Category Archives: Brand

What Can Brands Learn From The 2017 General Election Campaign?

8 Marketing Lessons From Theresa May’s Campaign

When Theresa May called the general election in April the polls were showing a lead for the Conservative Party of up to 20 points. It looked certain that May would get a much improved majority in parliament.

However, during the course of the campaign the Conservative’s lead almost evaporated as Theresa May’s popularity declined. This resulted in the Conservative’s losing 12 seats and their slim majority rather than gaining the large mandate May had expected.

Why did this happen and what does the result tell us about the nature of marketing campaigns and strategy?

1. Actions speak louder than words:

Before announcing the election Theresa May had repeatedly said she would not call a snap election. May indicated that she had the mandate for Brexit, the economy was strong and even the Labour party supported the triggering of Article 50 in the commons. However, by calling an early election May created uncertainty about her motivations and whether the future was so positive.

The psychologist Professor Alastair Smith from New York University has studied the outcomes of UK general elections since 1945. He suggests that calling an early election is like playing poker with the electorate.

Image of poker chips and cards on the table

Smith suggests that people understand that prime ministers have access to information about future prospects that the rest of us don’t have. Calling an election early may be  a sign that they are trying to conceal information (e.g. Brexit might be a disaster) and expect to see their popularity decline as a result.

He argues that more competent governments are in less of a hurry to call an election and so it is less confident prime ministers who call snap elections. We should not have been surprised then that Theresa May’s popularity and her party’s lead in the opinion polls declined. Indeed, Smith’s analysis indicated that the larger the governing party’s lead in the polls at the time of calling  an election, the greater the likelihood that their popularity would fall during the campaign.

Implications for marketing:

People understand that major sponsorship or advertising campaigns cost a lot of money and take a long time to recoup the investment. This is known as costly signalling. It demonstrates a brand’s intentions to be around for the long term.

Just as calling an election early shows a lack of confidence in future prospects, brands that fail to support their product launches or marketing campaigns with a reasonable level of advertising or sponsorship spend are indicating a lack of confidence in their ongoing success.

2. Messages need to be meaningful:

From day one May used a few core sound bites to communicate the essence of her proposition. ‘Strong and stable leadership’ and ‘coalition of chaos’ were May’s main messages that were almost immediately turned into memes by opposition supporters.

Psychologically people hate uncertainty and so voters might seek strong and stable leaders to manage instability and uncertainty. However, the strong and stable message was purely an emotional appeal to calm and orderliness, while the ‘coalition of chaos’ aimed to create fear of a Labour government.

“If I lose just six seats I will lose this election and Jeremy Corbyn will be sitting down to negotiate with Europe.” – Theresa May, 20th May 2017

The Conservative’s  slogans therefore lacked a rational element. They were further undermined by May’s behaviour including her U-turn on their social care policy and her refusal to take part in  live TV debates with other leaders.   In addition, May communicated her messages in an almost robotic way and so struggled to demonstrate emotional intelligence. This resulted in May being referred to as the “Maybot” in the media.

By contrast Jeremy Corbyn ran a more enthusiastic and engaging campaign around changing the status quo and looking after the majority rather than the wealthy minority.  His slogan ‘for the many, not the few’ was an anti-establishment message that may have benefited from recent  political movements.

Although his message was criticised by some commentators as potentially turning off the more affluent voters, it resonated with natural Labour supporters and clearly reflected Corbyn’s own political principles. No one could accuse Corbyn of not living according his slogan as it is something he has campaigned on since he first became a Labour MP.

Implications for marketing:

Emotional arguments resonate strongly with our fast intuitive mind and can be very persuasive. However, this does not mean that rational argument should be forgotten. It is important to align more emotional and implicit motivations with rational benefits to avoid conflicts between our different decision making systems.

When brands create slogans and messages to support the value proposition it is important to provide evidence to support such communications. However, it also necessary to create policies and behaviours within the organisation that demonstrates a commitment to these same values. Otherwise customers are likely to see such messages as soundbites that don’t reflect the real values of a brand.

3. Linking your  brand to an individual is a risky strategy:

Theresa May decided to make the Conservative campaign primarily about her leadership. This presidential style campaign meant that at rallies and in ads the headline was  ‘Theresa May’s Team’ and the Conservative Party was relegated to a small footnote at the bottom of the banner. This was a big departure from the norm in the UK and highlighted how she wanted to focus on her leadership compared to Jeremy Corbyn.

Image of Theresa May's Team at campaign rally

However, as the campaign developed and U-Turns and wobbles were observed this back-fired on the party. Positioning it as a presidential campaign highlighted that May was not as nimble or empathetic as she needed to be to play this as a strength.

Marketing Implications:

Brands that strongly associate themselves with an individual person, whether they are a celebrity or a business leader, run the risk of being damaged if that person’s popularity or reputation declines.  Celebrity endorsements can be a powerful marketing tool, but few brands successfully build themselves around a single individual. Richard Branson has achieved this with Virgin, but he clearly demonstrated that he had the necessary charisma and personality to develop such a brand.

4. Position your brand around what is important to your customers:

Theresa May positioned her campaign on the basis that it was about Brexit. However, what she failed to understand was that Brexit was largely a protest vote. It reflected many issues, including concerns about immigration, being left behind by globalisation, a London-centric economy and declining incomes.

In contrast Labour focused on policies that directly influence people’s lives such as the NHS, education, police numbers and rail nationalisation. These issues resonated much more strongly with people and took the focus away from Brexit. As a result Labour were able to project a much more positive and meaningful campaign.

Marketing Implications:

Listen to customers and conduct research to understand what motivates them. Don’t assume you know what is important to customers as often this is off the mark because of our own perceptions of the world. We get too close to our brands and products and can fall foul of the echo chambers we construct around ourselves.

5. Diversity is your friend:

When Theresa May created a manifesto only a small inner circle of was involved in the discussions. Small groups that lack diversity and insulate themselves from dissenters are very prone to groupthink.

When all think alike, then no one is thinking - Walter Lippman - The danger of groupthink

This is a psychological phenomena whereby groups make poor decisions because there is pressure to conform and ignore information that contradicts their decision. This creates an illusion of invulnerability and over-optimism which means they are willing to take unnecessary and extreme risks.

Marketing implications:

Ensure diversity in group decision making by recruiting people with a wide range of experience, cultural and gender backgrounds and cognitive ability. Re-frame disagreement as a necessary and helpful characteristic of teams and encourage all team members to contribute their thoughts, ideas and opinions.

