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.

Why Digital Designers Should Consider Default Choices

This article originally appeared on www.brandingtimes.com

Default choices surround us. They are pre-defined values or options that have been set for us in order to encourage a certain action, such as increasing speed of selection, enhancing experiences, and/or anchoring choices towards optimal behavior. In our day-to-day lives, we rarely stop to think about the choices that we make or the factors that influence our decisions. For example, long before default choices were utilized on the digital front, they have been used by national CPG and fast-food brands to increase brand recognition and revenue.

The context in which a decision is framed is equally as important as the choice that is being made. Tito’s Handmade Vodka, a brand that has grown exponentially in popularity in recent years, has creatively positioned their brand as the “default choice” among consumers — a tactic that has proven to be beneficial in increasing sales during a relatively slow vodka market.

Centered between Value and Super-Premium vodkas, Tito’s has focused on owning the “Premium” market space in the consumers’ minds. Through positioning the product as having seemingly been handmade by Tito Beveridge himself, the brand has built a reputation as being an accessible and high quality vodka.

When novel vodka drinkers enter a crowded liquor store aisle, Tito’s stands out as a worth purchase between the lower end vodkas in plastic bottles, and the higher end brands which stand out of one’s price range representing status more so than taste. Those inexperienced with the vodkas’ taste often recognize and choose the signature bottle with notable branding among the competing bottles — reducing friction during the shopping process and encouraging the product’s purchase.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka leveraged their competitors’ market positioning to increase their own sales. By choosing Tito’s, consumers are making a personal statement about who they are based on their choices of what they drink. Little does the consumer know, their choice has been influenced by the context of where they were shopping, long before they recognized their intent to buy.

Fast food restaurant menus are not immune from default choices, either. Typically the serving size for an order of French fries at McDonald’s includes a small, medium, and large option. To the average consumer, these sizes do not seem anything out of the ordinary, but to a consumer psychologist, they are a work of brilliance. Say the price of an order of small French fries at a local McDonald’s is $3.00, a medium is $3.50, and a large is $3.75. Based on a decades old marketing campaign, an individual who is purchasing a value meal comprised of a burger, medium fry, and medium soda will be asked if they would like to increase the size of their French fries for only a few cents more. Relative to the other prices on the menu board, the customer sees the value of this additional purchase, and agrees to the increase in size for the nominal fee.

While the customer receives additional French fries in their combo meal, it is actually McDonald’s who profits the most in this exchange. By setting the default choice in the combo meal to be a medium fry, rather than a small, the restaurant was able to upsell the consumer on the small increase in price in exchange for a larger quantity of fries received, at little additional variable cost for the business.

The benefit of using default choices here is twofold. Not only did the consumer not have to think about the size of the fries that they wanted during this exchange while assembling their meal, they were offered additional fries for what appeared to be a value. This example of default choices in action demonstrates the value of simplifying menu choices and anchoring the value of such in the minds of customers- a practice that is beneficial for both stomachs and corporate profits. The health implications of such practices are a different story, however.

In the growing digital service environment, default choices for tipping options are becoming more and more prevalent. Taking advantage of the social norm that people in the United States tip approximately 20% for services, UI/UX designers have made it even easier for users to complete online or digital transactions. From point of sale terminals to taxi cab payment screens, default tip options are set around the 20% mark, with the ability for patrons to tip above or below the pre-set amount.

Uber and Starbucks, two of today’s largest brands, both employ default tip options within their mobile apps. By automatically calculating 18%, 20%, and 22% of the total for the respective mobile app’s tipping options, the two brands ensure that the experience of leaving a tip is not only easy to complete for the user, but that the employees are taken care of. Often, it is easier for the customer to select the default option and avoid spending time making a decision in a hurried environment. Coupled with the ease of the customer comes the benefits to the business and it’s stakeholders itself. Digital default options strike the balance of being beneficial for consumers and the businesses.

