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Marketing Brand Strategy Consumer Behaviour

Behavioral thinking: the solution to brand growth in an era of adversity?

By Annie Little | Senior Strategist



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November 14, 2022 | 8 min read

For part two of a series on hacking the consumer journey, Initials' Annie Little looks at how brands use behavioral science to influence how they are perceived.

Emotional chicken eggs

Brands should adapt to real life events to stay relevant in the mind of consumers / Tengyart via Unsplash

In the first of this two-part series we spoke about how brands should apply a life-centric, behavioral science lens to consumer journey planning. This allows brands to move away from linear models and better adapt to the demands of consumers in real time.

As we head into the winter months and enter the depths of a recession, a new model must be used to understand the psychology of consumers and decipher their fears, concerns, expectations, wants and needs – not to manipulate or take advantage, but to understand how brands can deliver on what individuals truly want.

As humans, we can be ‘predictably irrational’. This is why marketers cannot afford to ignore behavioral science as a tool for unpacking these decisions and shedding light on why people buy or don’t buy your brand. So, how can behavioral science help brands hack the consumer journey in times of crisis?

Question everything

Every business question has become a question of behavior; behavioral thinking has rocketed up the decision tree. As businesses are forced to place more emphasis on resilience, there will be far more questioning into psychology (i.e. less about how we can run efficient flights and more about how we can get people onto planes).

For brands concerned about driving growth at a time of crisis, finding simple ways to define consumers and predict their behaviors is the single most impactful way to drive preference over and above the competition.

Initials CX has designed a new methodology, the Consumer Journey Hacker, that uses behavioral science to deeply understand the different forces shaping customers' decisions and deliver the most relevant message and media solutions for those contexts.

As millions of households reassess priorities in the coming months, consumers will cut back on spending and brands will be forced to justify their reason for existing. You don’t want to be the one caught without an answer.

The good news is, if you want to find a clear and compelling solution, Initials CX can help you uncover the biases in your path-to-purchase, understand the triggers that drive consumer behavior, and drive relevance at a time of crisis.

Here are a few practical examples that demonstrate how this methodology can be applied to brands of all sizes across a variety of sectors.

The Van Restroff effect

Look at UK price comparison site Compare The Market, a brand that didn’t have the reputation or budget of other price comparison sites.

It cleverly applied the Van Restroff effect (the idea that, among a sea of similar options, the one that is most different is most likely to be remembered) to its advertising. By subverting the formulaic rules of the category, it was able to increase spontaneous awareness and conversion.

While GoCompare, Moneysupermarket and Confused all focused on championing the quantity of insurers they compared and how much money they could say the average consumer, Compare The Market broke ranks. The brand created the anthropomorphic meerkat, Aleksandr Orlov. From this, the site jumped from a ranking of fourth to first in just 12 weeks of the campaign launch.

Challenger banks

Today’s banks use behavioral science to create experiences that engage, educate and support customers' needs. As disruptive, digitally-native challenger brands put pressure on established market leaders, traditional players are trying to sustain loyalty by creating ‘authority bias’. This involves the use of phrases such as ‘award-winning service’ to their marketing communications to inspire trust.

The ‘power of free’ is also a frequently applied principle, with many online brokers offering ‘fee-free advice’ or promoting the fact that their service was ‘free and easy’ to influence consumer behavior.

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Driving relevance at a time of crisis

A seemingly endless array of external life forces are having an outsized impact on everyday consumer decision making. These paradoxical behaviors make it harder for brands to stay relevant to consumers.

The truth is now unequivocal: a linear path to purchase is no longer fit for our era. We must move away from outdated thinking and instead adopt a life centric approach to marketing. This means considering the real-time behaviors and mindsets of consumers and how external factors influence decision making.

By combining the best elements of behavioral science to hack the consumer journey and predict behaviors ahead of time, brands can drive relevance and influence preference, even during a time of crisis.

Marketing Brand Strategy Consumer Behaviour

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