Behavioural science is a specialist field that studies human behaviour, thought and decision-making. It combines psychology and sociology to understand how people think, feel and act in different situations and environments.
Behavioural science can be useful in a number of ways for brands:
Understanding how people behave, think, and make decisions, brands can build creative campaigns that resonate with their target audience, while making sure the campaign aligns with their audience’s behaviour, increasing the chances of engagement and conversion. This results in more effective campaigns.
Seeing how customers interact with products and services, brands can identify areas of improvement and make changes that better meet the needs and preferences of their customers. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty and repeat business. This ultimately provides a better customer experience.
Learning how consumers perceive value and make purchasing decisions, brands can develop pricing strategies that align with their audience’s behaviour. This can help to make informed pricing decisions to increase sales and revenue, especially when used as part of a marketing campaign.
What Goes into Behavioural Science?
Behavioural science is a big field of study used across many industries and not all of it is relevant for consumer brands. Where brands use behavioural science, it is generally focused on the areas that look at understanding consumer behaviour and decisions, specifically behavioural economics, behavioural psychology, and behavioural design.
Behavioural Economics (or The Power of Choice)
Behavioural economics is a part of behavioural science that looks at how people make decisions, especially when the options aren’t clear or when the information is incomplete. Behavioural economists have discovered that people don’t always make choices that are in their best interest, or that match what traditional economic models predict. Instead, our decisions are often influenced by things like emotions, bias, and social norms.
One of the most important findings from behavioural economics is that people are often swayed by how they think others will react to their choices. A study published in Psychology & Marketing found that when presented with the choice between a healthy or unhealthy snack, participants changed their choice if they believed they would be judged negatively for that choice. By pairing participants of different social groups, researchers found that the fear of being judged by people outside of their own social group guides behaviour towards making better (or what we believe will be seen as better) choices.
This insight can be incredibly valuable for brands looking to influence the behaviour of their customers. By understanding the ways in which people are influenced by the choices of others, brands can design creative campaigns to be more effective at driving desired behaviours. For example, a brand might use social proof (i.e., highlighting the fact that many other people have chosen a particular product or service) in their campaign to encourage more people to make the same choice.
Understanding this aspect of human behaviour can provide brands with powerful insights into their audience. For example, the rise in consumer demand for sustainable business practices presents a unique challenge for many brands that may appear daunting at first. Applying behavioural science to this trend can give brands an insight into how to capitalise on the opportunity, by tapping into the underlying driving forces behind the demand for brands to prioritise sustainability.
Behavioural Psychology (or Keep it Simple)
Behavioural psychology is the study of how our thoughts, feelings, and actions are influenced by our environment and the people around us. Psychologists have found that our behaviour is often driven by a combination of internal factors (such as our thoughts and emotions) and external factors (such as the people and things around us).
One of the key insights from behavioural psychology is that our behaviour is often influenced by the way in which information is presented to us. Research has shown that people are more likely to make a positive decision if the information is presented in a way that is easy to understand and remember. This is because our brains are wired to respond to simple and straightforward information, and we are more likely to act on information that is presented in this way.
This insight can be incredibly valuable for brands looking to influence the behaviour of their customers. By presenting information in a way that is easy to understand and remember, businesses can increase the likelihood that people will act on that information and make the desired choices. For example, a brand might use clear and concise language in their creative campaigns to make it easier for people to understand the benefits of a particular product or service.
Behavioural Design (or Guided Choice)
Behavioural design is the process of designing products, services, and environments that are intended to influence the behaviour of the people who use them. Behavioural designers use a range of techniques, including psychology, sociology, and economics, to create environments that subconsciously guide people towards a desired behaviour.
Psychology plays a key role in behavioural design, as it helps designers to understand how people think, feel and perceive the world around them. This allows designers to create designs that align with the way people naturally think and behave.
Sociology helps to understand how people interact with each other and how their behaviour is influenced by social norms and culture. This is useful for designers to create designs that align with social norms and culture.
Economics also plays an important role in behavioural design as it allows designers to understand how economic incentives can influence decisions.
Behavioural design can have a significant impact on the actions of the people who engage with products, services, or environments. Everyone interacts with behavioural design without being consciously aware of this fact; when we go shopping, the placement of products, the lighting, music, and the layout, influences our behaviour and decisions – from which products we put in our baskets to how we navigate between aisles.
Have you ever noticed that there is no sign or direction that supermarket aisles are one-way systems, but most shoppers will adopt an approach that treats them as if they are? That’s the power of behavioural design in action.
