5 Lies You’ve Been Told About Behavioral Science Market Research

5 Lies You’ve Been Told About Behavioral Science Market Research

This article originally appeared on Greenbook.com

The rise in behavioral science terms flooding into the market research community has been a blessing for some, and a curse for others. Identify and avoid these 5 lies told by behavioral science bandwagoners to avoid getting actionless insights.

If you work with consumer insights, chances are you have heard buzz statements such as “System 1”, “Behavioral Science,” or “Understanding Emotions” tossed around quite frequently over the past year. Beyond the buzz, these terms, if harnessed correctly are valuable for understanding what informs human behavior.

The rise in behavioral science (also known as behavioral economics to some) terms flooding into the market research community has been a blessing for some, and a curse for others. Research buyers who have selected trusted, qualified research partners that are well versed in applying behavioral science should stop reading this article now.

If you classify yourself into the other category of research stakeholders that have fallen victim to false claims and empty promises, the following five lies as told by legacy research companies attempting to jump on the behavioral science bandwagon will sound all too familiar:

  1. “We capture future purchase intent” – Every time I hear this, I cringe. Consumers have trouble vocalizing their thoughts and feelings in the present, let alone in predicting future behavior 30 days from now. Traditional measures of future purchase intent such as Likert scales have been shown not accurate for predicting future behavior. If future purchase intent metrics do not offer any statistically significant or predictive validity, they are not valuable enough to report on, let alone to collect from respondents.
  2. “Respondents love our surveys” – For those not in market research, online quantitative studies can be a bore. With the average length of segmentation studies creeping above 30 minutes in length, respondent fatigue and dissatisfaction comes at the expense of collecting a multitude of dimensionless metrics through scale questions. Respondent friendly surveys must be succinct to the point where they avoid long-winded open response boxes and monotonous scale type questions.
  3. “We’re powered by behavioral science” – If a firm tells you this and is unable to identify which scientifically validated methodologies they use, or what experience they have in understanding what informs behavior, the chances are high that their practice is not powered by any behavioral metrics… or science at all for that matter.

Additionally, be careful to not fall for the alphabet soup: a team full of Ph.D.’s is a fantastic resource in market research, but if not appropriately leveraged can yield actionless results for industry players. The benefits of incorporating behavioral science principles lie within the power of understanding what truly drives behavior and examining such behavior through the lens of a specific business application.

  1. “We do System 1” – Implicit association tests that evaluate nonconscious responses are occasionally believed to be the only methodology available to assess the System 1 mind. In reality, there is more to understanding behavior than gauging fast associations alone.

If we made every decision based upon what our System 1 or “fast” brain suggested, half of us would be in jail, and the other half would find themselves indulging in too much dessert at the dinner table. Emotions, experiences, and relationships are also prominent factors in understanding System 1 behavior. Evaluating the speed of attribute associations alone is not enough to understand what drives behavior. It is imperative that System 1 and System 2 research techniques be layered together holistically.

  1. “We’re innovative” – Research methodologies such as conjoint analyses and the Net Promoter Score (NPS) have been around for 30 years. Yes, these are useful tools at a thirty-thousand-foot level, but we must challenge what they tell us about behavior.

Identifying preferences is only half the battle for understanding what informs consumer choice. Without taking a step back and evaluating all of the inputs into decision making, researchers run the risk of telling an incomplete story.

Just because a large (or small) market research firm has adopted the hip terms of the day does not mean that the promised deliverables will meet expectations. If a vendor is unable to identify, quantify, and offer predictions or actionable insight into what informs human behavior, they cannot be considered “System 1” or “Behavioral Science” driven. The field of behavioral science is not limited to observing behavior, as it also can provide insight into how to influence such behavior.

Imposters will say that they have been practicing System 1 research for years, but in reality, offer little by way of methodologies or expertise. It is imperative that research buyers can separate experienced vendors from those seeking to ride a wave of popularity. Research vendors must be able to substantiate claims to be trusted and credible.

If you can’t change behavior with your insights, are they insights into behavior at all?

