FCB Repositions As Behaviour Change Specialist

Posted: June 30, 2014

FCB South Africa and its agencies have adapted their strategic offerings to reposition themselves as the behaviour change specialists.

Introducing the new agency positioning ‘Make Change Happen’, group strategic director, Rita Doherty, said marketing thinking is poised for a paradigm shift worldwide, and FCB is ahead of the curve when it comes to challenging the status quo.

rita - smallIn her presentation entitled ‘The Intuitive Mind: An Introduction to Behavioural Economics’, she contrasted traditional economic thinking with the new field of behavioural economics. “Traditional economic theory is based on the premise that consumers make rational decisions after careful consideration,” she said. “In this paradigm, the role of marketing is to persuade consumers by providing a compelling reason to believe based on a unique selling point.”

“In contrast, behavioural economics believes people make decisions intuitively, based on what feels right at the time. The biggest driver of intuitive decision-making is therefore emotional, not rational, and people are moved to choose something, not persuaded.

“This helps explain why, according to a 2010 IPA Effectiveness study, emotional campaigns are 11 times more effective that rational ones,” said Doherty.

Basing FCB’s new strategic premise on works such as nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’, Doherty explained that human beings have two systems for making sense of the world. The one system is capable of rational, analytical comparison and it is the system we are most conscious of while the other system is intuitive and emotional and influences us in unconscious ways. Our rational system is slow and effortful, while our intuitive system is fast and easy. That’s why we prefer making decisions intuitively and it is our default system.

“The key insight informing our new positioning is that we make most decisions intuitively based on what feels right at the time. And what feels right at the time is a combination of whatever satisfies our needs in the easiest possible way,” she said.

“In order to make quick and easy decisions, our intuitive minds have little ‘rules of thumb’ or ‘heuristics’ which manifest as ‘gut instinct’. These heuristics form the basis of behavioural economics thinking.”

Providing a ‘dummies guide to behavioural economics’, Doherty looked at just four simple, but profound questions from a behavioural economics persepctive:

1. What do we pay attention to?
2. What’s the easiest way to make a decision?
3. How do we respond to risk and reward – the traditional levers of behaviour change?
4. How do we experience time?

On the subject of attention, Doherty said, “We pay attention to two kinds of things. We pay attention to the things that matter to us, which is what strategy has traditionally focused on, and is content-focused. But we’re also programmed to pay attention to anything disruptive in the environment. It’s one of the primary roles of the intuitive mind – to scan the environment for changes that could spell danger. Any disruption in the environment therefore demands attention. We can’t help but pay attention. Therefore the easiest way to get attention is to break a pattern, disrupt, surprise. This is something creatives have intuitively always known.

“It’s easy enough to therefore get attention, but it’s harder to keep attention. When it comes to sustaining attention, one of the most powerful strategies is good old storytelling. Once you’ve set up a good mystery hook, people tend to stay the distance, wanting to know ‘what happened next?’

“The more vivid, and personal the stories are, the more sticky. A great example is the Google Chrome ad ‘Dear Sophie’ which creates a little story that makes you feel like Google’s at the heart of your life.”

Doherty also briefly touched on easy decision-making. “The easiest way to make a decision is to go with the flow – to carry on doing what we’ve always been doing, or to do what others are doing. For example, most people prefer not to make a choice about whether they should be organ donors or not, and tend to just do whatever the default is. That’s why in Austria 99% of people donate their organs, while in Germany only 12% do. The only pertinant difference between them is the default.”

On the question of risk and reward, which is central to behaviour change, Doherty said that traditional economic thinking believed the prospect of a reward was as motivating as the prospect of an equal loss was demotivating.

“Not so. Humans are very averse to loss; behavioural economics states that a loss is more painful than an equivalent gain is enjoyable. So as a species we tend to work harder to avoid a potential loss than to get potential gains.”

With this insight in mind, it becomes very important for brands to not only create desire, but also to systematically try reduce the loss associated with the purchase decision, because desire is not enough.

Doherty refered briefly to how OutSurance use the carrot of R400 to counter the loss associated with making a call to get a new quote. This is classic behavioural economics strategy of countering a loss (waste of my time, tedious, anxiety of making a decision) with gains (R400).

Finally, Doherty looked at how we experience time – this is a critical area for clients that are trying to get people to make decisions for the benefit of their futures. “Sadly, we have a rather vague idea of ourselves in the future. From a neuroscience perspective, when we think about ourselves in the future, it’s as if we’re thinking about a stranger. We therefore tend to lack empathy for our future self and try and satisfy our current needs first.”

“Here, the role of marketing changes from persuading people to save or exercise etc, to helping people save. A great example is an international campaign by Prudential which helps people think about their future more carefully by confronting them with the simple questions ‘How much will you need for your retirement?’”

Doherty also argued that we are oddly often more motivated to change our behaviour for the benefit of others, rather than for ourselves. “Traditional economic theory puts self interest at the core of human motivation, but behavioural economics also places great emphasises on how much we value other people, especially those who we love. This powerful motivation – love – is captured in this hard-hitting ad for long-term insurance. This ad is also an example of a little trend called ‘sadvertising’ and it will probably make you cry.”

In conclusion, Doherty said key insights from behavioural economics for marketers are ‘Be emotional. Make it easy. Be unique.’

“What’s odd about all this ‘new thinking’”, said Doherty, “is that in some ways a lot of this is ‘old thinking’ that we’ve forgotten or simply never married with marketing theory. At last we have a marketing theory that matches our instincts and brings strategy and creative closer together.”