Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

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.

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.

Does ‘MarComs’ Signal The Death of Marketing?

Marketing is a Discipline!

 

In a recent podcastRory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of advertising  group Ogilvy and Mather UK,   expressed the view that the second client marketing departments are “reduced to ‘MarComs’ marketing is almost lost”. So why do organisations think marketing is solely about communications?

Marketing communications is of course a fundamental element of the marketing mix, but marketing is a discipline and a way of thinking. Communications should be an integral element of the four P’s, not a separate silo.  Turning marketing into MarComs inevitably changes the relationship between areas that were once part of the marketing department.

They establish their own priorities and see communications as a service rather than part of the same discipline. This risks turning marketing into a process rather than a creative discipline. Once this happens MarComs is in danger of becoming a factory that churns out content that follows the set templates and adheres to the brand guidelines but is unlikely to take risks or inspire customers.

Creativity is at the heart of the marketing discipline and it should be applied across all areas of the function to have maximum impact. A fragmented marketing function also encourages a tactical  approach to marketing as MarComs  have to respond to what product, pricing and the sales channels decide to do, often with little planning or discussion beforehand.

 

Can Behavioural Economics Save Marketing?

 

Image of mri-head scan
Source: Freeimages.com

 

Rory also mentioned how behavioural economics (BE) has the potential to allow creative people, like marketers and market researchers, to expand their reach into other areas of influence. It won’t solve the organisational problems of marketing,  but BE can provide a valuable framework and language to create strategies for behavioural change. This would involve coming up with ideas for better choice architecture or nudges to influence the decisions people make.  Marketers could be well suited to this role because it requires a creative and analytical approach to problem solving.

Neither is this about persuading people to do things they don’t want to do or selling them unsuitable products. If we do that we have failed as marketers and people soon get wise to such unethical behaviour. It would not be sustainable either as companies would not want to risk damaging their brand’s reputation. No, this about understanding how and why people the choices they make, but not just limiting ourselves to marketing products and services.

Humans do not seek a perfect solution:

One of the most fundamental insights that BE gives us is that people seek to satisfy rather than maximise as we live in world of imperfect information and trust. Our goal with most decisions is to avoid a disaster rather than seeking a perfect solution. If this is the case then it should not be a surprise that messages often used in promotional material that refers to an “ideal” or “perfect” solution to “fully” meet your needs misses the mark?

 

Image of friends in a huddle
Source: Freeimages.com

 

Habit Formation:

Evolution has slowly created and shaped human decision making processes and so our cognitive machinery is little changed from when we first formed early civilised societies many thousands of years ago. As a result we still rely on many of the same strategies for determining who we should buy from and what to do in new and uncertain situations. This explains why people so often refer to their social networks to identify people who they can trust.

This approach is highly unlikely to lead to a disaster as long as the person selling the goods or services is aware that they could lose significant social capital if they sell something that is unfit for purpose. If, however, it leads to a satisfactory outcomes we may create a habit as we have learned to trust the person or brand concerned. Much of what traditional marketing refers to as brand loyalty is in fact habits. The insight here is that marketing is most likely to be effective when it focuses on habit formation or piggy-backs off an existing habit. Disrupting a habit is more important than the message.

 

image of people sitting outside Starbucks
Source: Freeimages.com

Brands:

Brands are also framed by how people interact with them and the stories they tell each other about their experiences. Trust is strongest when we learn through experience and the actions of the brand that they can deliver on their promises. The key relationships with a brand are the interactions between customers and employees. These define the brand relationship much more strongly than any advertising or social media campaign ever can.

 

“The product creates the experience.

The experience creates the reputation.

The reputation creates the brand.”

Dave Trott, One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking

 

Image of Tesla car

Emotions:

The context of our decisions and our underling emotions are also crucial to our decisions.  We are much more willing to spend money and pay a premium price when we are searching for a last minute Christmas present that we promised to buy for our partner or children. We hate the feeling of regret and will seek to avoid it if we can. This is partly why scarcity is such a powerful motivator as people don’t like to feel they missed out on a bargain (i.e. loss aversion) because they were too slow to get to make a decision.

