Looking to sell more German wine? Play Beethoven
By Joel Harris, our Strategy Business Director
With Mindshare investigating the ‘Era of Influence’ at this year’s Huddle what could be more appropriate than a panel investigating the impact of behavioural science on our craft?
Primesight invited Royal Holloway’s Dr Marco Cinnirella, BBC Three’s Serena Kutchinsky and Mr President’s Laura Jordan-Bambach to share their expertise in this field.
Behavioural science in advertising
Behavioural science taps into some of the most fascinating cues that influence human actions and, as stated by Cinnirella, it can be ‘incredibly relevant when transferred to the world of advertising.’
In fact, as Jordan-Bambach described, digital has been quick to adopt it; ‘behavioural science is incredibly important because you’re doing everything you can to remove friction’. While behavioural science can provide significant insights into behaviour change, why has ‘traditional’ media been slow to adapt?
Because these insights often seem either counter-intuitive or far too simple.
As Dave Trott has written in countless pieces, many marketers worry more about having their name on work they and their business love, than whether the work they make is truly effective – which is why we steer clear of catchy jingles and rhymes because they’re far too low brow for us. It doesn’t matter that they work, we just want to stay safe.
Behavioural science in action
Research in this field has proven that we’re essentially irrational beings, and when questioned, most people will post-rationalise their choices, unaware of the subtle cues that teed up their final decision.
So, what does Beethoven have to do with selling wine? As Cinnirella referenced during Primesight’s Huddle, a study from North, Hargreaves and McKendrick showed that customers in a supermarket bought more French wine when French music was played, and more German wine when German music was piped out.
And what is even more interesting: only 1 out of 44 of the customers who were interviewed during the wine study recognised that the music influenced their choice – ‘when you’re trying to evoke behaviour change it’s always more effective when people don’t know you’re doing it’ explained Cinnirella. For out-of-home this is especially relevant, as clients often need to get their message across and achieve greatest impact in just a few seconds.
Research into fonts, colours and positioning has proved to be extremely replicable – for example, with blue conferring a sense of trust – and the right-hand side of the page (or poster) being the best area for text. Kutchinsky highlighted how important these details are for BBC Three (who convey a sense of playfulness you won’t find on the main BBC site) where their alternative tone is brought out through illustration, bold colours and memes.
Further, research cited by Cinnirella on car advertising in the US showed that digital adverts with green borders primed people to think of pricing (‘green is the colour of dollar bills’), whereas red borders primed people to think of excitement, speed and performance.
Two lessons for all of us
Beware your use of behavioural science and convincing yourself you know more than you really do – there are two important lessons to take from these speakers.
Cultural and contextual differences abound – while Levi’s famous 1970s advertising was very successful in, say, the US, in the Middle East there were very different connotations to standing out as the ‘black sheep’.
Finally, though personalisation (such as fashion adverts on Instagram) are a welcome antidote to a busy life for Kutchinsky, Jordan-Bambach reminded our audience there are times when going against the clever algorithm or the behavioural research is the better option; Monzo go against the grain with their bright coral cards, loudly and successfully proclaiming that they’re different to the blue-branded banks.
It’s that vibrancy and sense of surprise in advertising that often delights us most.
So, learn the rules. Then learn how to break them.