Successfully incorporating default choices into UI/UX design requires a keen understanding of the behavior within which users engage in otherwise unaided situations. These default choices should be implemented to reduce any possible friction encountered in sign up processes, purchasing pathways or other activities that require more than 2-3 actions on behalf of the user. Enhancing a customer’s experience by decreasing time spent on repetitive input increases the competitive advantage over those companies who have yet to harness the power of default choices in the User Interface and User Experience space.

Easy-to-implement methods of default choices in digital interfaces include setting the country of residence option to the United States (if that is where a majority of the businesses’ customers originate), automatically setting refill preferences for monthly orders based on the user’s re-ordering habits, and ensuring that user preferences are remembered upon login. These quick tricks provide an enhanced experience for the user, and benefit the company through decreasing drop off rates through the experience.

Implementing default choices into experience design is a simple process that is often overlooked in favor of enhanced graphics. Default choices enable digital experiences to become enhanced and provide a streamlined experience for all involved. Small instances that might pose a larger annoyance at the outset such as scrolling through a drop down list for a commonly selected item become a breeze when default choices are enabled. When implemented well, default choices allow all of those involved to have a frictionless experience that yields benefits for both the consumer and the brand involved.

How Following Behavioral Economics Can Lead to Subtle and Effective Branding

This article originally appeared on www.brandingtimes.com 

Marketers have a tendency to throw their metaphorical book of tricks at consumers in order to entice them into buying a product or service. With the holiday season in the distant past, online shoppers have been privy to companies sending out mass quantities of email blasts aimed at upselling their contact lists before the year’s end. While some find the reminders to be helpful in order to finish their holiday shopping lists, others easily become fed up with the increased quantity in such a short period of time and click the unsubscribe button- disappearing from the grasp of the company forever.

In Behavioral Science, practitioners use interventions called “nudges” to guide an individual’s behavior toward making an optimal decision. These decisions take the form of interventions such as quitting cigarette smoking, increasing the reporting of earned income on tax forms, and even reducing the amount of wasted water in public restrooms.

The quality over quantity argument is important in nearly every domain, not just Behavioral Science. Just as a chef will benefit from an augmented reputation by cooking with high quality food and not the abundance of mediocre ingredients, sales teams benefit from adding quality leads to their sales funnel rather than a large quantity that will yield few results. Even now, there are graphic and user experience “experts” who have yet to adhere to the message of employing quality over quantity when guiding users in a digital environment.

Before the holiday travel season ramped up, I booked my own train travel on a national rail service provider’s website. After selecting the ticket type and schedule (all the while successfully avoiding attempts to upsell me to purchase a First Class seat), I was redirected to a check out page where I encountered quite possibly the highest concentration of digital nudges in a one thousand-pixel space:

After confirming my trip details, I was peppered with several nudges. These nudges leveraged the anchoring and loss aversion technique, engaged my personal confirmation bias, and hinted at the bandwagon effect. Individually, any one of these nudges or techniques would have stood a chance at upselling me into purchasing travel insurance to protect my trip. Combined, they overwhelmed and confused me.

Had the rail providers’ digital product team spaced out the layout and implementation of these nudges throughout the purchasing process, I could have come to the conclusion on my own that this trip, an investment in traveling to visit family, was worth protecting. This experience lacked an effective design presented in a well thought out manner. Throwing every tip and trick in the book at an individual during one part of a digital experience overwhelmed this typical customer.

The railway is not the only brand guilty of over-nudging recently in attempts to bolster sales. Advertisers are just as guilty in leveraging quantity over quality tactics to increase brand value. Premium ice cream brand Häagen-Dazs elected to blanket New York City and San Francisco during the summer of 2016 with a plethora of media buyouts ranging from bus shelters to subway cars and stations.

In an attempt to compete with Halo Top, a lower calorie competitor, the agency responsible for the brand determined that an increase quantity of advertisements would be the best way to deliver their simple message. Featuring the solely the simple slogan “äah” for their city-wide campaign, the brand relied on blanketing- a tactic that runs up a hefty bill for the client and often yields little lifts in product sales.