Don’t be too prescriptive when briefing a problem and avoid quickly criticising other ideas and attacking other team members for ideas that contradict the consensus. Use market research and data analytics to provide scrutiny for ideas and generate fresh insights.

6. People are loss averse:

Prospect theory tells us that people prefer a small, but certain loss to a small risk of a much larger loss. Thus, people prefer an 80% chance of a certain small loss against a 5% chance of losing everything.

Because of this bias, the dementia tax as it become known was political suicide as it attacked the property owning class, many of whom are natural Conservative voters. It created a concern in voter’s minds that if they were unlucky enough to get a long term illness and needed care they might have to give up all but £100,000 of the value of their house after their death.

It was almost irrelevant that if they didn’t need long term care their assets would be safe. After he resigned, Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s special adviser admitted that it had been a mistake not to include a cap when they launched the policy. This would have limited the potential loss and may have made the policy more acceptable to voters.

Marketing Implication:

Focus more on avoiding losses rather than making gains. Guarantees and money back offers help to eliminate the concern that a choice may lead to an unacceptably large loss.  In spread betting for instance automatic stop losses eliminate the potential for unlimited losses that would probably prevent most people considering this kind of betting.

 

7. Provide a positive reason to choose your brand:

Theresa May failed to communicate a positive reason to choose her campaign. The campaign was characterised by warning voters about the consequences of not giving May an increased majority and the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn getting into power. There was little to promote in terms of positive benefits for voting Conservative.

Remain voters in particular who weren’t in a constituency with Liberal Democrat candidate capable of winning were faced with all options being bad (see prospect theory). When people are in a situation where all outcomes involve a loss people become risk seeking.  The status quo is usually perceived as the safer choice and so Corbyn would have been more appealing as he represented the riskier option.

Marketing Implication:

People buy benefits rather than features. Position your brand positively with a compelling proposition rather than trying to undermine your competitors. Identify important implicit (psychological) goals to differentiate your brand and get an emotional response. But don’t forget a strong rational benefit is also important.

8. Consistency is a valued personality characteristic:

Before the EU referendum Theresa May had been on the remain side, though some had criticised her for a lack of enthusiasm. After the referendum result and especially once she became prime minister May become an ardent advocate of Brexit. Further, May had repeatedly said that she had a mandate for Brexit and there was no need for a general election before the end of the fixed-term parliament. Of course she then called a general election.

This lack of consistency created anxiety among some voters that May could not be trusted to keep promises. Consistency and the appearance of consistency is a highly valued personality trait. People who are not consistent are often referred to as two-faced or untrustworthy.  This was compounded May’s U-turn on her social care policy when she introduced a cap after it was heavily criticised and then claimed “nothing has changed”.

Marketing implications:

Consistency can be used by marketers to persuade visitors to undertake a desired behaviour.

Lifehack.org is a lifestyle and well-being site that publishes ideas for self-improvement. When a new visitor lands on the site they are served a pop-up asking the user if they would like to “try something different today. Don’t stay stuck. Do better.” If a user clicks on the  “I agree” CTA they are immediately served an email capture form with the heading “We think so, too!” Because these visitors have agreed to the first question they feel almost compelled to provide their email address to show consistency of behaviour.

Example of how to ask a question to get commitment for improving blog sign-ups
Image Source:

Consistency is also important in branding and design. Using consistent branding and design principles can help communicate a professional and user-friendly customer experience. Being consistent with established web conventions also allows users to navigate according to experience and reduces  cognitive load.

Conclusion:

The result of the 2017 UK general election should be a lesson to us all that we should not take our customers for granted. Customers respond to how people in organisation behave according to social norms and expectations that are influenced by many complex factors.

We should avoid behaviours that are inconsistent with promises we make as this creates anxiety and damages trust in our brands. Trust is critical for any relationship or transaction and so we should protect it at all costs.

It’s easy to make assumptions about what we think people want and how they will react to decisions we make. To prevent costly mistakes we should invest in research and insights to improve our understanding of customers.

Take action to avoid groupthink when making decisions. Encourage news ideas and look for information that contradicts your decision rather than just that which confirms it.

People are more concerned about losses than gains. Framing an offer as a potential loss may make it more appealing than promoting it as a gain. Avoid situations where all choices are perceived as bad because this can turn customers into risk seekers.

In digital marketing we have the  advantage of being able to run experiments through A/B and multivariate testing.  By developing a culture of experimentation we can learn how customers respond to changes in the customer experience before investing resources and money into a change. This helps to ensure resources are directed to where the biggest impact can be made.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope you found it useful. Please share using the social media icons below if you like this post.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

Was The Pepsi Ad Trying To Do The Wrong Job?

Ads have a job to do!

How did Pepsi’s marketing team think the Kendall Jenner ad was going to work and why? Ads have a job to do, but what was the job for Pepsi?

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding.” – according to a brand statement.

The problem was in the execution as Coke had a similar idea with the “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” ad in 1971. However, Coke didn’t  pretend they could have a role in specific problems like apartheid in South Africa. The Pepsi ad trivialised important issues and mimicked imagery from a recent protest for social justice.

Image from 1971 Coke ad - "I'd like to teach the world to sing."
Image Source:

Are in-house agencies prone to mistakes?

The ad was produced by Pepsi’s in-house agency, Creators League Studio. The studio is overseen by Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group; and Kristin Patrick, senior VP-global brand development.

Well, in-house creative agencies don’t have to be a recipe for disaster if there is proper oversight and diversity in teams. But what if you want to turn your in-house agency into a Hollywood  studio?  That’s exactly what Jakeman recently said in Ad Age.

“Our goal is to really behave like a Hollywood studio…..The holy grail for me is to leverage the incredible power of our brands and their equities to essentially fund their own marketing,” – Brad Jakeman

This might explain why the ad was all over the place rather than focusing on the job to be done. Kristin Patrick also believes this BS:

“For many, many years, we have been the people who have been renting the content from the networks and the studios. There’s an opportunity for us to become more ingrained in that profit pool,” –  Kristin Patrick

Image of protest from Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad
Image Source:

Nope, still don’t get it and where does it mention anything about understanding your target audience? Are they confusing product placement in movies with producing ads?

They also have this obsession with millennials even though most research shows that age is a poor indicator of attitudes and preferences.

Image of Tweet quoting Kristin Patrick

What are ads for?

As advertising man Dave Trott points out what is important about an ad is not whether you like it or not, but does the ad work and why. Jakeman and Patrick seem to  have confused this objective by trying to position their creative studio as an income generating Hollywood studio.

Dave Trott estimates that £18.3 billion a year is spent on all forms of marketing. But only 4% of that is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively and 89% is neither noticed or remembered.

