Applying behavioural science in marketing might seem daunting but there are many ways you can apply it to make your marketing more effective.

What is behavioural science?

Behavioural science is the scientific observation of behaviour, including the way our emotions, environment and social factors influence our decisions in the real world. It’s an exciting field that equips us with a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive decision making. By applying a behaviour-led approach, you can formulate strategies to better engage with your target audience.

Why you need to consider a behaviour-led approach now

Many marketers will be familiar with behavioural science through popularised books such as Thinking Fast and Slow, The Choice Factory, Habit, Influence, Predictably Irrational and Nudge but they often struggle to apply these insights. Effective marketing is ultimately about influencing behaviour but traditional marketing usually fails to take into account what goes on it people’s brains when they receive messages. If you actually understand your audience and what’s motivating them and driving their behaviour, you have a far better chance at influencing it.

How can I get started applying behavioural science?

Behavioural science is a complex topic and it might seem daunting but there are lots of ways you can apply it to make your marketing more effective. Here are a few ways you can get started with applying behavioural science.

Take control of what you are being compared against

Traditional marketing usually sets out to convey specific information to the target audience. In many cases, marketing is built around defining a USP and telling people about it. What behavioural science tells us is that as consumers, we don’t think rationally, we think relatively. Our brains are not information processing machines so we don’t objectively judge things, we always need a point of reference. Our perceptions of something are based on what we compare it to, often subconsciously. In order to influence behaviour, you need to take control of what you’re being compared against. What matters during one stage of the buying cycle could act as an irrelevant distraction at another point – there are times to fit in, and times to stand out.

Create friction, or go with the flow

Humans evolved as hunters and gatherers. We survived by focusing our cognitive resources on scanning our environment for signs of danger. We didn’t expend resources on repeatedly processing the leaves, the trees, and the grassland. Our brains function in much the same way now. In our daily lives we are bombarded with sensory input and we need a way to filter the signal from all the noise. As a result we tend to focus on what changes. It’s differences that we give our attention to. If something changes, or stands out from the surroundings, we actively process that difference – the friction within the flow. When something is unusual, new or changes the pattern we are accustomed to, it requires active processing and we give these things our immediate attention. The opposite applies when we are in unfamiliar or high-stimulus environments, our senses flow to pick out the familiar. When we are in a supermarket aisle, our brains pick out the shape and colour of the packaging we’re searching for. By creating friction, or using flow, in your marketing, you’ll attract attention, making it easier to drive action. You can use flow to push consumers forwards and friction to change direction. 

Use nudges

Consumer behaviour can be influenced by small suggestions and positive reinforcements. A nudge is a little intervention that sets out to influence someone’s behaviour by taking into account they way in which our brains work. There are hundreds of nudges that can be applied to make a certain choice seem particularly strong and they are particularly effective in tactical executions such as email campaigns. To help you get started using nudges in your marketing, we have created a deck of Behavioural Bias cards. Each card explores a specific behavioural bias and provides tips on how to leverage it and a real-world example of a brand or product that has already done so. You can purchase the Behavioural Bias cards in our shop.

Want to know more?

Here at The Behaviours Agency, we have developed a unique model that builds upon hard scientific behavioural theories and helps marketers apply these insights to everyday marketing and communications challenges.

We specialise in behaviour-led creativity, delivering anything from insights and strategy development for brand building or big ideas right down to tactical ideas and execution. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you to apply behavioural science in your marketing then please reach out to me.

By Tamsin Scott

Head of Marketing