English Español Deutsch Français Italiano Português (Brasil) Русский 中文 日本語

Behavioral Marketing




Craig Campbell: Hello, guys. Welcome to today's SEMrush webinar. I'm going to be hosting David Amerland and the topic of discussion here is behavioral marketing. David, can you tell the guys about yourself?

David Amerland : Thank you, Craig, and it's really good to be here. I usually write about search and online marketing and social media, and business communication, and lately, I've been doing a lot of discussions on behavioral marketing and neuroscience, and how that surfaces. A lot of the impulses and motivation we have at the purchasing decision. I spent three incredibly long years talking to neuroscientists and marketers, and snipers, bringing all those things together from my last book.

Craig Campbell: Yeah. So, guys, today we're obviously gonna be talking about behavioral marketing, so make sure that you put your questions in the chat on YouTube. I will certainly be asking David as many of those questions as I possibly can.

We now have over a hundred live viewers, so if you want to kick on, David, and pass your words of wisdom.

David Amerland: Great, great. Okay. Thank you. And let's start with the obvious, and I never use slides in these presentations, and this is by design. I think that slides kind of get a little bit impersonal because you're looking at the screen, you're sort of squinting to make out what the things are, and then you hear a voice behind the slides explaining that, and then it becomes sort of a little bit weird.

I do have a narrative, however, and I use narratives for a very precise reason. When you have oral communication, the way our brains are structured to absorb information require a ready-made story. And this is important for you to remember in terms of your marketing as well, and any kind of presentations that you make in any kind of big audience format.

Evolutionarily, our brains are adapted to take stories apart, find out the salient points, keep them in our memory, remember how we feel, how the story made us feel, and go from there.

Decision-making and Logic

We know from neuroscience that essentially when we make a decision, we think we are rational beings. We think we are making a decision based on logic, but that decision is always made emotionally and then we'll use logic to justify it. The area we're in, the area we're working in right now, all of us, whether we like it or not, is behavioral economics.

And behavior economics essentially is a field of science that uses psychological insights to try and understand human behavior, in order to understand why certain specific choices are made. Now, this is totally different to what we had before because for the entire twentieth century, and even for the first part, maybe, of the twenty-first century, we were talking about human economic behavior. And human economic behavior assumes that we're completely rational beings, so, therefore, everything which we do is motivated by our own self-interest.

But this is not how we operate. A lot of the times we don't operate around best interests. A lot of the time we don't make the right choices, and pretty much all of the time, we happen to be irrational, even though we dress it up rationally.

The brain uses one more element of primary programming, which is the energy available. So, for me and you to survive, for instance, we have to do something which is incredibly complex, and drains us completely of energy, we would be disinclined to do it all the time, and because we can't die off or die out, we would look for shortcuts in what we're doing. And that also begins to give you a little bit of an insight on how we operate in the marketing world.  

Essentially, as marketers, as business people, indeed as people living life, we look for shortcuts which will give us the maximum return for our investment of energy. So the ROI, which we talk about so many times in the corporate setting, is something which is primarily driven by those two things. The need to survive and the need to conserve energy while we do so. Because it's illogical to survive when you have no energy after that do to whatever you need to do.

Why Squeeze Pages Don’t Work

I have a pet peeve here. You know those squeeze pages that you used to see on the internet? It was a page that used to sell you something, and as you scroll down, it would have some kind of testimonial, and it would say in big red letters "still not convinced," and we throw in something else which ups the value because you buy this for, it $99. 99, but for ten days only, and there was a counter counting down, it's $45.99. And you went down to the bottom where you had to pay for it.

From a marketing logic, this makes sense. There's a product, assuming the product has some kind of value instead of being completely useless. It takes you through a step-by-step process which gives you testimonials, right? Whether they're true or not, it doesn't matter. It gives you some technical materials. It gives you a price motive, so it gives you a discount. It gives you a limited amount of time to actually make use of that discount in order to make you feel special and feel a sense of urgency. So it presses the psychological button, and then it adds an extra value on top of that, which is about two, three times the price you're going to pay so that you feel you're actually getting a great deal.

