing past successes and how your product or service enabled it.

  • Emphasize change, taking chances, innovation, and seizing opportunity to win.

  • Pose model to face away from the camera, which makes the reader/audience a witness to the moment of success and achievement.

Let’s contrast that with a few tactics for someone in the cautious belonging mindstate:

  • Evoke feelings of inclusion, acceptance, connection, and unity.

  • Portray your customers actively working to eliminate division or disharmony with others and portray your brand as being a key resource that “in the future” will decrease their chance of not fitting in or not being accepted.

  • Emphasize stability, accuracy, and control in being able to bond with others.

  • Pose model to face directly into the camera to make eye contact with the reader, which draws the viewer into the moment of inclusion by others.

As you can see, your marketing strategy and tactics will change quite a bit based on the mindstate your customer is under in the moment of decision. With this information in hand, the next step is to communicate in a way that builds your brand’s equity.

How to Market to Mindstates

First, conduct marketing research with your target consumers to identify and understand their goals as it relates to your category. You want to understand both their functional goals (i.e. I’m hungry, let’s eat) and their higher-order, emotional goals (i.e. I want to feel like a good mom). Ask:

  • What goals are you trying to reach?

  • Why are those goals important to you?

Next, determine the motivations and regulatory fit. Ask:

  • Which of the nine motivations are driving you to go after your goals?

  • Are you approaching your goals through the lens of promotion or prevention?

Once you understand your consumer’s mindstate, you can begin to develop strategic messaging by reviewing the behavioral activation brief that matches to that mindstate (go to marketingtomindstates for these briefs). With your creative team, use these breifs to brainstorm ways to activate higher-order (more emotional) goals. If you’re offering a new product, ask, “How can we communicate that our new product will help this person reach their higher-order goal?”

You want your creative team to be aware of the profiles, but also to just do what they normally do: be creative and compelling. Challenge them to find that spark of passion and work from there because that’s where great creative comes from.

Don’t start your creative from the mindstate profile. Start with your inspiration and ideas, and create a campaign that intuitively feels right for your brand.

Once the team has an idea, pressure-test it against the targeted mindstate profile and accompanying behavioral activation brief to make sure it aligns. Ask yourself and your team, “Are we still in the right place?”

You can use this test to decide whether to improve your creative ideas or throw them out entirely. For instance, if you need to speak to the optimistic achievement mindstate and your creative idea is the opposite of that mindstate, there’s no need to refine it.

Most of the time, your ideas will be moving in the right direction. You can then use your behavioral activation brief to refine those ideas so they’re more effective psychologically.

Let’s look at an example to see how this works. If you’re marketing to a mindstate of belonging, and your creative isn’t showing multiple people interacting with some level of commonality in the messaging and visuals, that’s a red flag.

Belonging is hard to communicate without showing people who look aligned and fully accepted by the broader group. If you show only one person, realize it’s harder to prime that motivation to get somebody to feel that motivation.

If you’re marketing to a nurturance mindstate, show people in close proximity. Get my point?  

That’s how a mindstate profile and behavioral activation brief can serve as your behavioral design guardrail when developing and evaluating creative.