Increased quantities of messaging tactics and nudges may increase awareness of the brand, but aren’t typically responsible for increasing sales. Memorable marketing campaigns with higher post-exposure recall statistics drive behavior in a confident manner, not relying on repetition but rather a deeper psychological activation.

While the railroad and Häagen-Dazs may have fallen short in estimating the quantity of nudges necessary to influence their customers’ behavior, one brand has hit the sweet spot. Plated is a weekly delivery box company offering pre-portioned and easy to prepare ingredients that yield flavorful meals and desserts. Supported by a strong marketing automation program, the brand effortlessly connects and engages with its customers through a variety of well thought out workflows.

From the moment their system registers the confirmation of an order, the clock starts ticking on their automation workflows. Two days ahead of receiving the order shipment, a teaser email is sent out enticing customers to not only become excited about the box which they are about to receive, but also purchase the next recurring box that they will receive the following week. Their workflows have been designed to capitalize on the right moments along the customer’s weekly lifecycle with the company. By mastering the emotions and feelings behind each stage of the experiential journey, Plated is able to effortlessly deliver high quality email nudges at the optimal time to increase and maintain their level of business.

In an age where customer churn rates are high, it is imperative that brands such as Plated continue implement these nudges in order to maintain customers relative to their competition. Proper, well thought out designs that leverage an understanding of the tangible needs and emotions of users yield successful results compared to those that leverage frequency alone.

There is a primary reason why successful web experience designers are able to deliver results for their clients. They truly understand the benefits of a high quality, well thought out design that employs choice encouraging interventions during the right time of the experience. Too much quantity by encouraging individuals to engage in a target behavior has an inverse effect on yielding long term, sustainable results.

For a majority of website visitors, those who are encouraged to take actions that are beneficial at the right time and within the appropriate format will choose to do so. Those who feel confused or pressured will avoid a purchase all together as these consumers can feel scared, or sold to. Whether the goal is to increase sign up rates for a monthly blog or upsell consumers into the next echelon of product or service, consider the entire experiential design and layout, and leverage behavioral science accordingly. Remember, quality still prevails over quantity.

In Behavioral Science, Industry Needs Academia and Vice Versa

In Behavioral Science, Industry Needs Academia and Vice Versa

Everyday businesses around the world re-brand themselves as “Behavioral Science” driven, but what does that really mean? Did these businesses hire a team of reformed academics who fled universities in search of striking it big in the business world? Was the CEO primed to create a specialized unit by the flurry of tweets surrounding Betsy Paluck’s MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ award or Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize win?

The answer lies somewhere in between. But one thing is for sure: the corporate world is evolving with the influx in popularity of behavioral science and it must catch up with the standards set forth in academia that paved the way for the amalgamation of the fields. Likewise, with a significant amount of knowledge flowing out of academia and into industry, it is time for institutions to adapt some of the processes that make businesses so agile and successful.

Academia and industry (of all sorts) have been siloed for far too long. The reputation that modern US academic institutions have developed in taking such a long time to innovate internal processes and environments drove bright minds out of the field, while taking their insights and innovation with them. Post-doctoral researchers and tenured professors cannot investigate the social sciences in environments that do not value a steady stream of innovation as the case in medicine. With all of the red tape and time spent exploring repetitive subjects, brilliant minds exploring doctoral careers are not allowed to explore the world to their full potential.

Online learning certainly revolutionized the way students learn in recent years and at the same time fostered the erosion of educational institutions as we have come to know them. With these subtle changes afoot, it is not surprising that the feedback to academic institutions from industry leaders has begun to shape the discussion about whether a Ph.D. is a requirement to enter the field or whether there is another route that provides the academic rigor within an environment that is agile and prosperous.