Be your own choice architect: see your savings grow

Be your own choice architect: see your savings grow

This article originally appeared on eZonomics

Self-sabotage. Yes, sometimes we are our own biggest enemies when it comes to sticking to our personal budgets. For every commitment we make to saving money, there is always a temptation to spend just a little on ourselves. What happens when the silly concept of a personal budget gets in the way of the desire to shop? What else: we feel bad.

These feelings are the opposite of how great we feel when we spend money on things that make us happy. When real-life stuff like bills and saving get in the way, it’s time to balance the choice between what we want to do right now and what we know we’ll need long term.

No one likes being told that hard-earned money can’t be used to buy something we really want, but for the sake of our future, it’s time to start listening to the voice inside your head.

Unplugged and unprepared

For help sticking with a budget, you can download an app or sign up on a website to encourage you to spend less or save more money. But what happens when these digital tools aren’t in your face to stop you from random purchases? These tempting moments occur almost daily.

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Think about the times you’re at the local pub with friends or feed feelings of hunger with a snack from the office café. These situations are hard to avoid; even our friends might encourage us to “just have one more”. Sticking to your budget might be the difference between feeling guilty and staying ahead of the curve financially.

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Think about the times you’re at the local pub with friends, and tempted to spend …

Tools to avoid the temptation

Instead, plan way ahead of time. Create a daily budget, and leave the credit or debit cards at home. Carry your allotted daily spend in physical cash (instead of plastic) so you can keep an eye on what you’ve spent throughout the day; this way, you’re paying attention to what’s left every time you pull your wallet out.

The best part? When your wallet is empty, you can’t spend any more. If notes and coins don’t appeal, why not organize yourself a debit card or digital wallet which only has the amount you’re allowed to spend in it?

You can also be smarter about how you spend your money. Take a page from the party crowd and “pre-game” your social events. One way to do this is to ensure you eat and drink at home before going out and joining your friends. The markup on food and drinks bought from cafés, bars, and restaurants can be high, quickly pushing you out of your budget range.

Sure, it can be challenging, even for the most money-conscious people. The key is to think about your future goals today and plan ahead, especially when tech tools might not be available to rescue your budget.

Committing to these small change strategies will give you a chance to simply do better financially longer term. Moral of the story? While you might not want to do save more in the heat of the moment, a few simple actions can help you achieve your biggest dreams over time. You only have to get started.

How Behavioral Economics Found Its Way into Market Research

How Behavioral Economics Found Its Way into Market Research

Market researchers, regardless of the industry they find themselves working in, are in the business of understanding people. Understanding how people or consumers behave has been of interest to business leaders for decades as it can determine success in the marketplace.

By understanding who customers are and what they want, businesses can tailor their product and service offerings to match expectations.

Serving as a tool to avoid managerial bias in decision-making, market research provides a necessary ‘checks and balances’ system for business leaders.  This practice ensures that consumer needs are met and exceeded, further strengthening the triangular relationship between customer, product (or service) and brand. Business leaders must make decisions involving changes to products or services with the customer’s voice in mind, at all times.

Traditionally, consumer research has taken a normative approach. Normative views on behavior involve projecting how we believe consumers will act based upon available information. If you have ever conducted an online study that yielded positive results upfront, only to find out that what you uncovered didn’t hold true in the field, you have observed the nuances of evaluating human behavior first hand.


When consumers deviate from the normative path, or how we think they will act based on what we know about them or what they tell us, they engage in descriptive behavior. Descriptive behavior refers to how the person acted, regardless of the prior prediction. It is this difference between normative and prescriptive types of behavior that has given rise to a new field of social sciences that continues to grow exponentially in relevance: behavioral economics.

Behavioral economics was born at the intersection of two namesake fields: economics and psychology.

Thinking about economics, a normative field, and psychology, a descriptive field, the newfound approach to evaluating consumer insights allows researchers to observe how people behave in the “real” world when no one is watching (or paying for their input).

