Triggering A Behaviour


How many of you have heard of Denis Diderot?


Diderot was a French philosopher. He lived nearly his entire life in poverty. But that all changed one day in 1765.


Diderot’s daughter was about to be married and he couldn’t afford to pay for the wedding.


Despite his lack of wealth, he was well known as the co-founder of “Encyclopedie”. One of the most comprehensive encyclopaedias of the time.


When Catherine the Great heard of Diedrot’s financial troubles she wanted to help. She was a book lover and loved his encyclopaedia. She offered to buy Diderot’s personal library for £1,000 (more than £150,000 today).


Suddenly Diderot had money to spare. He paid for the wedding. Then he bought a scarlet robe for himself. The robe was beautiful. So beautiful that it seemed out of place with the rest of his possessions.


So, he upgraded his possessions. A rug from Damascus. Expensive sculptures. Leather chairs. One purchase led to the next. Until he had no money left.


You might recognise the pattern. Buy a new dress and you need a new pair of shoes to match. Buy a games console and you need lots of games.


In fact, this tendency for one purchase to lead to another is so common that it has a name.


“The Diderot Effect.”


Why are we talking about this? Many human behaviours follow this pattern. We often decide what to do next based on what we have just done.


This drives existing behaviours. For instance, you go to the bathroom then you (hopefully!) wash your hands.


It is also key to driving new behaviours. For instance, you are trying to get fit. Don’t say “I’m going to go to the gym more often.” You probably won’t. Instead say, “when I finish work, I will go straight to the gym.” You probably will.


When you do A then you do B. A acts as the trigger for B. Without the trigger you may never get to B.


What is true for human behaviour is true for shopper behaviour.


So, how can you use behavioural triggers to get more shoppers from A to B?


USAGE triggers. When you use A then use B. Tie the desired usage behaviour to an existing usage behaviour. In personal care this could mean use shampoo then use conditioner. In laundry it could mean use detergent then use a fabric softener. In food it could mean make Spaghetti Bolognese and add a stock.


This can also apply to things that we already do. In personal care this could mean when you brush your teeth, use a mouthwash. In food it could mean when you are preparing the lunchbox, add a piece of fruit. “Eat more fruit” is a good message. “Add a piece of fruit to your lunchbox” is even better. It’s much more likely to trigger behaviour change.


BUYING triggers. When you buy A then buy B. This could be about leveraging lead products. Using a lead product (e.g. Heinz Ketchup) to drive trial of secondary products (e.g. Garlic Sauce) or new products (e.g. Pasta Sauce). It could be about cross promotions. When you buy A get B at a discount.


It could be about getting more products that are used together to be bought together. Gin & Tonic. Beer & Snacks. Tea and Biscuits. Too often products rely on shoppers making the connection rather than brands & retailers triggering the connection. We saw a great piece of “Perfect Partners” activation last year from Peroni and Kettle Chips. More chance of getting the shoppers who wanted to buy Peroni to also buy Kettle Chips. Those who wanted to buy Kettle Chips to buy Peroni. Those who weren’t planning to buy either to buy both.


ACTIVITY triggers. When you do A then do B. Guinness is a great example of this at the moment with their Six Nations association. When you watch a game then drink Guinness. Domino’s do this with football and their pre-game advertising. Watch the football then order a pizza for half time. New channels offer opportunities for this. Order a takeaway on Deliveroo then add a drink or add a dessert.


SEASONAL triggers. When it’s A then get ready for B. This happens a lot with the standard seasonal events – Christmas, Easter, Back to School. But it could happen in more interesting ways. Countdown to the clocks going back. Then soup season starts. Countdown to the clocks going forward. Then ice cream season starts.


Starbucks is a great example of this. “Red Cups are coming…” “Only 10 days to Pumpkin Spice latte.” The countdown builds the anticipation. The date triggers the actual behaviour.


Brands focus a lot of resource trying to persuade shoppers. Telling them (in lots of different ways) why they are the best choice. They focus a lot less resource on using triggers to change shopper behaviour.


But it is the behaviour changes that are usually the key to real growth. Increasing your share of the mints category = small opportunity. Getting everyone to eat a mint after every meal = big opportunity.


As Diderot showed… one thing often leads to another.


Feel free to forward. Have a great weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.