Filthy Habits: Are your established routines restricting your success?

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Jamie Venters is a creative copywriter at Tayburn.

No, this article isn't about nuns in need of a good wash. It's about consumer behaviour. Human psychology. Interesting sciencey(ish) stuff.

When I say 'habit', what do you think of? Smoking, right? Drinking? Maybe drugs? All the things that teenagers think make them look much cooler than they actually are. These habits get a lot of exposure because they're particularly dangerous and quite difficult to break.

But we all have habits, albeit usually much more benign ones. A habit is defined by Google - I've done my research - as ‘a settled or regular tendency or practice’. It's basically any behaviour you routinely do, often with little conscious thought. Say the first thing you do when you get home is turn the kettle on. That's a habit. Do you always sleep on one side? Also a habit. Do you always buy the same brand of toothpaste just because that's what you're used to? Well guess what. That's a habit too.

Jelly brains

We're still animals at heart. And mind.

See, we like to think that humans are rational, sensible beings who evaluate with logic and reasoning. But we're not. At least, not all the time.

Animal brains are basically primed to make connections between behaviour and their outcomes. Take the classic Pavlovian experiment where rats had to pull a little lever to get a treat. They associate the lever pull with getting a reward.

And just like the rats follow learned behaviours to get the same rewards they've gotten all the times before, humans follow learned patterns of thinking to achieve the same results we've achieved before. Ways of thinking can become habits too.

Edward De Bono likens the process to pouring hot water on jelly, where jelly is your brain and the hot water represents new information. On the first pour, the water splashes all over the place and it's absolute chaos. But pour another cup on and it'll start to follow the path melted through the jelly by the first cup. And by the time you're on to your 15th cup of water, the peaks and valleys are so deeply and clearly defined in the jelly that the water simply will not travel any other course.

Break the habit

It is the easiest thing in the world to get stuck in set ways of thinking and tackling problems. But we're seeing a cataclysmic shift in the way people consume media and interact with brands, and brands need to adapt their approach to make the most of these changes. Follow consumer trends and use that knowledge strategically.

If your target consumers now do more product-related reading online than in print – why insist on a print campaign?

If you're targeting tech-savvy consumers,another banner ad campaign could be perfect – if you intend to personally go and disable all their ad blockers first. Or maybe there are other, better ways to reach them?

Be bold and dare to try. Try new ideas. New media spaces. New ways of interacting with your consumer.

Don't simply let the water that's passed lead all the water that's yet to come.

Jamie Venters is a creative copywriter at Tayburn

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