 

Image of man looking at a laptop
Source: Freeimages.com

As a result communications that triggers an emotional response are often more effective at getting attention and influencing behaviour than a purely rational message.

“Showing personality in your app, website, or brand can be a very powerful way for your audience to identify and empathize with you. People want to connect with real people and too often we forget that businesses are just collections of people.” – Aarron Walter, Teamtreehouse.com

Other useful insights from behavioural economics include:

  • We feel most comfortable when our behaviour conforms to recognised social norms relating to concepts such as fairness and social responsibility.
  • Humans are not the selfish, independent thinking agents that economics would have us believe. We will often hold back from behaviour that we believes treats others unfairly or lacks respect for others.
Image of behavioural economics decision bucket
Behavioural Economics Decision Bucket – Factors that influence decision-making.
  • Although people usually have clear explicit goals when making a purchase (e.g. I want a new car), they do not have full access to their psychological goals (e.g. security and adventure) that help drive brand choice. For this reason there is no point using direct questioning to try to uncover these implicit goals. Our preferences also change over time and so consumer demand is continuously shifting in response to many influences.

Image of implicit goals

Source: Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy – Phil Barden

  • Intrinsic motivations, such as mastery and autonomy, can be more powerful at driving our behaviour than carrots and sticks, especially when the activity is not routine. Indeed, research has shown that extrinsic motivators, such as bonuses, often reduce motivation and performance when applied to creative tasks.

As you can imagine these insights can be employed in any environment where behavioural change is needed. This could be to tackle health and safety issues, reduce waste, improve compliance with good working practices, address employee motivation, or improve the effectiveness of communication.

 

Image of Ogilvychange.com homepage

 

So what next you might say. Well, Ogilvy and Mather, the global advertising and marketing agency, have already created a new business unit, Ogilvy Change, dedicated to the application of behavioural economics to deliver measurable changes in behaviour across a diverse range of environments. I recently attended the monthly London Behavioural Economics Network meeting where the team from Ogilvy Change  discussed work they had conducted on behavioural change in a factory in South America for improving hygiene and the psychological optimising of a call centre in the UK.  From small beginnings the team at Ogilvy Change are now working with a number of global businesses to press forward the application of behavioural science in the real world and maybe it is time we did the same.

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it useful please share using the social media icons on the page.

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  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked with 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. The objective is to ensure the aim of each webpage is aligned 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.

Linking market research to marketing strategy?

 

Measuring Return on Investment:

Client-side researchers sometimes feel that they are constantly being asked to justify the value of research insights. A frequent challenge from management  is how can we measure the benefits of insights and what specific decisions have been driven by research. Ideally management would like to understand how research links to either sales or costs. Demonstrating how insights have led to specific decisions can be particularly challenging when you work in a large, hierarchical, multinational organisation where the management structure appears to be in a constant state of flux.

Ensure you spend a significant amount of time engaging with stakeholders to understand their problems and offering advice on how research can support their decision making. Once a project is commissioned it’s somewhat of a relief that you can get on with implementing research. However, to ensure insights are linked to strategy and decision making it is essential that you integrate Action Planning into the market research process. Without such a mechanism in place there can be no assurance that management will use the insights to support strategic decision making. It is very easy to ignore insights, particularly if they don’t agree with your own opinion!

ESSENTIALS OF ACTION PLANNING FOR THE RESEARCHER:

  • Ensures the researcher retains ownership of the findings and how they are used. This is important as the client-side researcher is best placed to advise on interpretation of results when management drills down to a granular level of action planning. In addition it raises the profile and credibility of the client-side researcher within the organisation.
  • Provides greater visibility and evidence of how research findings are used and the value it adds to the organisation. This is invaluable when trying to negotiate budgets and agree on priorities for future research spend.
  • Enables the researcher to engage with a range of stakeholders and gain a greater understanding of how findings influence and drive strategic and tactical decision making.
  • Allows the researcher to work more closely with operational areas that have responsibility to implement actions generated by research.

