Some of the industry’s most vocal proponents of behavioral study and its effects on marketing speak each year at the IIeX Behavioral Marketing Forum about why understanding what people do—and not what they say they’ll do—is so important to the future of product development and communications. It’s a subject that is close to our hearts here at Campos. We have seen the evolution of research and its relationship to effective marketing develop in real time, and in the interest of remaining in a leadership role, behavioral science has been a constant point of discussion in our offices. How do we incorporate it into the research we are doing? How do we utilize its teachings to better advise our clients on how to interact with customers?
A fascinating talk from this conference came from Mark Hall, Strategic Planner at FCB Garfinkel. Hall gave a 20-minute talk—as per the rapid fire format of the forum—about the ways that behavioral science influenced one of their most successful recent campaigns: The Real Cost, a campaign about the dangers of tobacco. Smoking cessation campaigns are always a challenge. The challenge is summarized quite well by a line from the wonderful "Thank You for Smoking," delivered by tobacco executive BR (as played by JK Simmons): “We sell cigarettes! And they’re available and they’re cool and they’re addictive. The job is almost done for us!” Given the challenge eloquently laid before them, how could FCB Garfinkel effectively develop a campaign that would convince teenagers—who strive for rebellion and coolness—that tobacco was a danger to them?
The other challenge faced is based on the behavioral principle known as temporal discounting. In its essence, it means that we place less value on things that are far away from us. This is a problem for convincing teens not to smoke, because while they understand that cigarettes can cause cancer, or lung disease, or other nasty illnesses, these are consequences that are decades in the future for them. They don’t understand or care about how one cigarette at age 17 affects them. In order to overcome these challenges, the focus of the campaign was to show the consequences of the now for teen smokers.
One of the primary focuses was in making them not cool. Hall discussed the behavioral concept of normative social influence—basically, the idea that most teenagers who smoke do so because someone around them smokes, normally multiple family members. In that way, smoking becomes normal, and therefore easier for the teen to adopt. But, what if the campaign showed all of the people around them not smoking? What if it was shown to not be a normal behavior? After all, statistics show that more than 4 out of 5 people don’t smoke, but showing a non-existent behavior is rather difficult.
Using this behavioral principle as a basis, the agency decided to always depict the ill consequences of being a smoker around your non-smoking friends. Teens who lit up in the ads were bullied into it (often quite literally, as the embedded ad shows), and their friends are always disappointed by the disruption of their otherwise fun activities. This always resonates with the teenager’s desire to fit in and image consciousness. No teen wants their friends to be upset with them, so each ad goes out of its way to show the disappointment that friends feel when the lone smoker goes out to light up. Other principles came into play, as well—loss aversion, for example, allowed them to talk to teens about addiction as a loss of the newfound control they were coming into as they entered adulthood.
Understanding these principles and seeking to apply them as supplements to strong consumer research and creative development are crucial to the future of brand campaigns, and the days of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks is going by the wayside.
As for the ways that behavioral economics and sciences affect new product development and shopper experience? Well, those thoughts will have to wait for another week—but they’re there, and, like behavioral science’s impact on marketing, they’re not going away any time soon.