As Richard Thaler, the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, began to observe how people made seemingly irrational choices that differ from what the traditionally normative economic theory would predict, the importance of understanding how and why consumers make decisions became ever important.

Traditional market research studies (such as concept testing or brand tracking) often ask consumers to predict how likely they will be to engage with a product or brand at some point in the future. This approach is commonly believed to predict precisely how loyal customers will be, but when asked on a 7-point Likert scale without additional context, has been shown to not accurately predict future behavior.

How can it be that consumers can say how they will act at one point in time, and engage in different behavior in the future? The answer lies in the field of behavioral economics.

Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist (go figure!) who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences explained this differing behavior in his 2011 New York Times bestseller, Thinking Fast and Slow. Kahneman suggests that the brain thinks and makes decisions using two separate metaphorical brains, the System 1 and System 2.

The System 1 brain is responsible for “fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, and unconscious” thinking. A few examples of thinking with the System 1 brain as explained by Kahneman are: solving the math equation 2+2, completing the phrase “war and …”, also, connecting the description ‘quiet and structured person with an eye for details’ to a specific job, all in a fast and automatic manner.

In contrast, the System 2 brain is responsible for “slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, and conscious” decisions. Examples of System 2 thinking are solving 17×24, determining the price/quality ratio of two washing machines, and actively counting the number of times that the letter A appears in this paragraph. All of these functions require a significantly more amount of time and mental bandwidth.

When consumers make decisions, they often rely on their System 1 (with the occasional moderative input from their System 2) to make choices. This approach is more efficient than thinking with the System 2 alone, saving valuable brain power to process other mental tasks that are frequent or habitual in nature.

Due to the vast amount of processing that the System 1 brain conducts, it is typically handled in the nonconscious parts of the human mind, or in the background while the System 2 is working on completing other complex tasks.


Without relying on their System 1 brain as they currently do, consumers purchasing a soda at a supermarket would be passed by dozens of other shoppers in the aisle while they deliberated over which brand has the best price/quantity trade-off. The System 1 uses automatic thinking that is guided by past experiences, relationships, and mental models to help make decisions faster, easier, and more automatically than the more deliberate and rational System 2 brain.

Unfortunately, traditional market research taps into the System 2 brain- an old approach that is normative in nature and does not begin to reflect how consumers descriptively make decisions.

Protobrand leverages behavioral economics to understand behavior better by tapping into the System 1 to evaluate the factors that drive behavior such as emotions and subconscious preferences.

This new approach utilizes methodologies such as visual metaphor elicitation and response latency. These tools can better predict actions as they tap into the emotional and non-conscious drivers that play a role in informing behavior. By asking questions that consumers can answer about how they feel, at the moment, researchers can better predict the choices that consumers will make in the future.

It is essential that the field of market research continues on its path to understanding what truly drives behavior: implicit preferences and emotions, to deliver actionable consumer insights to clients. Without a keen focus on identifying the drivers of descriptive behavior, business decisions using normative predications become at risk for failure.

4 Branding Campaigns That Missed The Mark (And How Behavioral Economics Can Help)

This article originally appeared on www.brandingtimes.com

A swing and a miss. Just as pro-golfers often don’t get a hole-in-one after they tee off, brands occasionally miss the mark delivering creative work. Branding is part art and part science. If a company forgets to share the love between the two, campaigns can fall short and disrupt the core customer base. Even worse, campaigns that lack an understanding of the consumer and what they think can have detrimental effects on the brand if left uncorrected.

Below are 4 examples of global brands that failed to deliver campaigns that stack up to brand expectations. Reviewing brand approaches with a behavioral science lens can solve this problem.


1. Spike Your Friend’s Drink When They’re Not Looking

Bloomingdales’ largest advertising campaign did not go over as planned. Rather than joyfully suggesting an adult version of eggnog around the holiday season, the magazine advert suggested other nefarious activities. It’s clear that Bloomingdales did not intend to encourage sexual assault, but their carelessness caused an uproar nonetheless.


