Friday, 13 October 2017

The Marketing Challenge: Aligning Strategy with Behaviour Drivers

Source: Bain (2016)

The following blog post contains abstracts from an article, ‘The Technological Revolution: The Marketing Challenge’, written by Dr Peter Steidl, founder and Principal of Neurothinking. Dr Steidl is a strategic consultant with a particular interest in neuromarketing who has carried out assignments in 20 countries on five continents. His clients include Fortune Global 100 corporations, start-up companies, professional services firms, federal and state government agencies and not-for-profit organisations.

The Oxford Martin Institute in collaboration with Citi, McKinsey & Co, the World Bank and other credible parties has undertaken a detailed, in-depth assessment of today’s jobs, evaluating to what extent technologies that are already being deployed today or are in advanced stages of development are likely to make jobs redundant.

Technological disruption will eliminate a large number of jobs while creating relatively few new jobs. It is therefore no wonder that the focus is shifting to the question of how to deal with a very large number of people who can’t find work.

Source: Bain (2016)

This leaves two core strategies open to retailers and brand owners:

1. Become the price leader – an option that is not feasible for many retailers and brand owners.

2. Develop a strong emotional relationship with the consumer which will lead the consumer to shop rather than delegate the shopping task or, if delegating, to specify the retailer or brand that constitutes the preferred option.

Developing a strong emotional relationship
To achieve a lasting, strong, emotional relationship with a retailer or brand, there is a need to move the relationship above the actual offer by standing for something that is seen as more valuable by the consumer. This strategy elevates the relationship between the brand and consumer to a higher emotional level, creating a much deeper and long-lasting connection than a short-term campaign, product innovation or shopper marketing initiative could develop

An understanding of Deep Rooted Drivers of Behaviour will give you a head-start when you are attempting to develop a relationship with consumers at a higher emotional level. Deep Rooted Drivers of Behaviour are hard-wired brain circuits that drive behaviour over longer periods of time – sometimes a whole lifetime - and are widely shared.

Source: Bain (2016)

Aligning your strategy with Deep Rooted Drivers of Behaviour
I am sure this comes as no surprise, but we need to consider a wider range of Deep Rooted Drivers of Behaviour (DRDs) that may allow us to develop long-lasting, strong, emotional relationships between a retailer or brand and the consumer. To do this we only have to consider what might have helped humankind to survive in a natural hostile environment: these traits were typically hard-wired into the brain over some 4 to 5 million years as humans with those traits were more likely to survive and pass their traits on to the next generation.

Source: Bain (2016)

The first and obvious DRD is the BelongingDRD. We are hardwired to belong because anyone who lived in isolation in a hostile natural environment had a very short life expectancy. It is worth noting that Belonging is a stronger driver with women than with men. This is because women had to build informal networks with other women to fight off the physically stronger men who would have happily killed the infants who had other fathers, seeking to ensure their genes would be carried forward into the next generation instead.

Another important driver is the CompetitionDRD, which is a stronger driver with men. This means that men often become part of a group because it may help their own status or allow them to compete for status in the group, rather than to just simply belong. But the CompetitionDRD can also be activated by creating an opposition or enemy. For example, setting up Apple as being the opposite or enemy of PCs activates the ‘us and them’ feeling that is driven by the CompetitionDRD.

Common to all humans and of critical importance when it comes to marketing is the ShortcutDRD that drives us to, well, seek shortcuts. In all likelihood we are driven to seek shortcuts because our nonconscious, intuitive mind is much faster and more powerful than our conscious, rational mind. This means that the nonconscious mind can make an intuitive decision quickly using associations, familiarity or other shortcuts, leaving it to the conscious mind to rationalize the choice. The ShortcutDRD is the foundation of priming, which is an essential element of the majority of successful shopper marketing initiatives.

We also all share mirror neurons that represent the EmpathyDRD, and by feeling strong emotions others feel we are likely to connect with others. This DRD will boost the feelings we share with a group – say barracking for our team during a sporting match is much more emotionally involving when we do it together with like-minded people, as we can feel their emotions which lifts the intensity of our own.

Consider the ExplorationDRD. We are all hardwired to explore, although this is typically a stronger driver with males than females. This means that we need to offer consumers new challenges, new news, perspectives and content. We need to open the door to some new insights or achievements, allow them to break through barriers and generally to feel that progress is being made – in whatever form is appropriate.

Dopamine ensures that we all seek rewards. The RewardDRD is probably the most obvious but there are of course many different ways of rewarding consumers. The essential point is that we need to trigger a dopamine release that makes the consumer feel good – and to seek more and even stronger rewards once their dopamine levels decline.

Source: Bain (2016)

Refocusing the marketing effort
I believe there will be a need for marketing to be much more focused to be effective given the adverse market environment. More specifically, marketing will need to focus on the decisive point.

It follows that between today and when a significant number of consumers use digital personal assistants we have to develop experiences shoppers value and want to experience again and again.

This suggests that all marketing initiatives need to ultimately focus on the decisive point: they may use primes (in advertising, social media campaigns, etc.) that can be activated at the decisive point; they may build emotional connections that can be triggered at the decisive point; they may create dopamine hits that can be repeated at the decisive point; and so forth. Shopper marketing needs to become the starting point for the development of a marketing campaign, rather than being an afterthought as is often the case today.

Finally, there is a need for researchers to broaden their horizons. Many researchers – including those using neuroscience based methodologies – focus on assessing elements of execution, such as the likely impact of advertisements, product features or package designs; the impact of particular package sizes or the optimal price to charge. They test planograms and new products in virtual stores and observe how shoppers react to displays using facial analysis or in-store cameras.

In summary, to future-proof your business you need to:
  • Create a shopping experience that is rewarding and exciting, triggering dopamine hits and, by doing so, creating a desire to come back for more, again and again.
  • Create a strong emotional connection between your brand and the consumer to make sure your brand is selected when shopping and specified when using a digital personal assistant.
Finally, as I am sure you remember, it is very likely that a significant number of consumers will be under severe financial pressure and this will make it even more important for the emotional relationships that are being built between consumers on the one hand and retailers and brands on the other are strong enough to create a desire in the consumer to personally engage.

Source: Bain (2016)

What we are likely to see happen…
In coming years there will be some likely developments due to the less than favourable future we have to prepare for. Retailers and brand owners will increasingly collaborate to create exciting and rewarding shopping experiences. Retailers will complement run-of-the-mill on-line catalogue type stores with exciting and rewarding store concepts that engage shoppers and bring them back, again and again. Brands will shift more of their spending to shopper marketing, i.e., in-store initiatives. Consultants, communications and shopper marketing agencies will adopt a shared focus, resulting from an integrated approach and true collaboration.

Think back to the Global Financial Crisis. In some ways it is a long time in the past, but does it really feel like a full ten years have passed since the events in 2007 started the crisis? The time ahead of us always seems longer – ten years may seem like a lifetime. You may agree with (some of) my points, but feel that there is plenty of time to take action later. After all, you are extremely busy right now and have to focus on your quarterly results. But look back ten years and you realize how quickly time passes.

The events we are anticipating will take a few years to play out. Ten years may be an appropriate planning horizon, although the impact of the technological disruption will be felt much earlier. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this gives you plenty of time to get ready for this new and different operating environment. To succeed you really need to start today.

Dr Peter Steidl is the Principal of Neurothinking. He can be reached at or via Linkedin and would value any comments or input related to the topic of this contribution.

*To read the full version of this article, download a free PDF version here.
**To explore Bain’s interactive map of the 30 elements of a Value Pyramid click here.

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