INTEGRATING ACTION PLANNING INTO THE MARKET RESEARCH PROCESS:

  • Set expectations at the beginning! If you introduce it as best practice before you start work on a project you rarely meet resistance to the concept.
  • Ask a senior stakeholder to sponsor the action planning process and obtain agreement of who will take ownership of actions within individual areas or departments.
  • Include action planning in the research brief or plan. Outline any potential involvement you require from the external research agency. Propose that you act as a consultant to implement the process as you have the best understanding of the organisation and culture. However, agree with the agency how they can assist and have input into the process.
  • Consider how the research and the action planning may relate to key strategic or operational initiatives. Discuss any potential conflicts or implications with the senior stakeholders before proceeding with the research project. This will ensure that the research and action planning either feeds into the initiatives or avoids overlapping.
  • Soon after the debrief meet with the stakeholders to agree which insights the action planning workshop should address. You should set the agenda by identifying beforehand the priority insights and how best to approach them in the action planning workshop.
  • Don’t combine the research debrief and action planning workshop. Management need time to digest insights from the debrief and an action planning workshop  can easily last for two to three hours to properly consider implications and actions.

 

MANAGING ACTION PLANNING WORKSHOPS:

  • Ask attendees to prepare for the workshop by sending them a short summary of the research. Get them to write down potential actions/ideas to discuss at the workshop.
  • Invite people from a range of areas, including departments not necessarily involved in project to provide some diversity and independent thinking.
  • Set some ground rules, e.g. no bad ideas, no judging ideas, want everyone to participate, use post-it notes to write down ideas when other people are talking, all ideas to be captured etc. Use relevant brain storming techniques to make the workshops engaging and productive.
  • Begin with a short summary of the key insights that will be discussed during the workshop.
  • Split the attendees into small break-out groups of 4 or 5 individuals and allocate a topic to each group.
  • Provide each group with a structured approach to discuss their insight. For example if the research relates to improving customer service or experience you could ask them to generate a list of things we need to stop, start and continue doing. Ask them to spend 5 minutes at the end prioritizing their actions in each category.
  • Ask each group to feedback their top 3 ideas for each category (e.g. Stop, Start and Continue), but capture all the ideas by taking away flip charts used during the break-out groups.

MAINTAINING MOMENTUM AFTER THE WORKSHOP:

  • Use a suitable template to capture and summarise all the ideas. Carefully merge duplicate ideas so that you don’t lose the meaning, group ideas into themes that emerged from the workshop, and categorize according to:
  1. Quick wins that could be implemented with little or no resource.
  2. Medium term ideas requiring some resource or support.
  3. Longer term, strategic ideas that may require significant resource or a change in policy.
  • Circulate the draft action plan to attendees and ask for feedback and comments by a set date.
  • Take your sponsor through the draft action plan and get their feedback and agreement to seek owners for each action.
  • Get agreement from action owners how the action plan will be kept up-to-date with progress and developments.
  • Have update meetings with your sponsor and key action owners to review progress. This can be used to ensure the plan is still relevant and whether it needs to change to respond to any changes in strategic direction. It is important to review the plan on a regular basis and feed in new insights from more recent research.

Whilst I was in the process of writing this post I came across an excellent article on the Green Book blog by Edward Appleton; Should Researchers be more like Advertising Planners? This suggests that market research needs to put more emphasis on tangible value-added outputs to respond to the changing nature the world of insights. For some client-side researchers this may require a step change to ensure they are at the heart of the action planning process.

Thank you for reading this blog. I hope it generated some ideas for managing your research action planning. I would also like to thank Lisa Radin (@milguy23) for her feedback and assistance in writing this post.

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

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This post has been published on the GreenBook Blog market research website.

  • 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.