Pepsi have lost sight of this and should be concerned about getting their ads noticed rather then comparing themselves with a Hollywood studio . Ads can be entertaining, but that doesn’t mean they need to have a plot like a movie. The Pepsi ad is a great example of advertisers taking themselves far too seriously.

Image from Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad with people dancing
Image Source:

Group think?

The real danger with all this BS is that you start to believe your own PR and no one in the team is going to want to stand out and shout “the emperor has no clothes on”.  When you get a small team of like-minded people  and the culture is over-respectful of the people in charge you have a high chance of  groupthink.

When all think alike, then no one is thinking - Walter Lippman - The danger of groupthink

 

Diversity and independent thinking?

Pepsi have a strong reputation for promoting gender equality, but this is only one aspect of diversity. For instance James Surowiecki argues that  cognitive diversity is also critical to good decision making as it expands a group’s set of possible alternatives and it helps the group to mentally visualise problems in novel ways.

“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.”  – James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

Large corporations like Pepsi though love to rely on recruiting the brightest minds and people from top universities. This just ensures you get people from similar backgrounds which leads to homogenous groups.

“Suggesting that the organisation with the smartest people may not be the best organisation is heretical, particularly in a business world caught up in a ceaseless “war for talent” and governed by the assumption that a few superstars can make the difference between an excellent and a mediocre company. Heretical or not, it’s the truth, the value of expertise is, in many contexts, overrated.” – James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

Do HR need to review recruitment practices?

So, maybe HR departments also need to think about what their practices are doing to large corporations. Maybe it’s not all about the most talented after all?

What about digital marketing?

 

Digital content also has a job to do. Keep it simple and have a single objective. Don’t fall into the trap of over-complicating content or setting more than one objective. If your content goes viral, great, but don’t rely on it.

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it useful please share.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

The Psychology of Pokemon Go

Learn the psychological secrets of Pokémon Go’s success!

In just two weeks Pokemon Go, the augmented reality smartphone game designed by Niantic, achieved over 21 million active users in the US, more than Candy Crush did at its peak. The game’s popularity has quickly spread in other countries  and it is now becoming a global phenomenon. So, why did Pokemon Go become a such an instant success and what are the psychological buttons that it pressed to create so many engaged users?

1. Nostalgia from a childhood brand:

Pokemon is a brand that has been established and has grown across multiple entertainment categories for over 20 years. This provided Pokemon with the opportunity to target an existing and passionate audience of players who grew up in the 1990’s and wanted to indulge in an old obsession. This instantly helped Pokemon Go establish itself on a new platform (smartphones and tablets) and created the conditions for the game to spread through social networks to a more diverse and younger audiences.

Image of implicit goals
Source: Decode Marketing

The desire for adventure and escapism is just one of a number of implicit psychological goals that motivate brand choice. Using the latest research from psychology and neuroscience marketing consultant Phil Barden has identified 6 key psychological goals that brands can be perceived to meet. The extent to which people perceive that a brand will fully meet certain psychological goals that they find compelling will help determine which one they choose.

Image of Pokemon Go in App store
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc, iOS App Store

Learning: Leverage brand equity by targeting existing engaged customers to give you a head start to building your app store presence.  Ensure brand communications target appropriate psychological goals that can help generate a strong emotional response to your game or product.

2. Herd mentality:

As social beings our decisions are heavily influenced by what we think other people around us are doing. When in a new or uncertain situation we naturally look to see what other people are doing as a guide to desired behaviour.  Pokemon Go benefited from copy-cat behaviour as our herd instincts assisted the spread of the awareness and adoption of the game through our social networks. Once the number of downloads gave Pokemon Go entry into the download charts this would have further boosted its desirability among trend seekers or gamers unsure about the nature of the game.

 

Top iOS apps in USA for 23rd July 2016
Source: App Annie top iOS apps in USA for 23rd July 2016

 

Learning: Using social proof and encouraging people to interact with your brand across offline and online social networks is a powerful influence on success or failure. How people interact with each other and what they do with your product or idea will determine the nature of your brand, not what you set out in your brand guidelines.

3. Novelty gets attention:

Our brains are hard-wired to be wary of change and so the blending of the real world with the digital world of augmented reality brings fantasy into the game experience in a seamless and engaging manner. This creates a novel user experience that attracts attention. Novelty is a powerful psychological trigger for stimulating our brain. Although augmented reality has been around for a number years, Pokémon Go cleverly integrates it with a real-world game that also activates user’s curiosity.

Image of Pokemon Go Drowzee

Learning: Use novelty to grab attention and create curiosity about your brand.

4. We desire control:

The design of Pokémon Go means that players have a good chance of intercepting a monster where ever they travel. There is no necessity to head for a Pokestop or Gym if it doesn’t fit in with the user’s plans. Monsters often pop-up randomly as players go on their daily business.

Pokémon Go allows players to remain in control and it is up to the user to decide how much effort they want to put into the game. This is important from a psychological perspective as autonomy is one of three basic drivers of human behaviour identified by psychologist Daniel Pink that make people happy and engaged in activities.

Image of Pokemon Go with Venonat showing

 

Learning: Autonomy and our desire to act with choice is something people naturally seek and psychologists believe that it improves our lives. Where possible always offer people choice as we dislike doors being closed or being forced down a particular path.

5. Mastery :

Pokemon Go uses achievements to reward players for progressing through the levels of the game. People love to obtain a high degree of competency in activities they undertake, but can easily get frustrated and abandon a game if a task is not realistically achievable. On the other hand if it is too easy to complete players can lose interest in the game. Pokemon Go achieves a balance by setting a low degree of initial difficulty for new players and using a distance/time barrier to ensure it takes some physical effort to discover more creatures.

Learning: Ensure challenges and tasks are realistically achievable, but not so easy that players lose interest. Mastery is one of our most powerful and intrinsic motivators which drives our passion for achievement.

Pokemon medal for 10 normal Pokemon
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

6. Variable ratio schedule reward model:

In the 1950’s the American psychologist B.F. Skinner conducted experiments to understand how people respond to different reward schedules. He discovered that a variable ratio schedule, where the reward is based upon the number of times the task is undertaken, but the timing is randomised to make it unpredictable, is the best method for encouraging repetitive behaviour. This type of schedule encourages people to complete the behaviour over and over again as they are uncertain when the next reward will be received. It is also resistant to extinction by its very nature and can make some behaviour addictive.

Learning: Link rewards to the frequency of the behaviour, but use a variable ratio schedule to make the timing of the reward unpredictable.

