Pulling the triggers on ‘Behavior’

Influencing Human Behavior.

At a fundamental level, that’s what Marketing is all about. Think of any marketing activity  – right from the branding that you see, the product/packaging/experience (UI) design, the TV commercials, print ads, digital ads, promotions/offers – everything is essentially an effort to change our behavior in a very specific way. Given this, marketing is intricately connected to a number of other ‘behavioral disciplines’ like Behavioral Economics, Psychology, Anthropology, Neuroscience, Praxeology, Cognitive Science etc, and each year a number of research papers are published based on the intersection of one or more of these disciplines with marketing.

One such seminal research paper was recently published by Dr. BJ Fogg, (Stanford University), titled: A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design. Here he posits a simple model by name FBM (Fogg Behavior Model) that delineates 3 factors affecting human behavior: Motivation, Ability and Presence of Triggers.

(Image source: Paper by Dr. BJ Fogg)

In summary, it says, for any behavior ‘change’ (B) to occur, it needs to get the user to an activation threshold, which is a factor of:

  • Motivation: (M) Is the person high or low on motivation to perform the target behavior?
  • Ability: (A) Does the person have the requisite ability to perform the behavior (is it simple enough to be performed)?
  • Triggers: (T) Does it have the necessary triggers to instigate the target behavior?

While motivation and ability can ‘trade off’ (People with low motivation may perform a behavior if the behavior is simple enough (meaning, high on ability), and inversely, people who find a behavior being not so simple (meaning, low on ability) may perform it if they  have sufficiently high levels of motivation), triggers can happen only when they are ‘timed’ – i.e. they need to be triggered right at the moment when we have the requisite levels of motivation and ability to perform a behavior. Hence it could be instructive to qualitatively think of this relationship as:

B = m.a.t (at the same moment)

(Image source: BehaviorModel.Org)

While he champions this model as a framework to guide persuasive design of web services, online interaction design etc I believe that it is equally if not more applicable to more traditional instances of product marketing / brick and mortar retailing etc.

For instance, one of the most direct, straightforward ‘behavior change instigating device’ that is often employed in stores is – sales/promotions/offers. These seek to change behavior in that they instigate the consumer to consider buying the product / or buying more of the product / or buying the product more often. And arguably, as long as the sale offers are attractive enough (depending upon what I define as attractive for myself) I could have substantial levels of ability and motivation to consider the sale. But what often makes a world of difference is the third factor – trigger. If the right triggers are not pulled in me at the right time and place, my motivation and ability to consider a sale are just dormant, resulting in no action being taken by me.

Meat Pack is known to be the trendiest shoe store in Guatemala and had garnered a cult following from the youth within just 3 years given its irreverent and edgy style of branding. Recently they needed to launch a promotion that stood up to these standards characterized by innovation and surprising their customers in the most unexpected ways. So what did they do? They cleverly set out to hijack you while you are at a competitor’s store and triggered you to literally run to its stores! See this video on how it works:

Essentially MeatPack created Hijack – an enhancement of the official Meat Pack app used by their customers. The beauty of this app is that whenever the user walks into competitors’ stores (as recognized by the users’  phone on the basis of its GPS/ GeoTagging info, that are increasingly becoming ubiquitous), it flashes a special promotion that starts at ‘99% off’ and decreases by a percentage point with each passing second – that is till the moment you get into the nearby MeatPack store. So in effect, the sooner you run to the Meat Pack store the greater the discount that you can get.

The results: (source: This Cannes Lions filing for 2012 Mobile)

  • More than 600 costumers were hijacked from the competitors.
  • All discounted merchandise was sold in record time.
  • Every time a discount was redeemed the persons Facebook status automatically changed informing the world about the promotion and generating a viral competitive attitude that spread like wildfire.
The brilliant thing about this concept is that, as the video says, this is the first ever promo campaign that started the sale in the competitors’ stores! This is clearlyone of the most innovative triggers that I have come across to literally hijack the customer’s behavior, at a place and moment where it matters the most. Hats off to Meat Pack!
Any other fantastic triggers that you know of, that were known to have influenced consumer behavior?

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