By understanding the ways in which the design of a product or service can influence behaviour, brands can create designs that are more effective at driving desired outcomes and conversions.
Getting Started with Behavioural Science
There are many ways behavioural science can be used by brands, and there is no standard approach. The key influence on how brands use behavioural science is their target audience – every audience is different, which means the specific use of behavioural science will vary. IPOS uses behavioural science to underpin our creative campaigns and while the underlying principles remain the same, no two campaigns are alike.
There are, however, some steps you can take if you’re approaching behavioural science for the first time:
Identify a Target Audience
Before behavioural science can be used in campaigns, brands must first identify and understand their target audience. This can be a daunting task if there is no existing data to work with.
Identifying a target audience involves gathering information about the demographics and psychographics of the people who are most likely to be interested in the product or service being offered.
Demographics are characteristics that are related to a person’s age, gender, race, income, education, and other external factors.
Psychographics are characteristics that are related to a person’s attitudes, values, beliefs, and lifestyle choices.
By understanding the demographics and psychographics of the target audience, brands can tailor campaigns to be more effective at reaching and influencing the desired group of people. For example, an outdoor adventure brand would target their campaigns towards people who are interested in nature, adventure and travel, who also have a high disposable income (to afford the travel and specialist equipment). They might also use attitudes and values towards health and physical fitness to further narrow the focus of their campaign.
A direct and reliable method for understanding your target audience is to conduct market research with a cross-section of people that make up your audience.
Look to identify the key behaviours and preferences you want to understand better and design a research plan that includes different methods such as surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Once you have enough data, you can use it to create campaigns that align with the behaviours and preferences of your target audience. This will ensure your campaigns are a good match for your audience, which increases the chance they will resonate and succeed.
Different designs and messages will impact your target audience in unique ways. To minimise the risk that a campaign isn’t as compelling as it could be, brands will often A/B test different designs and messages – i.e. a section of the target audience will see and engage with Version A, while another section of the target audience will see and engage with Version B.
Once you identify the key elements of the campaign to test, such as design, messaging, or call-to-action, create two versions of the campaign and test them with different segments of your target audience. Once you have the results, use them to adjust your campaign and either launch another A/B test, or roll out the winning version to your entire target audience.
Measuring the outcome of a campaign is crucial to determining success or failure, which dictates whether a campaign should be repeated, or a different campaign used to go forward.
To measure the success of a campaign, brands will generally use their data on the behaviours of the target audience as a baseline to measure changes while the campaign was running. This can be done through a variety of methods including surveys, focus groups, and online or in-store analytics.
By regularly measuring the success of creative campaigns, brands can make informed decisions about how to improve their strategies and achieve better results. For example, if a particular campaign is not having the desired effect, a brand can use data to make changes to the messaging or design of the campaign to better reach and influence the target audience.
Personalisation can create a more tailored experience for your customers and is most commonly used in digital campaigns or through in-store loyalty programs.
By collecting data on their preferences and behaviour, personalised content, offers, and recommendations can be created that will resonate with specific sections of your target audience. Personalisation can help increase engagement, conversion rates, and customer loyalty.
Gamification can be used to make campaigns more engaging and interactive. Elements of game design such as points, rewards, and leader boards, encourage specific behaviours that brands find desirable. Gamification can be used to increase engagement, participation and create a sense of competition, which often overrides the rational decision-making part of the brain.
Nudges gently guide people towards a desired behaviour. Nudges are small changes in the environment that make it easier for people to make a certain choice. For example, placing key products at eye level will attract more attention to them than if they were placed higher or lower. Eye level product placement is often used in special offers or product launches.
Social norms are a major influence on behaviour. Showing people that others are behaving in a certain way will lead to an unconscious desire to conform. For example, if you want to encourage recycling, displaying signs that show how many people have recycled can increase recycling behaviour.
Scarcity creates a sense of urgency and increases the perceived value of products and services. Using limited time offers or reducing a product’s availability will create an artificial sense of scarcity.
Applying Behavioural Science
These are just a few examples of how behavioural science can be applied in campaigns. It’s important to remember that while these techniques can be effective, they should always be used ethically and transparently. Additionally, it’s important to monitor and analyse the results of the campaign to understand its effectiveness and adjust as needed.
Brands often work with specialist creative agencies with an existing understanding of behavioural science. This makes sure that the campaigns align with both brand values and the audience’s behaviour. If you’d like to discuss how behavioural science can take your campaign to the next level, drop us a line today.