Pokemon Go level up 4
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

7. Use classical conditioning to obtain an automatic response:

When a user walks near a Pokemon, gym or Pokestop, their smartphone gives an audible buzz. As the players is then rewarded with a new Pokemon or other creature this sound becomes associated with the forthcoming reward in the same way that Pavlov’s dog would salivate at the sound of a bell. Classical conditioning creates automatic behaviours by paring a stimulus (a sound) with a response (search for monster nearby).

Learning: Use audible sounds, smells or movement to create automatic behaviours through classical conditioning by pairing a stimulus with a response. Once users have become conditioned to react in a certain way, you may pair another stimulus to the desired behaviour and create a new automatic response.

Image of Pokemon Zubat before capture
Source: Pokemon iOS app

 

8. We are all social beings at heart:

Unlike most apps, Pokemon Go provides the opportunity to meet new people because it requires you to visit local landmarks and walk to places nearby to find Pokémon’s. As human beings we are hard wired to connect and interact with other people. Indeed, social isolation and loneliness are harmful to our long term health and can trigger depression. Playing Pokemon Go therefore benefits are psychological health by creating opportunities for gamer’s to meet and interact with other people.

 

Image of Pokemon Go gym

Learning: Allow people to share or interact with other people as this is an important human characteristic with many benefits for the individuals concerned.

 

9. We benefit psychologically from walking:

There is increasing evidence to suggest a sedentary lifestyle is harmful to our health and that walking is beneficial from both a psychological and physical perspective. We have an innate desire to get outside and research suggests that walking can reduce depression and our risk of diseases such as diabetes.

 

Learning: Creating a game or product that requires or encourages physical exercise has health benefits for the customer and can create natural breaks in product usage which improves attention and engagement.

Image of Pokemon Go map
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

10. Good timing:

Launching the game in the summer and just at the start of the holiday season meant that people are already primed and ready to go outside and explore. We are naturally drawn to sunlight because it increases the amount of vitamin D in our bodies which can help prevent cancer and improves our alertness and mental performance.

Learning: Always consider timing and how it may influence usage to give your product or campaign the best chance of success. Research your audience to identify key factors influencing adoption or likelihood to view your content.

Image of Pokemon Rattata outside Pets at Home store
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

 

11. Easy equals true:

The app is so simple and intuitive to use that it does not require any detailed instructions or much practice to become competent. This means there is little friction associated with getting started and this minimises cognitive load which encourages continued engagement with the app.  Many apps are so poorly designed that they require extensive onboarding instructions and navigation aids. Such complexity can cause cognitive strain and frustration which often leads to apps being abandoned.

Learning: If your user interface requires detailed instructions or navigation aids to allow users to learn how to use it you have failed. Keep user interface designs simple and intuitive.

 

Image of Pokemon Gym description
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

12. Piggy back on existing habits:

People are creatures of habit and so adoption is much easier if you can piggy back off an existing habit rather than having to create a new habit. Most smartphone users take their devices with them as they go for a walk or travel to the office or the shops. Pokemon Go was therefore able to benefit from habitual behaviour which assisted take-up of the game.

 

Learning: Where possible identify existing habits that your product or campaign can benefit from rather than trying to create a new behaviour.

Image of Pokemon Horsea creature
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

13. The power of free:

We are attracted by free apps because people are inherently afraid of loss and free is a powerful motivator because we don’t like to miss out on a bargain. Further, allowing users to play for free minimises the perceived risk of signing up to Pokemon Go because there is no monetary cost to the player if they subsequently find they don’t enjoy the game.

In addition, even partial ownership (e.g. a free trial) tends to make people more attached to what they have and make them focus on what they could lose rather what they may gain. This is why free trials offered by the likes of Spotify and Netflix are so successful.

Pokemon Go generates revenues by players purchasing  virtual coins to exchange for items such as Pokeballs to capture monsters. Once players have moved up a number of levels they may also want to pay to store, hatch, train (in the gym) and battle opponents. Companies also have the ability to sponsor locations to attract players to a real location.

 

Learning: Ownership changes are our perception of things and our aversion to loss makes it more difficult to give up things that we have. For non-fremium apps, offer a free trial to give users ownership and allow them to check out the user experience. To monetise a free app allow players to buy in-app currency to spend on digital goods or enter competitions.

Image of loading screen for Pokemon Go
Source: Pokemon Go, Niantic Inc

 

What should we take out from Pokémon Go’s success?

Good marketing planning and having the right partners for a venture certainly help. Although we may not be lucky enough to have a global brand that has 20 years of heritage behind it, we can still be careful to create a compelling proposition and ensure that implementation is not rushed. What Pokémon Go does show is that if you can align your marketing with human psychology you will benefit from important drivers of consumer behaviour.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

7 Marketing Lessons From The Brexit Campaigns

The UK’s EU referendum result surprised many people outside the UK. But a review of the strategies used by the campaigns  gives some clear reasons for the outcome and provides some important lessons for marketers.  The Remain campaign was expected to win partly because of the uncertainty that leaving the UK would create. The fact that they lost suggests that something major must have gone wrong with their campaign planning and implementation.

In another post I outlined some of the main  psychological reasons for Brexit, but here I outline specific lessons for marketing.

 

1.  Start by listening to people.

 

Listen to people
Source: Freeimages.com

When a new brand begins to eat into an existing brand’s customer base this should be a wake-up call for the marketing team.  To survive in the long term all brands needs to be constantly listening to their customers to ensure they remain relevant and in touch with their target audience.

Marketers should explore what customers find appealing about the new brand and what is turning them off the leading brand. By listening to and observing customers we can pick up clues to why they are disillusioned with the established brand.  Further, by exploring what attracted existing customers to your brand you can identify what is most appealing about your value proposition. This can help you position your brand in the most effective way.

What went wrong?

The Remain campaign failed to understand that many people felt they had not benefited from globalisation and for this reason only saw the downside of the free movement of people within the EU. The Remain campaign’s tone towards controlling immigration was also cosmopolitan and elitist. This alienated voters worried about free movement of people within the EU as it appeared to dismiss their views as irrelevant. The Remain campaign also failed to offer hope that by staying within the EU the UK was more likely to be able change the principle of free movement of labour.

Strategy Lesson:

Engage in regular research and collaboration initiatives with customers and prospects to understand how they perceive the brand and your competitors. Brands have to evolve as customer behaviour and values change so as to remain relevant and responsive to customer needs.  If your strategy is not engaging customers it may be time to change your approach based upon evidence from customer research and feedback.

