6 Ways to Use Behavioral Science to Strengthen Your Brand

In my last article, I discussed behavioral science and its application to marketing strategies. Here at the studio, we’ve increasingly been applying teachings in behavioral science to inform our decision-making on everything from visual design to messaging and technology. Below, I’ve pulled together 6 practical ways you can quickly apply behavioral science thinking to strengthen your brand and audience engagement: 

Never stop getting to know your audience.

While there are many ways to use behavioral sciences to understand your audience, online is perhaps the easiest. Use Google Analytics online, track email campaigns with services like Campaign Monitor or Mailchimp, distribute online surveys with tools like Survey Monkey, and cull user data wherever and whenever you can. It will help fine tune your brand to your audience’s expectations and needs, and who knows, it may even surprise you.

I assume you haven't forgotten what they say about assumptions…

And if you have, then I suppose we've proved the rule. Either way, don't let your perception of your audience—or even your audience's perception of themselves—overshadow how they really act. Regardless of whether you're a multi-national consumer conglomerate or a regional non-profit, your audience is your most valuable asset, and you've got to understand more than just what makes them tick (or click) if you want them to truly engage with your brand.

Find a balance that's true to your brand.

Successful brands don’t happen by accident. They’re carefully curated experiences that are both enchanting and efficient. They balance multiple dimensions holistically, designing to delight their audience with an approach that's optimized to elicit action. This means being mindful of quantitative and qualitative considerations. The best brands find a way to balance these competing approaches in a way that's true to their audience, and true to who they are as an organization.

Choice is crucial. 

The best brands deliver choice architectures that cater to their audiences. Anyone who's ever been to the Cheesecake Factory understands the paralysis of choice—though I suppose that paralysis people feel could just as easily be adult onset diabetes. But while too much choice can overwhelm, too little choice can alienate entire audience segments. Effective choice environments are built around your audience, and frame options in a way that is friendly, satisfying, and elicits favorable outcomes. 

You want the bad news, then the good news. 

Most crisis communications experts will tell you, if your brand has to break mixed news to your audience, start with the bad. Be direct and to the point, and consolidate to whatever extent possible. Then move onto the good news, spreading it around and finishing up on a high note. Research shows that people experience bias in the perception of pain and pleasure; consolidation seems to de-emphasize pain, while dispersion seems to emphasize pleasure. And of course, finishing with great news helps lets the most recent message stay freshest in one’s mind.

Incrementalism is not a bad thing. 

As anyone who's ever started a diet knows, behavior is tough to change. The same thing holds true to web-based businesses looking to convert the curious into loyal, paying customers, and for nonprofits seeking to gain an even greater commitment out of supporters to the cause.  Rather than ask your customers or your brand to shift behavior overnight, apply a step-by-step approach. Pique their interest, let them get comfortable and then move them along in their engagement with your brand. These subtle shifts and "nudges" can really add up over the long term.

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Posted by Ryan Reynolds

January 11, 2013

Categories: Branding, Client Engagement, Communications, Strategy, User Experience