2. Nivea White is Purity

Nivea launched a campaign titled “White is Purity” in the Middle East for its women’s deodorant line. An attempt to showcase the packaging and product attributes unique to the brand, the campaign created uproar by appearing to promote another agenda. A social media follower of the brand tweeting “Shame, Shame, Shame on you. Fire your marketing person and anyone who approved this ad.”


3. IBM Hack a Hairdryer

IBM, a major legacy technology company, is also guilty of launching insensitive ads. In their “Hack a Hairdryer” campaign, the brand attempted to recruit female employees into the ranks. The choice to use a hairdryer as the focus of the hacking immediately set off alarm bells in the tech community by limiting the potential of female applicants towards working on beauty products rather than rockets. Rather than working to reduce the gender inclusivity gap, IBM actually worsened its position and image with the creative flop.


4. KFC Brand Slogan in Chinese Markets

When KFC entered the Chinese market in the 1980’s, the brand translated its famous slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” into Mandarin. What the brand forgot to do, however, was explore how fluent Mandarin speakers would receive the literal translation. This ultimately resulted in Chinese signage that read “Eat Your Fingers Off” before the brand caught its mistake and corrected the problem.

These examples demonstrate the importance of applying behavioral science by exploring perspectives that are different from one’s own, rather than through nudging. Academic exploration into the reason behind mismatches in expectation and reality boils down to the mental models that we think with, and are responsible for guiding our actions. The age-old question “is the glass half empty or half full” reveals that there can be many different ways to view the same problem.

Strategic brand campaigns may not be strategic at all. This is an example of mental models at play. An individual with a background full of resources may see the glass half empty, while another who hails from a background of scarcity may see the glass half full. This same paradox applies to those involved with planning and evaluating branded campaigns. Rarely do views of the glass fluid levels shift unless an individual is exposed to the alternative viewpoint.

When those who are the closest to branded content share ideas, the collaboration is often with like-minded individuals in a closed circle. Certainly, if KFC had consulted with local analysts or run pre-market entry tests, the company would have been enlightened about the improper translation and could have predicted how the mistake would impact the brand. What most likely happened, is that the creative or strategic team for KFC validated their ideas internally. This internal validation leads to a confirmation bias that underpins the importance of understanding how others will receive the branded campaign.

Before using behavioral science to change the decision-making activities of consumers, applying it internally will eliminate managerial biases that can spell major trouble for global brands. To reduce the impact of branded campaigns “that miss the mark”, brands need to have the intended content evaluated by consumers with no connection to creative well before it enters the market, rather than playing catch up after the fact.

Leveraging Emotions in Packaging Design

This article originally appeared on www.brandingtimes.com

Jim “Jimmy V” Valvano opened his famous ESPY speech by explaining three important things that people should do at least one time per day: laugh, think and cry. Jimmy V’s intention was to encourage us to explore the full range of emotions available to individuals under normal circumstances.

Beyond the superficial, packaging design, branding and motivational speeches all share a common thread when viewed through the lens of behavioral science. Before the days when behavioral scientists applied their teachings to marketing, visionaries like Jimmy V understood the breadth of the human brain’s capacity. He preached tapping into its greatest aspects, such as experiencing true emotion, a hallmark of cognitive ability.

The practice of exploring the use of emotion in packaging design is not a novel idea. It has tracked along the rise in popularity of using experiential marketing to leave long lasting, positive brand impressions in the minds of consumers. One of the best behavioral science methods to build brand or product loyalty, aside from repetition, is to create a connection between a positive memory and the desired object. Our brains work by encoding emotions into long-term storage at a faster rate than we are able to process occasional product names, attributes, or desires. To sell a commoditized product in a saturated market such as beer for example, brands often create experiential moments around the beverage in order to leave a long-lasting impression and positive association between the brew and the emotions felt during the time of first consumption.

At the time of purchase, these emotions are recalled and used in creating weightings of the various product offerings on the store shelf. For packaging designers, this is a pivotal moment that must be captured. Famous consumer brands such Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola and Rice Krispies employ varying types of emotional activation in their packaging designs to drive enduring brand success.

