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Will consumers do what they say they will? Habit is key.

March 20, 2013

Will consumers do what they say they will? Habit is key.


It is always hard when gathering insights, to measure people’s intentions.

At the end of last year a client asked us to find out what a bunch of their consumers would do based on a promotional piece they were going to implement.  The punters said they would respond … and if had of taken their proclamations on face value, we would have recommended the promotion.  We didn’t as it was only through prompting, prodding and probing that we uncovered the truth – the promotion made them feel good about themselves but wasn’t compelling enough to spark the action the promotion wanted.  They would stick with what they knew at the end of the day.

We can’t always be with the consumers when we ask them to tell us the truth – our AMSRS paper last year – What were they thinking: why people take part in market research – uncovered the reasons and justification for when consumers lie to us but the overall findings were that the majority of the people said they were being honest.

Obviously there are other marketing factors that contribute to a promotions success like proper targeting or a compelling enough offer, but how can we really measure people’s intentions more successfully?

The answer lies is in understanding habit formation.

Triandis (1977) found that “as behaviour repeatedly takes place, habit increases and this becomes a better predictor of behaviour than behavioural intentions”.

Next week our report Consumers buy on autopilot. What does this mean for your brand? will be released.

It tells us that 46% of what we do everyday is repeated and in the same context.   It also says that 58% of people agreed that when they find a brand or product they like they stick to it.

When we relate that to brands and brand experience is becomes quite fascinating.  Psychological research tell us that consumers tend to buy the same brands (Seetharaman, 2004), purchase the same amounts at particular retail stores (Vogel, Evanschitzky, & Ramaseshan 2008), and eat similar types of foods at certain meal-times (Khare & Inman, 2006).

To really find out what people want to do in the further, you need to understand what they did in the past because people’s actions are mostly driven by habit.    Our BrandHook Habit Model™ will give you a framework to understanding people’s intentions better and knowing which levers to pull to strengthen or disrupt.

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