Institutions, such as the University of Pennsylvania, heeded the call to meet the need for delivering behavioral scientists who posses a firm understanding of theory and application. The newly minted Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program was designed with the idea that Masters level researchers can still partake in rigorous academic pursuits while taking away tangible hard skills with applications in industry immediately after the completion of academic studies- foregoing the traditional dissertation period. As more and more universities explore offering similar programs, we can expect a transfer of ideas from academia into industry that was unimagined previously.

By providing the business world with entry to mid-level investigators who are well versed in experimental design and statistical analysis, industry leaders will be poised to harness the true power of exploring behavioral sciences. For too long, business executives tossed around buzz words such as “behavioral science” and “behavioral economics” without comprehending the true value of these fields to their firms. The changing educational dynamic has made it possible for business to translate traditionally academic research functions into solving problems for businesses.

As an innovator in the financial decision making space, the Think Forward Initiative, led by the ING Bank, embarked on a mission to “bring together experts representing governments, academics, consumers, and the financial and technology sectors.” Their pursuits have been quite fruitful with the creation of an international research challenge, which will ““discover” issues and [transfer them to] an accelerator that will use innovation to “solve” them. In this community, the TFI’s experts connect and collaborate, and monitor how its progress and impact are communicated to the world”. One of the primary goals of the research challenge was to connect the academic community with the innovators capable of rapidly disseminating solutions to those in need without losing the value of the research in lengthy academic papers or processes. Compared with the traditional academic institutional model, this approach yields measureable success in a short amount of time.

It is an exciting time for those in the behavioral and decision sciences field. With innovators constantly trying to re-invent the way we embark on research and understand human decision-making, the walls between academia and industry can be broken down. The agile processes that make businesses so profitable can be transferred to academia in the same way that experimental design and analysis can be used along side other behavioral science principles to make a difference in the lives of individuals around the world.

Put Down Your Partisan Positions and Pick Up Behavioral Economics

Put Down Your Partisan Positions and Pick Up Behavioral Economics

I was deeply saddened to hear that there was yet another mass shooting in wake of all the other gun-related tragedies that our country suffered in recent months. As I sit down to write this blog, I am listening to news sources blame causes from mental illness to domestic terrorism. All question when will it be “enough” before action is taken?

My thoughts on this matter are not politically based. Regardless of what your party affiliation is, gun violence is everyone’s problem- and worst nightmare. Growing up in Connecticut in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, I noted a drastic shift in statewide gun policy. Connecticut began working on legislation as far back as 1994 to curb gun violence. This effort worked well for the Nutmeg state but did not have an appreciable impact on nationwide gun violence beyond its borders.

With Left and Right politicians squabbling with each other over balancing the appropriate political response with protecting Second Amendment rights, many are left asking how long will it take before a compromise with action is reached to protect citizens going about their everyday life. Depending on whom you ask, the answers will range from 3 months to 3 decades to never.

While these politicians argue along partisan lines, there is room for Behavioral Economics to play a role in reducing the number of mass-shootings and gun related deaths across our country. Traditional economics focuses on supply and demand of the individual and the firm. Actors in this realm choose to maximize their own profit at every opportunity while maintaining a high level of utility per unit of goods consumed. Herein lies the problem- “rational actors” as they are known, focus on their interests and personal wishes, not towards their impact on society. An individual who chooses to exercise his or her own rights will fight tooth and nail to protect their stakes in the matter until there is a reason to shift their preferences or actions. Rational actors care about maximizing their own outcomes, often ignoring the actions of others. This concept is often known as following one’s personal dominant strategy.

Contrasting traditional economics is the field of Behavioral Economics. This field combines an understanding of economics and psychology to elicit change across multiple domains (healthcare, finance, marketing, etc.). Behavioral economics has been used to help individuals make better healthcare choices, save more money for retirement, eat healthier, and even live longer. Employing a solution based on Behavioral Economics is perhaps one of the only approaches to solve a social policy-based problem that takes into account the impact of initiatives on the individual and the society in which they live rather than focusing on a political solution, which has failed thus far.