So logically, it pushes all those buttons. And my pet peeve on this is that it is complete rubbish because it tries to use human psychology to push us emotionally to make a decision that we wouldn't normally make, and it's wrong. It also doesn't work.  

And you'll say, well why doesn't it work? Well, these pages; they were pioneered by Jonathan Miller back in the early days of the internet. It started around 1992. And what he basically did was he took the hard sales push approach of a salesman and digitized it and put it on the web. They worked in the beginning because there was nothing else there. They worked because they got a small slice of people who were already on the edge of desperation, looking for a product that would give them a shortcut, and they went for it. They went for it on the assumption that, hey, it might work, and secondly, it's not a massive investment of money. And typically, these things never went for more than fifty bucks.

So they played on desperation, they played on people who were already half-convinced and triggered it by essentially letting them know it's a great deal and here's something that would save them, and it was playing on their emotions.

The question is, okay, where does that leave us in terms of marketing? How does it leave us in terms of sales? And how does it affect us in terms of the decision-making process which we make? And here are three things which actually happen.

Resistance to Marketing

First of all...we're resistant because from a broader perspective, we're leaving the emotional space where we can see from different sides how things work. That knowledge allows us to take that step back and actually think, okay, this is a psychological trigger, this is a psychological push. It's not going to actually work for me anymore.

For marketing, it also changes the game because the traditional tools we had as marketers also began to not work as well. Traditional marketing which used to either sex up a product or play on the risk factors, or play on some specific association that was evidently false; they don't work either. So marketing now has become a lot more detail-driven. It has become a lot more costly in terms of expertise and time and approach because the audience is resistant to these things.

The question is, okay, if the audience is resistant, what actually works? How do we make it happen? And we make it happen the same way that I actually made the decision to be here tonight. There has to be the kind of connection which allows us to empathize with the person we are actually dealing with and make a decision which benefits us mutually at some level.

Importance of Connecting On A Human Level

If you don't connect with a brand at a human level that begins to represent your values, you don't actually want to do business with them. If you don't connect with a page on the web which you've seen at a level that actually resonates with what you believe in, you are unwilling to give it your time and attention, because both of those things are expensive.

So now, in order to get that resonance, in order to get that connection, in order to get that human response, we have to be able to humanize our digital efforts. And that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it isn't. Because essentially, in order to humanize those efforts, we need to understand how we operate, with a need to quantify those steps and begin to put them in place.

And I usually give a classic example, Amazon, which to some extent is the poster child for facelessness in corporate behemoth size, and yet when you go to a web page to buy a product, that product page tells you when you looked at that product before, if you have bought it before, what other products you've purchased in relation to that.

So essentially they have thought very carefully about how a human person who kind of knows you would give you the extra information that would make that purchase decision easier. Even if many times the purchase decision you make goes against their own interests, in that you choose not to actually buy what you want and look at something else.

That kind of approach shows that the connection has value for the company at a human level, even if they use digital tools. The challenge now, and it's a huge one, is that we work in a world that is increasingly automated. We work with chatbot assistants sometimes. We work through pages that have been search engine optimized to the gills. We work through pages that have product value primarily and the need to call to action, and we need that call to action to work. And we work through campaigns, which could be advertising, email, or anything in any combination of these things. Those tools have become quite granular.

How do we square the circle of humanizing our digital presence consistently in everything we do? Now, we discussed that our primary motivation in everything is survival and energy conservation. It suddenly sounds like the automated tools that we had now require more effort, more work than ever before. And this is not really true. Because the shortcuts which are available to us right now, the ones which we use in order to be able to save space, be human, connect in a real way, deliver value every time, are ultimately human shortcuts.

