At Understood Connections, we are fascinated by language, and that’s a good thing because much of the research around how people analyze choices and make decisions focuses on how simple shifts in language can have a significant impact on the behaviors. Behavioral Economics (BE) gives us a number of ways to use language to nudge behavioral changes in our audiences; and the first step is to understand some of the basic cognitive bias that are part of our makeup.
Take loss aversion for example. In BE we learn the desire to avoid a loss is a much more powerful motivator than the desire for a comparable gain. So shifting a message to emphasize the potential loss resulting from a decision is much more likely to generate a behavior shift.
We all know that social norms, or social pressure, plays a big role in shaping behaviors, but status quo bias often keeps audiences locked into a long-standing behavior. The key here is to show behaviors among your peer group are changing. One way to do that is to use dynamic rather than static messages. For instance, want people to save more? A static message says, “households like yours save more”. A dynamic message says “households like yours are starting to save more”. The difference is your peer group is beginning to make changes and you don’t want to be left behind; solid research shows dynamic messages are much more impactful in changing behaviors.
Think your customers’ preferences are fixed? Turns out that framing, the concept of highlighting a particular feature or attribute, can shift consumer behavior pretty dramatically. Dan Ariely has highlighted that the simple act of adding a seemingly irrelevant option to a choice mix can significantly impact the decision process.
Marketing teams use language and images all the time to impact behaviors, but it’s only been relatively recently that we’ve really understood the reasons behind those impacts. The science of decision making sheds new light on these techniques and improves our ability to use them wisely.