When one thinks of popular tortilla chip brands, Tostito’s often springs to mind, and for good reason. Evolving into such a well-known brand was not easy in the crowded market. Much of its success is attributed to the packaging design as well as the taste profile. Tostito’s packaging features clear windows so consumers see the texture of the product and uses subtle notions about parties and social gatherings to help cement the brand’s position as the go-to party snack.

Recent designs feature bold claims such as “Party Size” and even incorporated images of a queso-like cheese dip that is now synonymous with parties and social gatherings. Chips and dips are served quantities, often consumed with friends and families at joyous gatherings such as birthday parties, sporting events, and even weddings. The nature of these events tie a physical location and product to a catalyst for happiness and positive memories associated with the product that cannot be unbundled into individual servings. When one is making a choice between Tostito’s, or a lesser-known store brand, positive emotional associations are more likely to influence the choice of the party centric packaging over the alternative brand.

Coca-Cola’s legacy Coke soda can is iconic with its bright red design. Around the world, the can is known for bringing a pop, a fizz, and a happy memory to consumers. The red color used throughout the packaging mix of cans or bottles delves into the cognitive associations between colors and emotions that our brains encode through various normative applications. The color red almost universally elicits emotions of bold, daringness, and excitement- something that Coke capitalized throughout their entire marketing mix. Much of their TV and Digital campaigns support the emotional development of their packaging by leveraging narratives of excitement while being surrounded by friends and family. Unknown to consumers, these small emotions are accessed at the time of purchase. This connection between iconic color and positively encoded memories provides an advantage when it comes to a direct comparison between Coke and its other well-known competitor, Pepsi, which employs a different approach to design and aesthetic.

Snap, Crackle, and Pop. As soon as your eyes glanced over those words and your brain processes the association, there is a chance that you had some sort of vision of either Rice Krispies Treats or Rice Krispies cereal. Take a moment and think about those three words for another few seconds. Those familiar, nostalgic moments begin coursing into the brain, creating a warm glow of childhood memories. Consumers with childhood memories will appreciate the same slogan and characters that have been used across the product’s packaging since the 1930s. Purchasing cereal for the household, emotional appeals to nostalgic memories are used alongside health claims to entice consumers into making a purchase intended to provide delight beyond the stomach filling value.

While there is a vast amount of neurological and behavioral scientific explorations into the topic, most consumers are aware of the impact that positive memories have on their choices. It is the strength and activation of these positive memories that brands rely on in the creation of attention grabbing packaging designs. Once the consumer focuses a gaze on the package, there are a few key seconds between the time spent viewing and selecting the package, and then moving on to another product. Successful designs, like the ones mentioned above, are able to elicit the emotional associations between the product and nostalgic memories. While products should not make consumers cry, Jimmy V’s message and the associations with packaging design are intended to demonstrate the importance of eliciting some sort of emotional valence, or extent to which the emotions are felt in order to provide intangible benefits to selecting the package itself.

Incorporating emotions into packaging design begins with understanding the narrative view that consumers have created around the product and ends with a solid comprehension of how the product plays into their lives. Once this understanding is mastered, designers can elicit those associated emotions to guide choices based on maximizing happiness beyond the selection of a bag of chips.

Prepackaged Snack Options Have Changed How We Think About Snacks

This article originally appeared on www.brandingtimes.com

In the very recent past, vending machine snack options were limited to a narrow range of processed foods, from cheese curls to neon-yellow snack cakes. Today, technological innovations have lead to a change in the narrative surrounding prepackaged snack food. Snacks once considered highbrow such as hummus and pita chips, meat and cheese, fruit and nut combinations, and even prepared meals like the ones from Tiny Grocery now substitute for the glowing cheddar variety of dry packaged goods.

Innovations to vending technology such as refrigerated standalone machines have allowed major CPG and prepackaged food manufacturers to extend their product offerings into the refrigerated world. Decreasing the temperature of the standard vending machine and supermarket displays cannot be solely attributed to the success of the new guard of packaged snacks. The product management teams at companies such as Creminelli, Hillshire, and Sargento have changed the way the products are marketed toward consumers.

