Humans need to access the emotional parts of their brain in order to make decisions. Overreliance on facts is a problem.
Nancy Harhut is the Co-Founder and CCO at HBT Marketing, a digital marketing agency creating campaigns driven by behavioral science and the process of decision making. Harhut is an entrepreneur and keynote speaker as well as a member of the Neuromarketing Science and Business Association.
In this episode of Velocitize Talks, Harhut discusses behavioral science, the Authority Principle and persuasive marketing.
Decide for Yourself (2:09)
People don’t make decisions so much as they default to these decision-making shortcuts, these hardwired automatic innate behaviors. If marketers are aware of this and can get out in front of it, we can prompt or trigger these hardwired behaviors and make it much more likely that people do what we want them to do.
In general, behaviors can change when three elements converge at the same time: motivation, ability, and a prompt. However, as Harhut says, “People basically cruise along on autopilot and when they encounter a certain situation they just default to this hardwired behavior, giving it little to no thought.” In fact, according to Harvard Business School Professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind.
At the heart of HBT Marketing’s mission is the combination of marketing best practices with behavioral science in order to truly understand the customer and their motives. This unique strategy enables HBT to analyze the automatic responses and reactions taken by the consumer. HBT has identified specific shortcuts called Human Behavior Triggers, or HBTs, designed to prompt consumers to act.
Respect the Authority Principle (2:35)
Ever since we were children, we have been taught to recognize and respect authorities. So by the time we’re adults it’s ingrained in us. If an authority says something, we usually believe it. If an authority tells us to do something, we often do it.
The Authority Principle refers to a consumer’s tendency to comply with people in positions of authority, such as law enforcement, physicians, academics and experts. This belief can easily apply to professional and celebrity endorsements as well.
“Marketers put their messages out there, we put our communications out there but very often our audiences are skeptical,” Harhut says. This is especially true when it comes to e-commerce sales. While a skeptical consumer might not believe what you have to say about your own product, they’re more likely to believe a third-party expert or someone else that they trust. Having that authority gives your brand more credibility.
Emotional Attachment (4:10)
People make decisions for emotional reasons and then justify those decisions to themselves and to other people with rational reasons. We need to have both rational and emotional components to our messages.
Applied behavioral science is based on behavior change frameworks, which provide key decision-making insights. One such framework is known as MINDSPACE, which stands for Messenger; Incentives; Norms; Defaults; Salience; Priming; Affect; Commitments; and Ego. All of these components can figure into the consumer experience (as defined above).
But what happens when someone can’t make decisions? Harhut points to neuroscientist and researcher Antonio Damasio, who studied patients with brain lesions who were incapable of making good decisions due to where the injuries were located—in the area that controls emotions. A behavior change framework wouldn’t apply to someone whose emotions have been impacted by such an injury. It’s an important concept to consider when trying to understand the logic and emotions behind that consumer journey.
The Choice is Yours (5:42)
You would think if someone’s going to make a purchasing decision, they’re going to buy something based on their preferences or the research they’ve done, maybe their past experiences. But it turns out that if you give people two options, they’re much more likely to make a purchasing decision in the moment.
According to Harhut, if a consumer is presented with two options, they’re more likely to make a purchase than if they’re presented with only one. This is at times known as autonomy bias, which factors into the paradox of choice and the theory of “overchoice,” or choice overload. Too many choices can frustrate and overwhelm the consumer, leading to “analysis paralysis.”
So perhaps offering two choices instead of just one or several is the magic number. There’s an “innate human need to exert some kind of control over ourselves and our environment and having choice is a way to exert control,” Harhut says. “Providing choices can actually make somebody nearly four times as likely to make a buying decision in the moment than not having a choice if you put one thing in front of somebody.”
Rhyme on Time (8:09)
Rhyming phrases are easier for the human brain to process and if it’s easier for the brain to process something, it feels right.
A National Library of Science study on the rhyme-as-reason effect found a strong preference among participants for rhyming slogans. Rhymes were rated as more likeable; more original; easier to remember; more suitable for campaigns; more persuasive; and even more trustworthy.
“The occasional rhyming phrase, whether it’s a subject line or maybe a call to action, makes it easier for people to understand, to process, and as a result they think it’s the right thing to do,” says Harhut.
Book Club (10:40)
Harhut recommends Robert Cialdini’s new edition of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” But once her new book, “Using Behavioral Science in Marketing,” comes out in August, she jokes that her book will be her new favorite.
To learn more about HBT Marketing, behavioral science, and the Authority Principle, visit their website and follow them on LinkedIn. To keep up with Nancy Harhut, follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter at @nharhut.