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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Changing Behaviour

If you’ve already read the section on changing attitudes you’ll know that I regard considered behaviour as just that: considered  – I’m thinking about buying.  But planners also need to deliver changes in actual behaviour so here’s an introduction to the basic theories behind a massive topic.

I have developed a presentation on this so if you want me to present this section to your planning department give me a call.



Scripted behaviour

Inductive learning

Watch what people do


The body is an information processing and storage device.  We already know this and use this in conducting qual research.  But the thinking needs to be applied to marketing communications.  Consumers are more than talking heads.

Scripted behaviour

Direct marketing works on the basis of a percentage who do something as opposed to think or feel something.  Every film maker knows that someone somewhere is crazy enough to act out the script often with tragic results.  Behaviour is not continually improvised, it is scripted and is is possible to influence the scripts people use and to provide new scripts.  A lot of sales promotion work is devoted to creating addictive behaviour patterns.

Inductive learning

There is no substitute for walking through the process yourself.  Actually most people use their own experience most of the time to make judgements – so why not inform and train this ability. Buy the product, try it, do the questionnaire yourself. Japanese business draws on this way of learning far more than on market research.

Watch what people do: observational research, website interface testing, accompanied shopping.  Self-rationalisation is no substitute for observation.  This in part is why there is such malaise about research at present.  A lot of the frustration is with the plausability structures required for research which is only cognitive. It is starting to wear thin.

Sometimes it’s better to watch than ask questions.

Behaviour at the point of purchase

– For Marks and Spencer Foods I used security cameras to watch people buying wine.  M&S knew what wine sold.  They didn’t know it could take up to 15 minutes for a bemused punter to buy a £3.99 bottle. Cost of a store survey £5K. Cost of using security cameras: two hour’s editing in a video studio.
– Argos started to put products out on the shelves when accompanied shopping found that people bought products they had seen on previous visits but were unable to remember products they had picked up and handled on the current shopping visit.  It became clear that shoppers in the information gathering mode of shopping were not conscious of what they were doing and that touching the products was essential to making a conscious purchasing decision.
– MFI have been using kiosks in recent years to determine the products people are really interested in.  Until that point buyers ordered more of what people bought.  When the kiosks tracked search patterns they showed that there were many low selling products which people were interested in but which had barriers that prevented purchase.  Once identified these could be readily overcome.

Product usage

Get them to use the product in front of you and watch what they do!!
– This is essential for skincare products.  People can’t make a purchase decision without smelling and feeling the products.  Packaging can only take you so far.
– In Nonaka’s book The Knowledge Creating company  one of the Matsushita designers trained with a master baker in order to “train” the bread maker.  The knowledge to knead bread couldn’t be taught verbally, it could only be “caught” as the pupil was coached and then coached the prototype in turn.

Interface testing

Relevant for the Internet and essential for the mastery of digital TV you can’t refine a website with group discussions.  For years Microsoft have been using people to test the interfaces of its products, and not just before launchdate either! Once I was recruited as a respondent to a web interface interview for . it was fascinating how much brand positioning information is built into the architecture of the site.  Clearly this is something that advertising can do through digital media which can’t be done in using traditional media.

Direct Response

For evaluation there is still no substitute for small scale telephone follow up research of responders to direct response campaigns that picks up on key messages and brand perceptions. This needs to be balanced with a survey of non responders.  Tod Norman of Zalpha is good on this in Qualitative Research in Context  . He recommends using qual research to research brand perceptions and perceived relationship to the brand but never response.

Leveraging Word of Mouth

One of the first TV ad campaigns I ever worked on was for a petrol additive called Redex.  When we came to do the campaign evaluation it turned out that those who had bought the product hadn’t remembered seeing the advertising.  No someone had recommended the product to them.  The advertising had stimulated word of mouth.  One of the most notorious blindspots in advertising is that it assumes that the audience are undifferentiated, that people overall respond to advertising in the same sort of way.  This cannot be the case.  And as audiences fragment, and as brands compete for a smaller share of the pie it will become critical to find those people who are particularly response and who are good at articulating the message and passing it on. Check out
The Tipping Point and The Idea Virus in the Business strategy book section for some recent thinking on this.

Creating experiences

Marketeers are not latching onto the experiences as the primary way of adding value.  Commodity markets are death.  Products are totally at the whim of powerful retail consortia.  So product based brands are reinventing themselves as services and experiences.  Myhome is doing this for Unilever. Disney, Nike and Sony are opening up show store/theme park/temples where the objective is to enhance the experience first and foremost and sell products as a consequence.  VW has just opened a theme park next to the factory in Germany..  This relates to behaviour because the this is the creation of a branded space into which the consumer is immersed, a 3D commercial they are invited to become a cast member of.  While only small numbers of people are involved the effect on those people is disproportionate.

If you have found this page useful you might also want to try the Brand Deliverypage.



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