Getting Customers Into the Brand Habit

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Marsha Lindsay, CEO, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs
Marsha Lindsay, CEO, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs

The axiom that we're all creatures of habit extends to what we purchase, or don't. And to what we pay attention to, or don't. “Much of our daily behavior is habituated, so a marketer's job is to break—or break into—customers' habits and rituals,” Marsha Lindsay told me during a recent conversation about marketing strategy. “How marketers do that often lies in connecting with a customer's subconscious.”

Lindsay, CEO of brand strategy firm Lindsay, Stone & Briggs, went on to explain that we as consumers are driven by our subconscious and our emotions; we create rituals and form habits to get us through our daily routine. So, the trick for marketers is to help their brand become a part of those rituals and habits. She cited as an example KFC. To reach on-the-go customers—whose usual habit is to have a beverage within reach in their car's cup holder, and who sometimes eat while driving—KFC created a container for chicken nuggets that fits into a cup holder. It's a simple way to be a part of an existing habit among some of its customers, she said. 

The trick for marketers is to frame their objectives differently, Lindsay pointed out. “Most marketers' goals are more focused on gaining awareness or trial: ‘I need an ad that generates X.' Instead, they need to frame a brief in terms of, ‘How can I break into customers' autopilot?'” To do so, she recommends considering what's not top of mind for customers; what's in their subconscious when it comes to a specific product or service?

Amazon's one-click purchase is masterful in this regard because it makes purchasing “mindless,” Lindsay said. “It's simple: The tougher you make it to complete a purchase, the less likely customers will complete it. So, the question marketers need ask is, ‘How do I habituate engagement?'”

One answer, she said, is to step back from day-to-day marketing tactics to take a broader look at your marketing strategy—and see how you can weave in messaging or interactions that address customers' habits and underlying motivations. “Behavioral marketing is coming of age,” Lindsay said. “Marketers need to understand customers' subconscious rituals to find creative ways to break through and become a part of those habits.”

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