The first one is identity. Whether we are individual, a brand, a company, or a country, we need to have a carefully worked out identity. A sense of self-worth, and a sense of agency. A sense of self-worth gives us values and it gives us principles. A sense of agency gives us intentions. And values, principles, and intentions translate to behavior. Again, we go from emotions to actions. And actions are always decided by choices and decisions.

So we go from something which is intangible, what I believe in, what you believe in, how you feel about specific things, to purchasing decisions which you make, for instance, which is something hugely tangible.

We go from self-worth and identity, which gives us agency, to those values and those activities which inform everything we do. In the past, we used to have a partial view of this. We used to have marketing personas, where we worked on some kind of artificial idea of what the target audience was and then we created content to meet the imaginary ideal needs of the target audience because we thought that's how we used to market.

Now we have to work a little bit differently. We have to work out our own values, our own sense of identity, our own principles, and then work across all the different interfaces which we use to get those principles, values, and beliefs across. And if we do the job right, then they resonate with the audience at a very human level and begins to create a kind of connection that leads to the emotional response, which is a lot more positive than what we would get otherwise. Positive emotional responses, then usually have positive outcomes, which we then dress logically.

All right. Let's take some questions on all this.

Craig Campbell: Thank you, David. So, the first question I've got here, “how does the new view of the person supplied by the latest neuroscientific research change what marketers and brand experts should be doing?”

Latest Neuroscientific Consumer Research

David Amerland: Okay. Let's clarify what neuroscience tells us about the consumer right now. It tells us that essentially every decision we make is emotional, and it tells us that we justify that decision once we have made it by applying logic.

Marketing in the past used to connect in one way or the other. It used to try and connect us very logically because it assumed we are rational beings. So it would say, hey, you know the jeans which you bought for $19.99? Well, they're $15. 99. Surely it's a steal and you can't not buy them now, for instance. Or it used to connect with us entirely emotionally. This pair of jeans is going to make you irresistible to the opposite sex, for instance. So it used to be one or the other in a very sort of solid way.

Combining Logic and Emotion

And now we need to bring the two together. We need to bring logic and emotion in one area. We need to make them work and we need to apply them in the same way that we would apply them in a face-to-face situation. So, go back to the pair of jeans and say, hey, these jeans which make you look good, they're also cheaper this month. So that makes it an irresistible proposition.

Craig Campbell: Perfect. So, the next question is from Kim in the YouTube chat. She's asking, can you give us a specific example of how we can use social media, landing pages, and email marketing to humanize the digital effort?

David Amerland: You need to work out every time that you do something, how that fits in with your personal view of the world. And that's the same whether you're a company, whether you're a person, brand, or even a country. You have a specific worldview, which is driven by your needs and desires, and also your perception of what is out there, what other people are doing.

Once you have that worked out, then every part of your presence is a fragment of the same thing. So there is consistency in the feeling it engenders.

One classic and very successful example here is Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola worked very hard to create a very distinctive bottle and a very distinctive logo, and a very distinctive font. And they worked on the principle that nobody should actually be able to see the bottle in its entirety or the font or the brand, in order to feel what their brand is about. And then they worked really hard linking that with happiness.

So the moment you see part of that (bottle), what do you feel? You don't say, “oh, there's a sugary drink that might rot my teeth but I’d like to get it anyway because it’s sweet”. Nobody says that. You just know that it makes you feel good. So when you get it, you think well, it's Coca-Cola. I'm homesick. Or it's Coca-Cola, it reminds me of Christmas. Or it's Coca-Cola, it's fun. We say those things to actually justify it. They've been very consistent in their branding, their message, and their emotional appeal. And many times the honesty of their consistency is what we respond to.

Prioritize Connections Over Information

Craig Campbell: Excellent, David. Jason is asking with the invasion of privacy so much in the news, aren't you worried about using the information that a customer gives you?

