February 25th, 2011

Conquering the Subconscious: An Interview with the Hindu Business Line

By Sublime Behavior

Sublime Behavior Marketing Logo

Neale Martin was recently in Mumbai, India teaching our Level 3 Certification training class to consumer products employees at Godrej.  While he was there, Business Line (part of the Hindu news publication) engaged him in an in-depth interview on unconscious consumer behavior and habit-based marketing.  They’ve recently published part one of the discussion.

You mention that 85 per cent of new products fail, and consumer satisfaction does not equal loyalty. Is consumer satisfaction a necessary layer upon which loyalty can be built? Please explain.

There is very little correlation between customer satisfaction and repurchase or loyalty. When we focus on behaviour, we see that loyal customers are sometimes highly brand-loyal, but sometimes they are brand-indifferent. In both cases, satisfaction is not a good indicator of behaviour. In many studies of brand switching, switchers reported high satisfaction with a brand or store just before defecting. When behaviour becomes habitual, it is no longer tied to goals or intentions, so satisfaction measures become essentially meaningless.

However, customer dissatisfaction is different. If a customer perceives she is dissatisfied, this makes her consciously aware and can disrupt even the most habitual repurchase behaviour.

The statistics around new product failures are truly humbling — estimates are that 80 to 90 per cent of new products fail. Even products that receive great reviews in testing, flop once introduced. The primary problem is that new products are often overlooked in the store because shoppers are on autopilot at point of purchase, completely overlooking the new product. Many companies have sophisticated methods to create, screen and launch new products. But even if potential customers report they will probably or definitely buy a new product, they often fail to purchase when the product is released (one of my clients stated that they have a 90 per cent threshold for definitely or probably would buy, only 3 per cent actually purchased).

- excerpted from Gokul Krishnamurthy’s “Conquering the Subconscious” on February 25, 2011 in the Hindu Business Line.

Here’s the link to the full article: Conquering the Subconscious.  Part Two should be posted in the next week or so.

February 10th, 2011

Tasteless

By Kyle Morich

This past Sunday, I hosted my annual Super Bowl party for my family and friends. The ambient noise drowned out much of the game and many of the famously expensive commercials, which for the most part is a good thing (I’m looking at you GoDaddy).  However, one ad I did actually watch this year, for Bud Light, caught my attention.  It reminded me of popcorn.

In a study currently under peer review, a team of researchers led by David Neal1 set out to discover if goals and preferences truly control human behavior.  Neal’s team brought in a large group of moviegoers, gave them a bag of popcorn and a bottle of water, and asked them to review movie trailers.  However, the study wasn’t about the movie trailers, it was about the popcorn.

The researchers divided the moviegoers into two groups.  One group got fresh popcorn, made that day.  The other group got a warmed-up bag of stale popcorn that had been made seven days prior to the experiment.  Upon leaving the theater, the bags of popcorn were collected and weighed to assess how much of the 60-gram bag each moviegoer had eaten.  These moviegoers were then given a version of the Self-Report Habit Index to assess how habitually they ate popcorn whenever they went to the movies.

For non-habitual popcorn eaters, the results are unsurprising.  They ate most of the bag of fresh popcorn and barely touched the stale bags.  For the habitual popcorn eaters, however, the amount eaten was high regardless of the popcorn’s freshness.  They chowed down.  Neal’s team then asked the moviegoers to rate the taste of the popcorn.  Amazingly, the habitual popcorn eaters who received the stale popcorn knew the popcorn tasted bad. But they ate it anyway.  Their behavior was completely controlled by the movie theater context, not their taste.

Just to confirm the role of context in habitual behavior, Neal performed the same experiment again, but in a well-lit laboratory using a small-screen television.  This time, the habitual popcorn eaters wanted nothing to do with the stale popcorn.  Only in a darkened theater, surrounded by the sights, smells, and other stimuli their brains had associated with the context, was the habit cued.

Read the rest of this entry »

January 21st, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions and the Myth of 21 Days

By Kyle Morich

We’re 21 days into the New Year: how are your new habits going?

I felt compelled, like many of us, to come up with a list of resolutions for the New Year.  Some I’ve done well with (enjoying more quality leisure time) and others have been completely ignored (spending less time during the day browsing the web).  Numerous publications and commercial blogs (Lifehacker, for instance) got a lot of mileage in the first few days of 2011 on articles discussing good and bad habits and how to change them.  One of the more frequent pieces of advice alluded to the “21 Day Habit Theory.”  If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it originated with Maxwell Maltz’s 1971 self-help book Pscho-Cybernetics that suggested the brain needs 21 straight days of a behavior to make the proper neural connections that allow habits to form.  The idea has stuck around because A) it was a popular book, selling over 1 million copies and B) because it SEEMS right.

Read the rest of this entry »

January 21st, 2011

…And We’re Back!

By Sublime Behavior

Hello Habit Lens readers!  Neale and I took a few months off from blogging to focus on client work, business development, vacations, and writing (we have been working on a journal article to be published in the Journal of Brand Management later this year).