2. A clear and strong value proposition:

 

Image of Widerfunnel.com lift model
Source: Widerfunnel.com

A clear and compelling proposition is important for any brand. From day one the Leave message focused on “Take back control” which appeals to our desire for autonomy. According to the psychologist Daniel Pink autonomy is one of our three most important motivations in life, the others being mastery and purpose. Autonomy is something we naturally seek. It improves our lives because we feel happier when we are in control of our destiny.

Products are purchased for explicit goals, but brands need to appeal towards our implicit (psychological) goals to engage people at an emotional level. This is especially important where brands have very similar product features as it is the main way that they can differentiate themselves from each other. Understanding which of these core psychological goals motivates your customers is essential for effective brand positioning and campaign implementation.

Psychological Goals of Brands

6 main implicit psychologial goals
Source: Decode Marketing

 

What went wrong?

The “Britain stronger in Europe” message had potential to engage voters, but there was a lack of consistency of how it was explained and much of the time it was communicated in a negative and bullying fashion (e.g. if you vote leave economic growth will be lower). It was far too reliant on the rational economic argument and the psychological goals of security and discipline. Insufficient effort was made to communicate the many successes of the EU (around autonomy), or the positive benefits of security and discipline.

Strategy Lesson:

Ensure your proposition incorporates a number of relevant psychological goals to widen the appeal of your brand position. Avoid over reliance on the security of the status quo as people want to feel that they are making a positive choice and not being pressurised to avoid change. Purely negative campaigns can make people uncomfortable and motivate people to change for the sake of it.

 

3. Relevance of message:

 

Image of City of London view
Source: Freeimages.com

The Leave campaign’s “Taking back control” message was also a more inclusive message as it appealed to a wider demographic audience. Everyone could relate to wanting  some autonomy in our relationships with other countries. In practical terms this may be somewhat of an illusion, but it captured the imagination of voters as it triggered a deep psychological desire for more control in our lives.

What went wrong?

The Remain campaign focused mainly on warnings about economic and political consequences of Brexit. For example the Treasury said that house prices might fall and mortgage rates would rise. But this had no relevance to people on the minimum wage with no chance of ever affording a house. People often don’t appreciate the links between macro-economic factors and their day-to-day existence, and so these messages didn’t resonate with voters.

The Brexit message also appealed to the desire to destabilise the status quo. This movement has resulted in the emergence of radical politicians like Donald Trump and Bernie Saunders in the US, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and Marine Le Pen in France.

Strategy Lesson:

Analyse the behaviour and needs of customers by relevant demographic and behavioural metrics to identify important customer segments. Create user personas to visualise and consider how relevant and motivating your messages are to different customer segments. Such analysis can help improve the targeting and relevance of your messages. Also talk to people about things they can directly relate to and avoid language that is not in every day use.

4. Tell a story:

Brexit told many stories (though many were probably half-truths), but these encouraged people to talk to each other about the EU referendum debate. Stories are powerful tools of persuasion as psychologists have found that when people listen to a narrative tale their brain is stimulated as if they are experiencing the same emotions as communicated in the story. Our social nature encourages us to pass on these narratives through word of mouth or online via social media.

What went wrong?

The Remain story was too rational, with too much emphasis on negative consequences of Brexit and few stories to inspire. This meant the status quo was not presented as a positive choice.

Strategy Lesson:

Encourage consumers to interact with each other my telling an interesting and emotionally engaging story.

5. Copy, Copy:

 

When we find ourselves in a situation of uncertainty, such as having to make a decision about something we little knowledge about, people naturally copy other people in the vicinity. Behaviour is often more powerful than word of mouth because it is more visible and people will copy the actions of people they respect or want to be associated with to reduce conflict and help establish stronger bonds in their social networks. Both campaigns tried to capitalise on this by getting the backing of celebrities and well known politicians.

Brexit undoubtedly benefited from strong leadership (i.e.Boris Johnson) and a consistent message delivered by almost everyone involved in the campaign.

What went wrong?

Remain suffered from being less cohesive as although it was backed by both of the main party leaders they held very different beliefs and values. For instance Jeremy Corbyn refused to share a platform with David Cameron and his support appeared half-hearted. David Cameron was also strongly associated with austerity which had significantly reduced funding in deprived areas since 2010.

Strategy Lesson:

Lead by example. If for instance your brand is positioned to be environmentally friendly make sure your internal policies and behaviour is consistent with this stance. If using celebrity endorsements ensure the person has wide appeal across your target audience.

6. Confirmation bias:

 

Image of mri-head scan
Source: Freeimages.com

People have a tendency to search and consume new information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs and ideas about a subject. We often filter out or dismiss information that contradicts existing opinions. Many people had negative opinions about the EU due to years of critical articles in the British media and so it was difficult for the Remain campaign to counter this perception.

One way that brands can counter confirmation bias is to communicate that you agree with one aspect of what your audience believes, but then introduce information that conflicts with this information. This creates cognitive dissonance which is where people feel uncomfortable about holding opinions that contradict each other. If you can then introduce an answer or solution to remove the cognitive dissonance people are more likely to agree with your suggestion than if you tried to raise it without going through this process.

For example the Leave campaign claimed that the UK could negotiate access to the EU single market and get agreement to control immigration. The Remain campaign could have agreed access to the single market would be achievable from outside the EU. However, they should have pointed out that to date the EU has not allowed any country access to the single market without also agreeing to free movement of EU nationals. Further, such a deal would not be sustainable for the EU as it would encourage other countries to leave the EU.

However, the Remain campaign could have offered a solution that by retaining membership of the EU the UK would aim to reform the EU from within. If David Cameron had listened to disenfranchised voters he might have put more effort into negotiating a review of freedom of movement within the EU on the basis of economic sustainability and security concerns.

What went wrong?

David Cameron’s re-negotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU failed to deliver any restrictions on free movement of people within the EU. Rather than reject what was on the table and revert to plan B (i.e. campaign to leave the EU) which would have put the EU under pressure to compromise he accepted their offer. This may have been a fatal error as it reduced trust in Cameron to be able to negotiate with the EU and gave no room for the Remain campaign to argue that they could influence immigration better from within the EU.

Further, journalist and author Tim Hartford argues that confirmation bias was so strong among the Remain team and its supporters that they ignored obvious warnings (e.g, opinion polls) that the Leave campaign were moving into a winning position. This was compounded by betting markets that also favoured a Remain win. However, betting markets are driven by the amount of money wagered on a particular outcome which normally benefits from the wisdom of crowds. But as most of the establishment and the City were in favour of remaining in the EU did their financial clout overly influence the betting markets? This might explain why the betting markets got the result so wrong.

