The following is adapted from Marketing to Mindstates by Will Leach.

The world of brand marketing is changing. Marketers today are under immense pressure to justify their marketing by ROI.  Every advertisement is under the microscope of the C-suite in today’s topline performance culture. Marketing intuition, once the justification for so many marketing strategy decisions, has given way to science-based marketing through a process called behavior design.

Veteran designers and copywriters may still base creative strategies solely on intuition, and many of them are right on the money.  However, getting consistent results is a major obstacle when using intuition.  Therefore, presenting concepts to clients with the justification that they’re informed by “decades of experience” is no longer enough to gain trust from today’s savvy brand marketer.

Under the ROI first culture, decades of experience alone won’t fly. Operating on intuition alone is a scary proposition under these conditions. Clients want more than gut feel and intuition. They want to combine art with science. They want behavioral design.

Behavior design drives greater certainty and clearer conversations about creative solutions coming from agency work because they have a strong insights base. Brand managers are more apt to trust creative solutions based on neurological and scientific concepts, vs. intuition and gut feel. Here’s why.  

If you were a brand investing five million dollars on a Super Bowl ad, which of these two statements would you rather hear from your agency?

  • “You know, we just feel that it’s important to have a group of young people interacting with the product during this commercial.”

  • “We’d recommend having a group of young people interacting with the product to tap into the belonging motivation and help trigger the social proof heuristic.”

Easy choice, right?

Not only does the second choice sound better, it is better. It has behavioral science at its base. It has a behavioral strategy underlying it. 

That’s what behavior design does. A statement like that gives you ammo to go with your gut. You can validate instinct-driven ideas with the support of behavior-driven science.

Benefits of Behavior Design

Behavior design helps triggers emotional mindstates—those moments in a shopper’s journey when they’re in higher states of emotional arousal and most susceptible to influence. The point where shoppers actually buy.  

Everyone benefits from behavior design and marketing to mindstates—consumers, retailers, and marketers. How?

  1. More sales. Creating emotional mindstates can increase persuasion and buying momentum for your products. Retailers also benefit because emotionally aroused shoppers buy more products in general.

  2. Fewer returns. Shoppers in emotional mindstates make happier, confident buying decisions. They’re less likely to return products or feel buyer’s remorse.

  3. Higher satisfaction and repeat business. Shoppers have more enjoyable experiences in environments that have been behaviorally designed. Those environments feel more natural to consumers and drive more repeat visits.

  4. More engagement. Consumers feel an increased understanding of your product. If you design a product that naturally taps into consumers’ nonconscious, they feel like they understand the product more.

People who understand your product will engage more with it, and the more people engage with your product, the more features they’ll likely experience.

The more features they experience, the more likely they are to use your product.

Consider a smartphone buyer primarily using it for texting and calling, ignoring the many apps on the device. They’ll miss out on everything else a smartphone can do and not see as much value in it compared to an old flip phone, making them unlikely to repurchase it in the future.  More likely to feel they didn’t get a good value.

But if a behavior designer psychologically optimized the experience of buying and using that smartphone, the buyer would be more likely to use the apps. As a result, they’d experience more benefits and feel a higher perceived value of the product.

Why is that important? Because it means they’ll literally pay more for your product or service. Yes, behavior design can increase profitable topline growth for your brands.

That’s a fifth benefit to behavior design: more effective advertising.

Research by E. Tory Higgins also shows that advertising that has been behaviorally designed improves the results of advertising in five ways:

  1. Increased marketing “breakthrough” (breaks through the clutter)
  2. Longer engagement with the advertising
  3. Increased understanding of your message
  4. Increased memorability of your message and brand
  5. Increased trust and believability of your message and brand

Intuition and years of experience may give clients these same benefits. However, there’s a lack of consistency in delivering these benefits. 

In this new marketing world, intuition is not dead—it’s just no longer the only driving force behind great creative strategy and activation. 


To learn more about a behavioral science-based marketing strategy that does impact customer decision-making, get a copy of my book, Marketing to Mindstates.


Buy the Marketing to Mindstates Book


Topics: Branding, Behavioral Design, Sales