People’s attitudes to brands and social issues have traditionally been the target for brands and for social policy makers who thought that if you changed attitudes behaviour would follow and that if we asked people about their intentions we could rely on their answers.
If that was the case people would not just think eating healthy foods was the right thing to do, they would also buy healthy foods. Yet we know that isn’t the case.
So the devaluing of attitude data has led to a shift in emphasis to looking at behaviour. In a way this was
an enlightening short cut to marketing’s ultimate goal—to change behaviour. The only difference is that traditionally marketers thought that the attitudes drove behaviour change.
The switch in emphasis from attitudes to behaviour was relatively easy. What has been more challenging is the revelation that behaviour is not as easy to investigate as we might have thought.
1. Attitudes are not stable over time. Ask someone to answer a set of attitude questions then repeat the exercise after a few days and the correlation between the two sets of data will not be very high. Nor do they predict future behaviour. So we need to understand actual behaviour.
2. People operate across several levels of consciousness and because of this are not always able to accurately recall past behaviour.
3. Unconscious processing is highly influential. Memories buried by unconscious low level processing are more long lived and can be activated involuntarily by the right triggers.
4. Habitual behaviour is hard wired. Intervention and disruption opportunities exist, though they need to be carefully managed to balance the pain to gain ratio.
5. Cognitive biases allow people to make quick decisions, and as such they can be used to prompt desirable outcomes for brands. Research can identify the cues that will enable cognitive biases to create behaviour change.
6. Even the most seemingly rational, considered decision making is still under the influence of our emotions, so brands need to manage people’s emotional associations with their brand through every brand experience.