During our business development discussions, something that came up was whether or not social media and blogging was a good investment.  Marketers are often questioning the value of such endeavors, and we are no exception. In a world with limited cycles, we wanted to make sure our efforts were focused in the right places. And from a behavioral standpoint, the external reinforcement was not really there. Besides digging into page view analytics, the only tangible feedback we have about our entries are reader comments, which have been few.

Yet the feedback during our absence was quite interesting.  We’ve had several clients talk to us about entries they read here, and had a few readers write and ask about when the Habit Lens would be updated again.  And from our standpoint, we really enjoy writing.  We begin every workday riffing on some topic from current events and applying a habit-based perspective to it.  It’s fun to educate others and share our views, and it’s exciting to hear others’ opinions and engage in dialogue.

So the Habit Lens is back.  Our promise to the readers is to update more consistently (at least once a week) and provide quality discussions on the world of unconscious consumer behavior and habit-based marketing.  Our only request is that if you like what you read, if you have questions, topic suggestion, or (especially) if you disagree with what we’re saying, let us know!  Add our feed to your RSS viewers or bookmark our page.  We can’t wait to talk to you.

Thank you all for a fantastic 2010.  We are looking forward to an even better 2011 as we continue our quest to elevate marketing to brain science.

Warm Regards,

Kyle and Neale

October 27th, 2010

Cooking with Cream Cheese: Kraft Plays With Context

By Kyle Morich

There was a time that baking soda was just a crystalline substance that was used in baking to release carbon dioxide and help dough rise.  And then Arm & Hammer got very creative and suggested keeping an open box in your refrigerator to eliminate odors.  And now the uber-substance is used everywhere, from toothpaste to antacids.  We don’t give this a second thought, yet consider this: the same substance you put in your mouth you also sprinkle in your cat’s litter box. That’s marketing, ladies and gentlemen.

We always talk about how Context is a key component to habit formation.  If a behavior isn’t associated with a particular context, that behavior can never become habitual.  But flipped another way, Context can be used to identify tremendous growth opportunities.  By marketing baking soda in the context of odor elimination (or stain-lifting, or whatever), Arm & Hammer expanded the pie and moved their brand out of the Cooking context.  Kraft Foods and their Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand are doing the same thing with their launch of “Cooking Creme.”  This extra creamy version of cream cheese can be added to pastas or other foods to add richness and texture.  Some experienced bakers have known about this versatility for years, but creating a new context for the average consumer has Kraft anticipating a huge uptick in revenue.

Brand managers often think their brand exist in isolation, rising atop a hill awash in the golden glow of the rising sun as their consumers run toward it, extolling their love and joy for the brand and how critical it is to their daily existence.  But the truth is that the consumer world is messy.  Odds are you interact with between 50 to 70 brands before you even leave for work in the morning.  Can you name all of them?  Most of the time, consumers would rather a brand just solve their problems.  We often ask our clients, “Are you the meal, a course, or the ingredient?”  The point is to think about what role a product plays in behavior.  Everyone wants to be the center of attention, but there is big business in being a behind-the-scenes part of a behavior.

Kraft saw a huge opportunity for consumers to start using cream cheese as an ingredient in their recipes, not just as a spread to put on the morning bagel.  Now they still have a tough path ahead of them to make the behaviors in this alternate context habitual.  Consumers will need to repeatedly use the cream cheese product in their recipes, notice the difference, find the difference appealing, and continue to buy the product.  But for recognizing the current Cream Cheese context was saturated and for seeking different contexts for growth, Kraft is at least moving in the right direction.

October 15th, 2010

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

By Kyle Morich

Priming occurs when exposure to some stimulus affects the way you respond to another stimulus.  A classic study of priming by John Bargh (1) examined how exposing an individual to traits and stereotypes from another group affected that individual’s behavior.  Bargh took 30 NYU psych students and had them complete a scrambled sentence test.  Unbeknownst to half of the students, their tests contained words associated with elderly stereotypes (e.g., Florida, old, grey, wise, bingo, retired, etc.).  None of the students had any idea they had been primed with the sentence tests.  What Bargh did next was brilliant, and provided some of the first evidence that what our brains perceive has a tangible impact on our subsequent behavior.  After each student completed his or her test, he timed how long it took for the student to walk down the hall to the elevator.  Bargh discovered that those students primed with the elderly stereotype walked slower to the elevator.

But the curiosities of priming on social behavior don’t stop here.  Bargh’s experiment showed that an individual tends to assimilate the behavior traits of a different group when exposed to stereotypes of that group.  We actually see the opposite effect when an individual is exposed to the traits of another individual.  In a recreation of the Bargh experiment by Dijksterhuis (2), individuals primed with a specific example of an elderly individual (in this case, the Dutch Queen Mother) walked faster than the control group.  This behavioral contrast occurs because our brains implicitly compare its traits with that of the primed example.  We tend to naturally contrast ourselves against individuals we see as different than us. Read the rest of this entry »