Strategy Lesson:

When people have an existing belief about your brand that is preventing you from persuading them to buy tell them something they already agree with. Then use cognitive dissonance to make them feel uncomfortable. Once you have established a feeling of cognitive dissonance introduce a solution or answer to their problem which eliminates the discomfort.

Be careful not to compromise too easily on issues that your customers perceive as important (e.g. reliability or quality) as this can destroy trust in your ability to deliver on your promises.

We are all prone to confirmation bias and so it is important to be open-minded about data that contradicts our own views about a brand or market. Ensure where possible decisions are based upon reliable data and not just your own gut instincts.  Challenge data for potential bias or misinterpretation. This is especially important where different data sources produce conflicting results. Voice of Customer surveys for instance suffer from numerous flaws that can make them highly misleading if the data is taken at face value.

7. Post Brexit Regret:

Image of man with hands over face
Source: FreeImages.com

 

A survey of voters after the Brexit result found that up to 7% now regretted voting to leave the EU and would vote Remain if they were given another opportunity. Customer can feel regret when they don’t think they have made the best decision. In the case of Brexit some voters believe they were lied to because the Leave campaign reneged on a number of the promises they had made during the campaign.

What went wrong:

Both sides confused voters with misleading claims, and counter-claims. This may have reduced trust in politicians and could have put-off some undecided voters from going to the polling stations.  If people find advice complex or difficult to understand this can often lead to procrastination or they will head for a competitor brand. The Leave campaign in particular made a number of very high profile promises that turned out to be inaccurate and undeliverable.

Strategy Lesson:

Ensure you are confident that you can deliver on any promises you make during a marketing campaign. Post-purchase dissatisfaction due to broken promises is likely to result in cancellations or returns and will destroy customer confidence and trust in your brand. As Dave Trott points out:

“The product creates the experience.

The experience creates the reputation.

The reputation creates the brand.”

Dave Trott, One Plus One Equals Three

Thank you for reading my post. I believe there are some important, but simple lessons to learn from the Brexit ferendum result. The main lesson is to main sure you have a clear and compelling value proposition and that you understand the different needs of individual customer segments.

If you found this post useful please share using the social media icons.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

6 Myths About Website Optimization That Must Die

 Misconceptions About Website Optimization:

 

Website optimization is a test and learn process. If we restrict our ability to learn by listening to commonly held misconceptions about website design and performance we risk undermining the whole optimization process. These myths must die!

1. It’s about improving the customer experience.

Why are people so obsessed with improving the customer experience?

It is certainly desirable for the user experience to meet certain standards (e.g. relevance, clarity, loadspeed, accessibility etc), as otherwise this could harm conversion. But it should not be an isolated goal though, there has to be a return on investment as there is always an opportunity cost for any expenditure.

We could all create a fantastic user experience by giving free access to everything on our site or reducing prices below the market rate. But unless this provides a net-gain to the organisation we could quickly go out of business.

 

Disney understand this and invest in creating a compelling customer experience because they know it allows them to charge more than your average theme park and people will return for more of the same. On a website we have the advantage that we can precisely measure the ROI though A/B and multivariate testing. Use these tools to ensure that money spent on improving your website has a positive and sustainable impact on important business goals.  Otherwise use the money for something else that generates a positive return.

 

2. Conversion is about good design.

What defines a ‘good’ webpage design is all too often based upon the subjective opinions of people within an organisation rather than the behaviour of visitors. People visit a website because they perceive that it can assist them in achieving a current goal, whether it is your content or the products/services sold. If your design doesn’t assist with this process then it won’t matter whether it is a flat or simple/minimal style because customers won’t return.

Design is definitely important as it helps to create a good first impression, and it ensures content and navigation are presented in a way that is clear and engaging to visitors. But design is an enabler to facilitate the user journey, and ultimately if a beautifully designed page does not help and encourage visitors to complete a key task of some kind it has failed.

Data should determine if a design is up to standard and not the subjective opinions of managers and designers. As Brian Massey points out often “ugly wins” when it comes to A/B tests:

“The specifics of design change from audience to audience. Probably the only general rule, and it’s a bit of a heartbreaker, is that too often we find ugly wins when we do our split tests.” Source: Brian Massey Shares insights on landing pages designed to convert

 

3. Consistency of design is crucial. 

How many times a day do you hear “consistency” given as the reason for why an element on your website looks like it does or why it even exists on a webpage? This is not an answer, it’s an automatic response that hides a lack of thought and is often due to lazy thinking or design.

Sure, if it is to align with a web convention this helps to meet
customer expectations and assists navigation or understanding it may be relevant. But, do you really think your visitors are bothered if your call to action button on one page is a different size or colour to what it is on another page? Do you think they even notice if your website is engaging and has compelling content? I think not.

Your visitor is trying to complete a task and that should be
your priority, not that everything is consistent.  If consistency is relevant and helps the customer meet their goal then great, but not if it is solely for your gratification and doesn’t assist the customer achieve their goal. Consistency for its own sake should not be a goal and should be challenged unless you have evidence that it is beneficial to both your customer and your organisation.

4. Brand guidelines must be adhered to.

This is like saying that you won’t use oxygen to breathe underwater if you think the colour of your tank clashes with your swimming gear. If we follow this rule we are basically saying that brand guidelines are more important than the organisation’s goals (e.g. revenue generation). This is not a healthy place to be in and it could contribute to the failure of the business.

Brand guidelines should be ‘guidelines’ and not set in stone. They are often based upon subjective opinions and may have little evidence to support them. Like any aspect of a business they need to have a return on investment (ROI) and if that ROI is not proven it needs to be challenged and if necessary changed. Otherwise the business and the brand will not evolve in response to changing customer needs.

5. Use tips and best practice. 

If it was this simple we would all just follow Amazon. Websites are unique ecosystems that attract their own set visitors who do not behave in a generic and predictable way.

Where you don’t have the traffic to test on a website you may have to implement changes that you have tested on another site. However, don’t assume it will necessarily work. Make sure you have appropriate KPI monitoring in place just in case it doesn’t go according to plan.

Similarly, tips about conversion rate optimization may give you ideas for making improvements, but again test them before you implement to ensure they work on your website.  The key to any successful website optimisation strategy is that you follow a systematic and proven process to identity and develop tests that have a high chance of making a significant impact on your business KPIs.

Following tips and best practice alone will just lead to a random testing programme that lacks focus and will probably fail to deliver consistent and sustainable results.

 

6. It’s all about the conversion rate:

Your key conversion metric is just one indicator of many that shows how your site is performing. It should not be viewed in isolation
from other KPIs, such as average order value, returning customer orders, or overall revenues. Any improvement in your conversion rate needs to be sustainable and provide an overall net gain to your business as otherwise it is meaningless. You should never rely on a single metric to measure success as websites are complex systems with many dependencies.

