Dana on Marketing Messages: Behaviorial Triggers Work

Did you know that we are motivated to act in predictable ways, based on certain behavioral triggers—as well as the use of particular words? It’s something I learned about in May at a direct marketing conference hosted by NEDMA (the New England Direct Marketing Association).

My favorite session was given by Nancy Harhut, who spoke on “Scientific Secrets Revealed: 7 Ways to Motivate Behavior.” Nancy’s the chief creative officer for the Wilde Agency in Westwood, MA. The agency is a division of Universal Wilde. According to Wilde’s Website, Nancy has more than two decades of senior creative management experience, primarily at major ad agencies including Hill Holliday, Mullen, and Bronner (now Digitas).

She’s a speaker who doesn’t need to lean on any special effects. Her insights and ideas are strong enough to carry themselves. I hear her speak whenever I can: she’s that good. I always come away with practical knowledge that I can use. Go hear her present if you ever get the chance.

What I learned from Harhut is this: You can make your marketing efforts stronger if you realize that sometimes people have automatic, instinctive behaviors—and they are in predictable ways. There are triggers, including certain words, that can motivate people to act.

These triggers are shortcuts to decision making. Isn’t this what direct marketing is all about? Finding ways to tap into people’s shortcuts. You can learn how to prompt or “nudge” some of these automatic behaviors, which is what we marketers strive to do. I’m guessing that you can find a few ways to put these triggers to use in your marketing campaigns—no matter what channel you choose.

These are the seven human behavior triggers shared by Harhut in her presentation:

1| Principle of Consistency. People saying “yes” to a certain request often have an easy time saying a second “yes” to a related, but larger, request. Nancy cited a study in which homeowners agreed to display a small sign on their front lawns, supporting safe driving. They were then asked to post much bigger signs (billboards, in fact) on their lawns, and 73 percent said yes. This behavior’s especially true if the first “ask” is smaller, and public in some way. We almost feel physically bad if we depart from how we see ourselves, said Harhut.

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