Behavioural scientists are interested in how people make decisions and how they behave. Especially when it comes to the choices they make as consumers. Marketers want people to buy their product or service and preferably continue to use it. But how do you make that happen?
In any case, it’s not by relying on the classic “knowledge-attitude-behaviour” model that entire generations of marketing professionals have been brought up with. Not that the model is wrong, but that approach is too simplistic and doesn’t take into account the complex factors that influence our behaviour.
If you find out that you have a horrible disease and the only remedy is changing your lifestyle, I guarantee your behaviour will change immediately. But, unfortunately for the marketer, in all other cases, providing (many) buying arguments in your communication does not lead directly to people running to the store. We humans are simply not as rational as we think we are.
Back to the LinkedIn example. We can identify two clear psychological principles at play here.
The Need for Cognitive Closure is our brain’s compelling desire to finish something. We want to get things done. No more ambiguity, cross it off the list and move on. The “cliffhanger” phenomenon best illustrates this principle. We want, no, we need to know how a story continues. And thanks to Netflix, this principle resulted in a whole new verb: binge-watching.
The second principle is the Effect of Endowed Progress. Think of a stamp card from the car wash or a coffee shop that already has a stamp on it. You don’t just throw that away. It’s a silent motivator to get it filled up. (Answer honestly: how many half-stamped cards do you have at home?).
It's a well-known phenomenon in the behavioural sciences and can be used to motivate people to perform a certain task. The principle is that you make people feel like they already have a head start and that they are therefore already on the right track. Even with something as simple as a cup of coffee or a car wash.
E-learning environments (and also games) often use this principle: you have to make an effort to master a level and only then can you ‘unlock’ the next one. Before you know it, you’re halfway through the course. Stopping now would be a waste of your investment.
Daan GooteClient Lead & Consultant behaviour and psychology
Daan Goote is a psychologist and consultant in the field of (public) communication and marketing. He applies knowledge and learnings from behavioural science. 'People are not as rational as they think' is by far the most important insight.