Market shifts that used to take years to materialize can now happen in months or even weeks. That’s good news for challenger brands with a truly new and better idea, not to mention brands in crowded, mature categories where growth hinges on stealing share.
To capitalize, brand marketers should understand some fundamentals of human behavior change, and they need to be open to changing their own bad behaviors.
Behavioral science shows that our beliefs are huge determinants of what we do, and how we see ourselves in relation to the world. Those beliefs are deeply rooted and reveal how we are capable of embracing inconsistent or untrue beliefs and sticking with them despite evidence and reason. These old ideas (we call them inhibiting beliefs) keep us stuck in existing habits and routines. Conversely, our behaviors also drive our beliefs, which either reaffirm previously held beliefs, or move us toward new ones.
For long-term behavior change to take root, it needs to be accompanied by a shift in belief. For example, we’ve probably all known someone suffering from some form of addiction. Simply forcing the desired behavior (like quitting smoking cold turkey) usually doesn’t work. Similarly, someone who is struggling to lose weight may try fad diets that result in a short-term change, but the weight usually comes back pretty soon.
Those who have been successful in creating long-term change in their behavior tend to undergo a profound shift in their thinking. There were new beliefs that accompanied the new behaviors. And that’s how the behavior change really sticks.
The problem with so much of today’s marketing is, it simply creates short-term behavior change by way of paid media spend, promotions, coupons, etc. Because it doesn’t address the underlying consumer beliefs, it merely succeeds in purchasing one instance of the desired behavior, and nothing more. So when the campaign ends, so does the desired behavior. Once the short-term benefit is gone, brands just do it all over again with another media buy, another promotion -- and the cycle continues.
Think of the most successful brands: Apple, Patagonia, Disney, Starbucks. Can you imagine any of them falling into the cycle of short-termism that’s standard operating procedure for many brand marketers today? Of course not.
That explains their enduring strength. Rather than tactically lurching from one quarterly earnings call to the next, they strategically engineer their own versions of long-term behavior change. That in turn shows up in the world with a consistency that creates impressive, yet sustainable brand growth and cult-like consumer loyalty that compounds over time.
Start changing your own brand’s behavior by incorporating some basic truths we know work to create long-term behavior change in humans. Do so and you’ll likely transform your brand into a “good habit” consumers won’t ever want to break.