David Amerland: We live in a time where we can gather more information about the people who interact with us than ever before, even if we never see them. They come on a website, we can see which page they landed on, sometimes what brought them there, what they did next, and so on.

And if they've created a profile of some kind, we can actually mine that even further. The tendency has always been to say, yeah, we want more of that, more of that, because we feel that we can never have enough information about the people we deal with in order to be able to persuade them to do what we want them to do as marketers, salespeople, and so on.

The truth is, we don't need any of that. What we need is a connection, a real connection. It's the emotional connection that's primary. So really here, indirectly, the answer to your question is we should be working really hard to understand the important aspects of what we do. We get lost in the hedges most of the time because we have so much information at our fingertips. We don't know where to start from.

So we should say what's really important? Why do people come to my website instead of a hundred thousand websites like any other? Why do people buy my product instead of a hundred thousand other products? And the answer to that is that right now you're listening to me and if the connection is right, if I've persuaded you, you think yeah, there's value in that. And that's exactly where the connection lies.

So we don't need as much data as we think, but we do need to understand what those important points are. And usually the touchpoints are very human, and we need to think in a human fashion first, instead of a machine-dictated fashion.

Are Marketing Personas Obsolete?

Craig Campbell: Thank you very much. Amanda Smith is asking do you consider personas obsolete now?

David Amerland: I don't consider anything obsolete. I think everything we should be doing as marketers is still valid, but I think they're rightly deprecated, which means we can use them perhaps as a starting point, as an assumption, if we have nothing else to start off with. But it would be wrong to use them to the same extent that we used them in the past because they almost became gospel.

We used to think our ideal customer is somebody called Joe, age 23 to 35, does skiing, takes three holidays a year, is single, and has disposable income. And we used to maniacally market to that person. And I think that is a little bit dehumanizing and also patently artificial, and we need to somehow find ways to become real. Even if the only connection we have is a digital one.

Chatbots and Marketing

Craig Campbell: So the next question is from Jeannie, who is a regular on the show. “With conversational artificial intelligence, can you offer insights on training chatbots to make consumer emotion better?”

David Amerland: Okay. Chatbots are an escape of reality. We're going to see more and more of them. They're going to become better and better as algorithms and computing power constantly improve. And the question always is, I suspect, do we pretend they're people or do we mark them as chatbots? I think by pretending they're people and presenting them as such, we are sending up false flags, raising expectations, which are only going to backfire.

So having a clever chatbot that actually introduces itself as a chatbot, almost like an artificial butler, and says “hi, I'm your artificial assistant here. I'm here to represent the company.” And making it smart and cute and trying to humanize it actually has greater value in terms of the connection than trying to pretend that it isn't what it is. In their usage, we should be transparent, I suppose that's what I'm saying.

Craig Campbell: So, there's another great question here from Paola. “How do you convince a business that is focused on quantitative data, rather than the emotional connection with the customers to think about behavioral marketing and the value and behavioral marketing?”

David Amerland: That's an excellent question. The question always is what does the data represent? Sure, the data is numbers and figures and so on, but what does it actually represent? It is there to give us a granular understanding of reality. And that reality is made up of people, their motivation, their choices, and their decisions.

Reconciling Human Emotion and Logic

Craig Campbell: Thank you. Next question. “The digital domain is made up of two layers. One is human and the other one is machine-based. The former is driven by emotion, the latter by logic and mathematics. How do we reconcile the two?”

David Amerland: I'm going to use driving as an analogy because it actually works really well. When we are on the road, we don't just focus on our own behavior, because we all want to get from A to B, like everybody else. We also focus on the behavior of everybody around us, and we adjust because we constantly make mistakes. We don't keep to our lane, we don't keep the speed limit. We may take a turn without indicating, so on. And those people around us may also do the same thing.

So to get back to how do we reconcile those two things? Well, we have magnificent tools in terms of how we actually optimize web pages, set up web pages, track behavior, track performance, use analytics to make certain predictions about how things will go, and so on. But at the same time, what makes the page valuable is the content that resonates with the audience. And that's not mechanical, that's human.