In order to change the status quo, one must innovate. Changes to the packaging of snack products were one of the first steps toward shifting the product category. An example of a small packaging change that lead to a larger category shift was the introduction of clear packaging used on the exterior of snack foods. Comparing the package of Creminelli’s Casalingo Mix to a package of generic potato chips, one can easily identify the large product, the quality, and freshness contained inside the package. This enhanced saliency of the ingredients promotes a feeling of trust between the consumer and the product.

Creating this sense of trust is the first step toward enticing a selection when a consumer is deciding between a prepackaged snack or a fresher, more perishable option. When it comes to packaging perishable items, trust is beneficial in conveying the premise that not only is the food worth its price, but also within the date range that it is safe to consume. Creating trust in other packaged snacks such as chips and cookies is inherent, as these goods are known to be shelf stable and not as prone to losing freshness or quality over time.

Once trust has been built between the consumer and the brand, snack brands can begin to persuade the purchaser to choose its specific product compared with others within the same category. The ability to solidify the consumer’s choice at this point in the selection process lies within the package’s graphic design. Innovations in the design of the snack packages have made the products more attractive to consumers. Hillshire’s Small Plates leverages darker, richer colors on the exterior of the packaging to signify the premium nature of the product contained within.

Using darker tones in the color selection of packages has been shown to elicit emotional feelings of wealth and value. By utilizing color to change the norm around perishable packaged snacks, brands are able to position their products as premium and reflective of the careful design used on the exterior. Where other products use brighter colored package designs to grab attention, premium products leverage behavioral science to tap into underlying associations between color and attributes.

Aside from changes to the physical packaging used in premium prepackaged snacks, changes to the content and ingredients are key in guiding consumers to choose a better-quality option. Offering a variety of snack combinations such as those provided by Sargento’s Balanced Break Snack Packs, consumers are able to tailor their choice to their personal preferences.

While cheese churls may only be offered in a limited range of flavors, premium snack options such as the Balanced Breaks allow the consumer to choose between sharp cheddar and cashew nuts and Monterrey jack with chocolate covered peanuts. By handing over the choice to the consumers to decide exactly what product they want, selections become more personal as if the customers were dining at a restaurant or higher end snack shop.

These examples of in-category winners are meant to serve as suggestions for changing consumer behavior through package design and innovation. Changing consumer behavior through well-thought-out design is possible with the right recipe outlined by brands with the power and reach to effect such change. The impact of the status quo can still be seen in vending machines and snack displays around the globe, and a large majority of products still rely on traditional packaging principles. This reliance on traditional principles is not always problematic, as legacy snack brands have developed an image that works well for them.

Drastic shifts in changing the experience of consuming their products may have an opposite effect on legacy snack products. The increase in fancy prepackaged snacks has not likely cannibalized the legacy snack industry on its own, rather helped grow the amount of consumers interested in introducing prepackaged snack products into their lives.

Changing the packaging and content of a product is easy when the category is relatively undeveloped or a company is looking to enter a new market. Before innovation took place, it was easier for companies to make these changes. Creminelli, Hilshire and Sargento have played an integral role in changing the norm around snacking. Because these companies spearheaded the change, the category of premium, or perishable snacks, has seen a cross-category growth of 1.1% over the past year.

How Cognitive Biases are Influencing The Way Shoppers Buy and Experience Products

This article originally appeared on www.brandingtimes.com

Cognitive biases lie at the center of understanding human behavior. These innate, universal observations represent an individual’s deviation from expected or rational behavior. Clever marketers and packaging designers have long understood these biases and tactically design products with the intent of activating these mental short cuts in order to influence purchasing decisions.

Like all human choices, purchasing decisions can be influenced by minor moments or experiences on a deeper, subconscious level. There are several key biases that impact purchasing behavior such as the Anchoring, Confirmation and Bandwagon biases. While these names may initially sound scary, they represent some of the most common cognitive biases found in decision-making.