Dr. Karla Hoff’s approach to explaining the differences between Traditional (Standard) and Behavioral Economics.

The time to shine is now for those who champion behavioral and decision sciences in the for-profit industry to lobby for its inclusion in public policy initiatives aimed at curbing gun violence.

In this blog, I won’t speculate specifically what types of interventions would best solve this countrywide epidemic. I do believe there is a role for behavioral economics to create solutions. I will pose this question to my colleagues: What does our discipline tell us can be done to reduce the amount of gun-related deaths in this country when one follows the next in rapid succession with barely any time to recover from the last?

Let’s start the conversation until we can provide solutions that are not politically based and accepted by both sides as a step in the right direction. We must keep this dialogue going so we can live in safety without fear of experiencing these heinous acts of gun violence. I invite you to reach out to share your ideas of how we can leverage psychology and economics to help solve this problem. I look forward to bringing together the brightest minds in academia and industry to start hypothesizing successful interventions to solve this problem. Stay tuned for more pieces covering the responses and ideas that have been received since the posting of this article.

The Value of Incorporating Qual Data into Cluster Analyses

The Value of Incorporating Qual Data into Cluster Analyses

Qualitative data comes in many shapes and sizes. When performing cluster analyses for marketing functions, the value of incorporating qual data along with traditional quant metrics is paramount.

Qualitative data are pieces of information that cannot be accurately represented by common numerical characteristics or methods. To a market researcher, “qual data” can be the most valuable, but often the hardest to acquire and analyze en masse. This data type differs from the more common quantitative data, which is classified as a piece of data with a numerical characteristic or classification.

For those not too familiar with market research and data types, I provide the following examples below:

Quantitative Data:

  • Question: Rate your satisfaction on a 1-7 scale below (1 = extremely dissatisfied, 7 = extremely satisfied).
  • Answer: 1

Qualitative Data:

  • Question: Please tell us about your meal in the space below:
  • Answer: “The pasta dish was too salty. Next time I want the chef to make it sweeter.”

While the brief example above is centered on a post-meal restaurant survey, it showcases the differences between the two types of data. While both types arrive at the same general idea, one type without the other only uncovers half of the diner’s true experience.

More advanced marketing techniques such as consumer segmentation and product groupings require advanced statistical tools known as “cluster analyses.” This type of analysis is an example of machine learning, a commonly heard phrase in today’s data-centric universe.

A cluster analysis is a statistical model that arranges data into groups with similarities that are significantly different than other groups which share their own unique sets of similarities and characteristics.

Traditionally, cluster analyses have included quantitative metrics with little inclusion of qualitative data. Only recently however, has there been a way to quantify this qualitative data. Using a technique known as metaphor elicitation (analyzed through Meta4 Insight), market researchers uncover insights by asking respondents to select an image, and then to answer a brief question describing how or why that image relates to the question being asked. This data is then analyzed with a text analytics tool, and is codified based on similar words or phrases used throughout the responses in the data set.

By employing this technique and incorporating the results into cluster analyses, the statistical model can account for a “whole brain analysis”. This whole brain analysis accounts for both implicit and explicit thoughts that are uncovered using the combination of traditional quantitative and qualitative metrics. Rather than asking respondents to answer with a set of pre-formed responses, the free response aspect and interpretation capabilities of the metaphor elicitation exercises allow for previously uncoverd thoughts to be conveyed. Incorporating qualitative data into cluster analyses strengthens the probability that the research team has captured enough viable, and emotionally relevant data to feed into the model.

Traditional quantitative metrics have the ability to tell a compelling story driven by insights and hard numbers, but when qual data is incorporated into the mix, trends and groupings are uncovered that wouldn’t have been otherwise predicted.

Welcome to the new-age of market research.

Garrett Meccariello is a brand strategist and market researcher based out of Boston. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring a new city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.