How Behavioral Science Can Benefit Your Marketing Strategy

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending my second Behavioral Science & Marketing Summit at the University Club in San Francisco with roughly 150 other marketing strategists, THE leading behavioral scientists, senior market researchers, and consumer insights professionals (such excellent company to be in!).

The speakers and panelists discussed economic and psychological theories, the latest research in behavioral science and motivators of human behaviors. There were some very interesting case studies showing how a deeper understanding of human behavior can be used to improve product design and incent behavior change for the social good. One of the key themes is consistently around ethics and trust. Here are a few other key takeaways from this fascinating event.

Product Scarcity:

Charlene Wu, Lead Social Scientist at Airbnb, discussed how the theory of product scarcity is being used in marketing. Product scarcity is the theory that something becomes more attractive when quantities are limited. When a product you’ve had your eye on is about to run out, it not only can cause a severe case of FOMO, it also increases your motivation to buy.

Hotels and airlines tap into this by indicating only a few seats are left on a flight, or only one room remains for New Year’s Eve. By implying scarcity, it creates a sense of urgency, and increases the odds that I will buy that last ticket for the flight. This can be applied when selling tickets to events as well. If you subscribe to this theory, you would sell more tickets to your conference or concert by advertising the limited number of early bird tickets available than you would by providing a 6-week timeframe for early bird pricing. Attendees will become more motivated to buy this minute because they think they’ll lose the opportunity to attend.

Building Trust:

Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, spoke about the importance of baking trust directly into your business model. Using a restaurant as a simple example: if a waiter recommends the chicken dish instead of the fish of the day because it’s tastier – and also happens to be more affordable – a customer will likely trust that advice. On the other hand, if the waiter recommends an expensive lobster instead of the fish, I instinctively don’t trust this advice because it’s not clear if this recommendation is for the waiter’s benefit or for mine (I lean toward his).

Dan advises proving to your customers or audience that you have their best interest in mind, even if it means you’re willing to lose money for their benefit—the long-term value of a loyal customer outweighs any potential short-term losses.

Take Her Back:

Not only is the content from this event inspiring, but the cause it supports is even more so. Every cent collected from registration fees goes to fund Take Her Back, a nonprofit organization on the front lines of fighting child sex trafficking in India. I learned about the organization last year when I attended and it was really powerful to hear about the children they were able to free and begin to rehabilitate in the past 12 months.

I would highly recommend attending the Behavioral Science & Marketing Summit to any strategy or marketing professional looking to expand their knowledge of human motivation and behavioral science—and support an important cause along the way.

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