The power of suggestion


For anyone who has ever tried to get a small child to eat their dinner or tidy their room, there is a universal truth. Shouting doesn’t work. Turning it into a game involving a spoon masked as an imaginary aeroplane, or a race to see how quickly your toys can get back in their box, invariably does.

It’s an example of nudge theory, largely credited to US academics Thaler and Sunstein and popularised in their book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, published in 2008. It’s mainly concerned with the design of choices which influences the decisions we make.

We can see the impact of its theories in many aspects of modern life. For example, road speeds are kept down more effectively by using road signs that remind people to slow down at the point of excessive speed rather than having a police officer jump out at them with a radar gun. Or perhaps something closer to home: When you order the second or third least expensive bottle of wine from a menu, you are buying the restaurant’s most profitable beverage. After all, no one wants to be seen as a skinflint and they price accordingly.

As consumers are exposed to thousands of commercial messages a day, this theory becomes highly relevant when planning our brand communications.

In our latest podcast, senior Co-op marketers, Caroline Beesley – Head of Digital Marketing – and Sam Walker – Head of Campaigns – expressed a similar view when it comes to planning and establishing the effectiveness of content.

Traditional ROI and conversion metrics are still important, but they describe the ‘potential’ impact of a message rather than what actually happened as a result of its execution. Focusing on what resonates and drives action with the target customer is a better measure of effectiveness, or for want of a better expression, what ‘nudges’ them.

For a nudge to happen, it comes back to the tried-and-tested notions of relevancy. But not relevancy just in terms of ‘I’m hungry, I need food’, but something a little deeper. What many businesses forget is that their marketing is really geared up to solve their own problems and not those of their customers. Marketing that truly resonates and drives change in perception and purchase behaviour is marketing that has a true customer tension at its heart.

Which is why the Co-operative Food group has sought to establish clear purpose, values and beliefs at the heart of its content marketing. It allows them to build long-term relationships rather than react to circumstances and focus on just chasing short-term revenue. Although, it also provides the guardrails for their marketing teams to act in the short term if they need to.

Ultimately, all content needs to solve the customer’s needs at a particular point while addressing the customer’s challenges in the long term.

But ‘shouting about stuff’ is a business-focused agenda and not the customer’s. And, as we know, shouting doesn’t get the room tidied.

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