We have to think what's really valuable to my audience. Not a keyword that brought them there. That's valuable to me to bring them there, but that's not valuable to them. It has to be a specific thing that enables them to do something a lot easier. It gives them that shortcut in their lives. And if we do that, then we actually are a winning formula.

Craig Campbell: So, the next question for you, David. “While the new research shows that we make consumer decisions differently, does anything really change or need to change from a practical point of view in our marketing and branding?”

David Amerland: In marketing, we tend to chase the new shiny (thing), because we have the idea that it will give us that shortcut which we crave, which will give us a good ROI for a lot less energy and ensure our survival. This is our psychological motivation. So we tell ourselves it's going to save us a lot of trouble, so we need to do it. At the same time, we need to also understand that as we chase the new things, the things of the past which had value continue to have value, and we must find some way to integrate and adapt in a bigger whole.

And here's the example. We live in a digital domain right now. We can buy almost anything at any time from companies across the world. We don't have to be physically in their stores, they don't have to be physically in our country. We don't even use the same currency. We can buy anything we'd like. We only do so when we feel the people we're buying from in that context of the purchasing decision actually has some kind of real existence, real lives, real values behind them. And if we don't feel that connection, then we tend not to trust them or we tend not to want to do business with them. So that's the way, moving forward with all those tools at our fingertips, all the massive digitization, all those changes, the things which were of value continue to be of value. They have to be part of that granular whole that gives us a better idea of who people are and what they do.

Craig Campbell: The next question is marketers still rely on some of the old methods of influencing consumers. Discounts, competition, giveaways, and all that kind of stuff. Should they now be retired? If yes, why?

David Amerland: Well, no. I mean, like SEO, there are techniques which go back in the very early days of SEO. Keywords being case in point. And they still play a role, they just don't play as much of a role. Everything that forms some kind of connection with your audience plays a task.

It's exactly the same thing we're seeing in marketing, in terms of the return on investment from singular marketing channels. They don't work anymore. But if you dress it up with other things, if you present it differently, then even something like an advert can be made to work.

Craig Campbell: The next question is what are the new methods of marketing and branding that we should be applying, and are there any examples that we should be looking at?

David Amerland: Yeah. I mean, we live now in an information-rich environment. We have podcasts, we have written material, we have blog posts, we have social media platforms, we have our own websites, we have advertising, we have paid and organic search. I mean, there's a multitude of things. We should be using them all and we should be finding ways to create a kind of consistency across the board.

How To Connect with Customers

Craig Campbell: Perfect. I'm going to ask you Kim's next question. So, Kim is someone on YouTube and she is asking, “for a small company providing technical services, how do you suggest that they create the best connection with potential customers?”

David Amerland: Okay. The question would be why are you doing it? And it's not enough for you to tell me, well, I need to earn money to live, because we're all trying to do that. So you need to tell me why you're doing what you're doing. What is it that actually makes you excited about your work? And if you answer that question honestly, then the challenge is how do you then show that in your connection with your potential customers? How do you show that excitement? How do you show that commitment? How do you show the difference which makes you who you are?

Show me who you are and I respond to it. We are biologically, evolutionarily programmed to respond to people and their passion, their emotion, and their values. This is something which is ingrained in us. We don't have to think about it. The difference is that now in a digital environment, everything we do is intentional. So everything we do has to be created. In a person-to-person environment, we don't have a choice. You can't really disguise your voice. You can't really disguise your body's mannerisms. You can't really hide the color of your eyes or the expressions of your face. All those things are things that people respond to. But in a digital world, you can. You can become entirely artificial because everything else around us is artificial. So we have to find ways to use the artificiality of the connection to create a sense of realness in who we are.

Craig Campbell: Thank you, David. Sadly, we are out of time. So, thank you again, everyone, for attending today.