If Website optimization was all about the conversion rate we would all use dark user design patterns to trick visitors into making decisions that may not be in their best interest. Having worked in Gibraltar for a year I frequently had to book flights though Ryanair’s website. Their website employs such practices but it didn’t make me want to use them again if I had any choice.  Such practices are
counter productive in the long-run and can damage your brand’s reputation.

The Ryanair website’s travel insurance section is probably the worst culprit of this approach. This states that “If you wish to purchase travel insurance please select your country of residence”. Ok, so why is travel insurance in the country of residence drop-down menu? Below the list of passengers there is a further instruction; “If
you do not wish to purchase travel insurance, please select ‘Don’t insure me’ in the drop-down box.”

image

 

Ok, but the “Don’t insure me” is not at the top of the list of options because that would be too easy.  Nope, it’s between “Denmark”
and “Finland”. You also have to select this separately for each passenger because it is under country of residence. This is not an enjoyable experience and ironically it probably makes you more alert for any other money-making tactics that Ryanair might
use.

So don’t get obsessed with your conversion rate. See it as one of many important indicators of your site’s health. Ensure you don’t trade off short-term gains for damaging the long-term sustainability of your site.

 

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it of interest please share this post by clicking on the social media icons below.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

Recommended reading: You Should Test That! by Chris Goward.

 

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

Are Brand Guidelines Suffocating Your Ability To Innovate?

image of branding guidelines

Your brand is one of the most powerful assets your organisation has. It serves as a short-cut to decision making as it should be instantly recognisable. Rightly or wrongly brands are closely guarded internally within organisations to prevent distortions or miscommunication of positioning and the value proposition. But how do our brains respond to brands and do brand guidelines help this process?

How Does Your Brain See A Brand?

The brain sees a brand as an object. Brands are no more than a mental representation of  a product in our mind. They are a means to an end as we purchase products to achieve explicit goals (e.g. listen to music), whilst the brand meets our psychological goals (e.g. enjoyment & autonomy).

Even if we use the brand as an extension of ourselves it is still desired for a current goal. Marketers talk about how brands connect with people emotionally, and positive emotions are important to encourage purchase, but we mainly respond emotionally to brands because they helps us to meet important psychological goals.

Do Brands Have Personalities?

A neuroscience study by Marketing Professor Carolyn Yoon (2006) cast doubt on the popular view that brands are like people and have personality traits. Further, research suggests that brand loyalty is mainly accounted for by availability and habit, with relatively few brands connecting to consumers at an emotional level. This means that brands need to evolve and respond to consumer needs as otherwise we may move onto a different brand which is perceived to be more strongly associated with achieving a set goal.

Consistency Or Customer Experience?

Brand guardians sometimes appear to be obsessed with maintaining consistency, whether it’s the fonts, messaging, colour, language, or imagery used. This creates a risk though that the brand becomes fossilised and unable to respond to changing customer needs and trends.

Consistency is fine if it is appropriate and it works better than an alternative. But people will  normally respond more positively to a great customer experience, even if there are some differences in how the brand is presented, than a consistently poor experience.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines”
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

What Defines A Brand?

What matters about a  brand is how real people interact with it and what stories they pass onto each other about their experiences. Trust in a brand is not generated by assurances and promises in documents, but instead we learn to trust a brand through actions.

The important relationships are the interactions our customers and employees have with each other, whether face-to-face, over the telephone, via our website or through other means of communication. It is not via the largely illusionary relationship we have with the brand.

Aligning With Business Objectives: 

There is also a risk that focusing on consistency prevents marketing from testing changes to how customers interact and view the brand. In the digital space this can stop the A/B testing of new experiences that may be more effective at engaging visitors and improving conversion.

A/B testing is designed to align each web page with the goals and objectives of the organisation. If we are limiting this process because of brand guidelines then we are essentially acknowledging that brand guidelines take precedent over the businesses goals.

This cannot be healthy for either the organisation or the brand as it prevents the evolution of the brand in response to changing customer preferences. Further, most brand guidelines are developed without any scientific evidence to support them. They are largely based upon subjective opinions and those judgements should be tested to ensure they are optimal for the brand. By trying to use guidelines to prevent change we run the risk of suffocating brand development.

Thanks you for reading my post and hope you have time to view some of my other posts on website optimisation, marketing, market research and psychology. You can access all my posts here from my index page.

Recommended reading:

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.

Do People Connect With Brands At An Emotional Level? Buyer Psychology.

 

Are Emotional Benefits Important?

Marketing and advertising people often talk about connecting emotionally with the target audience. Brands want to engage with us at an emotional level. They encourage us to like them on Facebook. Indeed, research often brings out emotional responses to products and services. So emotional benefits must be key to understanding what motivates people to buy, right?

Perhaps not! In his book, Decoded, Phil Barden challenges this popular view of how brands should engage with customers. He argues that the use of emotions as a concept is one of the biggest barriers to effective marketing. The concept is “vague” and encourages subjective and flawed decision making.

Image of faces showing the 7 emotions
Source: http://www.affectiva.com/

Sure there is extensive evidence to indicate that our decisions are heavily influenced by our emotions. Behavioural economists suggest that emotions such as fear, affection, arousal and hatred explain why people behave irrationally.

However, reliance on irrational behaviour doesn’t sound like a sustainable business plan. Apple and Amazon have strong value propositions that don’t depend upon the emotional state of their customers. Our minds are prone to predictable biases and as a result we make sub-optimal decisions, but do brands that connect emotionally have an advantage?

The brand police talk about how they have a strong brand and customers are loyal due to their emotional attachment. This is not supported by the evidence. The late Andrew Ehrenberg’s work suggests that emotional engagement with brands is much less prevalent than many marketers assume. Most brand loyalty is the result of  habit and availability. Habits though can be broken and if the latest product innovations aren’t available from established brands customers may soon move onto where they are more easily accessible. We only have to look at the likes of Nokia and BlackBerry to see how rapidly the once mighty can fall.

Image of behavioural economics decision bucket

So why do people by products or brands? Scientists involved in neuroscience research suggest that products or brands that we value activate the reward system of the brain. This has been found to be a good predictor of future sales, much better than subjective likeability. The intensity of the brain’s response appears to be related to the value we anticipate the product will deliver.

Price on the other hand activates a different area of the brain, the insula, which is normally a signal that we are experiencing pain. No wonder we are so strongly attracted to free offers as we naturally avoid pain and we are also loss adverse.