Powerful packaging designs often use multiple techniques to capitalize on cognitive biases. When it comes to selling tasty, albeit less than healthy snacks, Frito-Lay uses behavioral science to sell more bags of its famous Lay’s Potato chips. Displayed prominently on the newly redesigned package of the Kettle Cooked line is a claim that one serving of the product contains “40 percent less fat than regular potato chips.” If you look closely, you see the size differential between the “40 percent less fat” and “than regular potato chips” lines of text. An average consumer zooming through their local grocery stores’ aisles is likely to overlook the clarifying claim in preference for the lower fat content.Frito-Lay understands the space in which they sell their products. In order to make their products stand out from the competition, they use a technique called “anchoring” to provide a reference point signifying that their product is 40 percent healthier than other chips- the exact chip brand is not mentioned on the back of the product. By tapping into the mind’s anchoring bias, the brand positioned their offering as healthier than an alternative, even though the alternative product is not mentioned by name. This technique is one that is commonly used in behavioral design, and is not limited to potato chips.

Claim-making in packaging design is one area that benefits from an understanding of how humans think. When people mention that they snacked on “America’s Favorite Cookie,” there is a fair probability that the brand will be recognized. If you’re a die-hard Oreo cookie fan, this slogan may sound familiar as it is often used in tandem with the Oreo and Nabisco brand logo. It is not often that consumer packaged products can be described as behavioral science masterpieces, but this product takes the cake – or cookie. Leveraging the “Bandwagon Effect,” this prominent packaging design element also capitalizes on a cognitive bias known as the “Availability Cascade.”The Bandwagon Effect refers to the natural tendency for a consumer to take action because one’s peers are doing the same thing. No one likes to feel left out. The Oreo cookie has become an American pastime and domestic shoppers who closely identify with their country feel proud to purchase a product that was chosen by their peers as a snack option deeply woven into the fabric of American meals. Purchasing any other brand would feel inferior, so the rational choice is to choose Oreos over another brand.

The Bandwagon Effect is supported by another cognitive bias that influences consumer decision-making. The Availability Cascade reflects a cognitive bias in which a claim is mentioned multiple times by trusted individuals, such as friends or family, the claim will slowly become more plausible as being true because of the amount of times that it is repeated. By positioning itself with the repeated phrase “America’s Favorite Cookie,” Oreo mastered the art of tapping into the subconscious consumer mind. The repetition of these three words wield the power to recall a flood of positive memories at the time of purchase, all because of an understanding of the way humans think when making choices.

Often package designers focus on the design of the product, and not necessarily on the material itself. Consider a customer who just received a batch of Thelma’s cookies.Before their taste buds even come in contact with the cookies, the customer already formed an impression based on an expectation of what the cookies taste like. The anticipation is based on the clever design of the box in which the cookies are delivered: it looks like an oven. When someone thinks of a cookie, the mind drifts to two things: baking the cookies and eating the finished product.

This inventive package design takes advantage of the box’s material and shape to tap into our internal “Confirmation Bias.” The Confirmation Bias occurs when we validate an idea or thoughts with previous experiences or memories that immediately come to mind. While the taste of the cookies remains unknown, the recipient of this package already accessed memories of baking cookies to form a judgment before tasting the goods. Imbued with a flurry of positive memories, it’s hard to avoid the belief that these products are of high quality and satisfaction before snagging a bite and the reviews online substantiates the stellar design matches the taste of the product inside.

Consumer choice can be habitual or spurred depending on the package design and the many factors that influence decisions. Whether a decision to purchase is subtly influenced by a claim anchoring the nutritional value of a product below an unhealthy competitor’s or is tandem with an exclamation of “wow, that’s so cool,” package designs have the power to make a brand or product stand out from the rest. As the CPG market becomes increasingly crowded, the brands with the most impactful and memorable package designs that leverage these behavioral science principles will continue to see a growing market share and consumer devotion.