I’m going to give you two choices.
1. You can have half a box of chocolates RIGHT NOW.
2. In one week, you can have A WHOLE box of chocolates.
Which do you choose? If you chose the first one, you’re just like everyone else.
Because the thought of waiting one week is absurd. The additional half a box of chocolates you would have received is outweighed by the time you would have to wait. This is what we call diminished value. Products like savings plans and life insurance face this idea of diminished value everyday, because as humans, we’re can’t fathom waiting 30 years to access our money and we want to spend it now.
Disciplines such as behavioral economics are seeking to understand these decision making patterns and barriers, and find ways that we can shape or manipulate decisions.
(I personally find this an incredibly interesting subject - for anyone who wants to know more I highly recommend starting by watching Rory Sutherland’s TEDTalk ‘Sweat the Small Stuff’).
Today’s panelist, Chris Risdon, was going to give us a lesson on blending behavioral economics with design, with the intention to change behavior. Let me give you an example.
You’re watching the news and an advert for an animal rescue shelter comes on TV. They’re urging you to donate and they’re tugging at your heart strings through pictures of cute puppies being tortured. You think of your own pooch and decide to donate. The ad is telling you to go to a website. You go there, and you have to register. You input your name, billing address, and then you have to decide how much to donate. $20? $10? What’s too much? Then you put your credit card details in, and they try to lock you in for monthly payments. All in all, it’s taken you 15 minutes to get through the eCommerce funnel and you’ve sworn off donating again. See the problem here?
The amount of effort exerted does not match the level of commitment.
Think of the exact same situation of watching TV, but instead of asking you to donate via a site, they tell you to text 199DOG and it automatically deducts $10 from your phone bill. Done.
The amount of effort exerted is matched to their level of commitment.
Too often, marketers put so many barriers into place that the amount of hurdles to actually buy a product or service doesn’t match the consumer’s level of motivation.
One of the best examples of persuasive design is organ donation. Many countries have now implemented an ‘opt-out’ rule rather than an ‘opt-in’ due to the fact that many people simply couldn’t be bothered checking the opt-in, not because they didn’t want to donate. Donations as a result have more than doubled in these places.
So how can marketers start to change behavior through design? Chris gave us three ways in which we can do this.
1. Sensors and Data
An incredibly simple concept of connecting devices and data to activities and products, and interpreting this data to make meaning of it. Data can be in the form of GPS, RFID, images, profiles, status updates, accelerometers… the list goes on. The meaning part is what will change behavior.
Nike+ is an example that is always cited (and so it should be), but think of mint.com that tracks your spending and shows you where you could save, the new Nike shoes that track your steps and feed it into Nike+ or the new electric toothbrush that is connected to your Smartphone and teaches you brushing habits. These are all examples of brands using individual data to alter or manipulate our behavior.
2. Feedback AND feedforward
Chris gave a great example of how Weight Watchers used to be. You will diet like there’s no tomorrow all week, go to Weight Watchers on a Sunday night, get weighed, realize you’ve put on weight, and then spend the next week trying to figure out why. There was no feedback or feedforward.
Now, we have Wifi scales and Apps like Jawbone to track our weight against our own personal goals. It will tell us how we’re progressing but most importantly, GUIDE us to our goals. It takes our individual data and then understands it to be able to give people guidance.
Feedforward is just as important as feedback. I recently saw a new Coke campaign that was a perfect example of this - it showed types of exercises that people can do to burn off the calories of a Coke. Ie: Laugh for 10 minutes or take your dog for a twenty minute walk. Another great example comes from Nike+ again - it’s the ability cue music as you know you’re going up that last hill, or the fact that every ‘like’ on Facebook sends you a cheer in your headphones. That’s just brilliance right there!
3. Framing and Profiling
Finally, framing and profiling is changing the way something is presented to us to change our behavior. Like putting the dessert bar just that little bit further away so it’s out of reach, or in school cafeteria’s displaying the healthy food first.
Ask WHY five times to understand what is the real behavior you’re trying to change
Chris argued the most important part of changing behavior is constantly asking why to understand the underlying motivation. It should be what we’re doing anyway and the role of the agency to continually challenge the client, but understanding the WHY can lead us to different strategies and tactics to change behavior.
For more reading on this topic I would highly recommend Richard Thaler’s book ‘Nudge’ - he also has a blog but doesn’t update it frequently.