Barden suggests that our brain’s reward system is activated by products or brands because they allow us to achieve our goals. The nature of our goals may vary according to our situation as we often have different motivations for purchasing a product according to what we are doing or where we are located. For instance we might want a tablet computer for work to demonstrate new designs and impress our colleagues, whilst on our commute it is about avoiding boredom and relaxing.

Our brains are sensitive to the difference between reward and pain. If the difference is sufficiently large we may purchase a product. This ‘net value’ can of course be influenced by increasing the expected reward and or decreasing the pain/price. The very essence of many a marketing campaign. Our herd instinct of being influenced by what other people are buying also comes into play because this can affect the  perceived value of a product or service. We don’t like walking into a deserted restaurant because our expectations are lowered, but we are happy to wait if the place is busy and vibrant.

Goals also focus our attention so that even subconsciously we notice products and services that may help us achieve a goal. Products that we believe are most likely to help us achieve a goal get the greatest share of our attention. This may explain why consumers are drawn to guarantees and propositions that appear to promise a desired outcome.

Market research is partly to blame for our fixation with emotional benefits. At a product or category level people usually intuitively understand why they want to buy a product to meet a certain goal. However, brands operate at an implicit, psychological level, that we have limited awareness of. When we achieve a goal though we feel good about it and it triggers an emotional response. Naturally people communicate these emotional feelings when they are asked direct questions about brands they have purchased. An experienced researcher understands this but business people are prone to taking research results literally.

These underlying psychological goals are important to marketers because they allow brands to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Also by using signals that are associated with implicit goals (e.g. long established can indicate security) they can help increase the perceived value of a brand.

Another myth that Barden explodes is that brands are like people and have personalities. Neuroscience suggests brands are objects to the brain. But the more important the goal the stronger we relate to a brand that is highly relevant to the goal. We may talk about brands as if they have personalities but this is more about the nature of language and how our use of analogies is central to how humans think.

To be effective marketing activity needs to build an association between the usage of the product and goals that are most relevant to the consumer. This association makes the brand instrumental in achieving these goals.

“Brands create possibilities and offer fictitious, symbolic rewards that frame the physical effect of the product” Phil Barden, Decoded

Barden identifies six key psychological goals that motivate people to buy brands. But he points out that to create a compelling value proposition it is critical that we incorporates both explicit and implicit goals. By linking implicit to the explicit goals we may translate the proposition into signals which will activate mental concepts within the brain. If these mental concepts are more relevant to an individual’s active goal than those triggered by a competitors they will buy our brand.

If you want to know more about these psychological goals and how they are so important to the success of your brand I recommend you read Phil’s book. I hope you enjoyed reading my post and hopefully it may have generated a few ideas to improve the effectiveness of your marketing.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

 Further reading:

 

image

 Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, check out the Conversion Uplift  Facebook page or connect on LinkedIn.

Why Should You Use Video Mystery Shopping To Protect Your Brand?

 

Using Research To Protect Brand Equity:

Rarely does a month go by and it seems we hear about another mis-selling scandal in financial services. Given the ramifications of the 2008 financial crisis you would expect more monitoring of firms behaviour. This is especially important in retail financial services where poor advice can be very costly to customers and may have long term consequences on their lifestyle.

Given reputation and good will is critical in all businesses it is essential that your customers have confidence that you have the right controls in place to identify when service levels and advice are consistently below expected standards.

 

Image of New York stock market

 

MONITORING CUSTOMER INTERACTIONS:

In one of my research roles I came across a company who assured me that they could measure real customer interactions be sitting next to advisers and recording their telephone conversation with customers. I was advised that this would not influence their behaviour because the advisers were dealing with business transactions. Sales management were also comfortable with this approach.

This is clearly a fallacy. There is plenty of research that indicates it is human nature to behave differently when we know we are being observed. People are more careful to follow standard procedures and want to portray themselves in a good light with everyone concerned.

Indeed, a number of years ago I was asked to establish a programme of research to monitor service standards and identify training needs for an insurance company’s direct sales force. Each sales person was already evaluated on a regular basis by being accompanied and assessed during a normal sales visit. The vast majority of sales people passed these assessments without much trouble. The question was whether these observations were a true reflection of their normal behaviour.

 

EVALUATING FACE-TO-FACE SERVICE & ADVICE:

  • To ensure an accurate and detailed evaluation of service standards and behaviour I established a program of regular mystery customer surveys. We recruited people who met the basic customer profile and gave them a very simple scenario (customer need) to follow. This allowed the customer to use their own details as much as possible. They also collected any documents or leaflets they were given during the process.

THE RESULTS:

  • Sales management and Legal were shocked by the findings. There was a total lack of consistency in how the sales process was followed and most advisers did not perform to expected standards. This was valuable feedback though and a great deal of effort was employed to improve the customer experience and the standard of advice provided.

IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH:

  • Only video mystery shopping (using a hidden camera) can accurately capture every element of customer interactions to ensure there is no disagreement about what was said and done. Where traditional pen and paper mystery shopping was used I believe this was a false economy. The sales process in FS is too long and complex to be able to rely on the memory of a mystery shopper.

 

  • It is difficult for anyone to ignore a video of poor or misleading advice in FS. This is partly because video evidence can capture the whole sales experience. But also regulators will normally be given access to such material when they visit companies and they will expect to see evidence of corrective action.
  • There was no correlation between customer satisfaction with the advice given and the adviser’s compliance with basic standards for advice giving. This is perhaps not surprising as why should a customer understand details of the advice process. But it does confirm that Voice of the Customer research should not be used as an indicator of the quality of advice provided.
  • Videos of customer interactions are a powerful aid to change. They allow advisers to see the interaction from the customer’s point of view that encourages changes in behaviour that would otherwise be difficult to achieve. Each adviser was able to view their video with their manager and agree a detailed personal development plan to address any issues identified.
  • In FS you need fully trained advisers or trainers to assess the customer interactions. Each company has its own standards and you need a good understanding of regulatory requirements to accurately evaluate a service and advice.

OVERALL CONCLUSION:

  • The findings suggested to me that the regulatory framework is too complex and prescriptive. The focus should be on giving customers good service and advice rather than ticking boxes and following set procedures.
  • People need to be able to trust  advisers, particularly when dealing with money issues. However, a minority of people will always have a tendency to cheat or cut corners unless there are controls in place to spot such rogue behaviours. It is human nature and it happens in every sector. Video mystery shopping is an excellent tool that can be employed to capture the reality of the customer experience and the nature of advice given. With the correct controls in place it can be a catalyst for positive change in an organisation and a means for identifying potential mis-selling.

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

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  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.