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


How many decisions do you think the average person makes every day?


Would you have guessed 35,000? If so, you’re right on the money. Each one of us will make around 35,000 decisions every day, from what time we decide to get out of bed to whether we should finish that task now or put it off until Friday.

That’s a lot of decisions. And while we may be aware of many of these decisions, what we may not realize is that these decisions impact our lives in ways we will never truly be aware of.  


So now that we understand how much our brain has to process each day, let’s throw in the already cluttered world of marketing. Considering how many ads we process in a day, it’s no wonder many content strategies fall flat.


Just to wade through this ocean of choice and make it through each day requires the use of time-saving “triggers” or mental shortcuts called cognitive heuristics. Triggers help people simplify decision making by eliminating the need to conduct cost-benefit analyses for every decision. Instead, we can simply use a mental shortcut that is fast and easy.


On a daily basis, these triggers help us make hundreds of decisions, and can make brands a lot of extra money if they are understood and triggered correctly.  


But how exactly does that happen? Let’s hop into a Yellow Cab taxi and chat about it.

How Heuristics Increased Tips for Taxi Drivers

Before 2010, New York City taxi drivers were earning tips of 10 percent on average. You’d tell the driver where to take you, he’d get you to your destination, and you’d give him the fare plus a modest tip in the form of cash.

Man asks for information a taxi driver in Manhattan.

But then something happened. Almost overnight, the tip percentage more than doubled for New York City taxi drivers. Why did this happen?


Was it a booming economy?


Nope, we were still in the middle of the Great Recession.


Did the taxi drivers take a customer service training program?


No, they all had the same terrible service they always do.


Did the taxi companies set up an ad campaign to tip drivers better?


Absolutely not.


The real answer was simpler. The taxi companies put credit card readers into their cabs.  And these readers, unbeknownst to the cabbies, were designed to double their tips almost overnight.  


When it came to tipping the driver at the end of the ride, the new credit card readers highlighted three choices on the screen, in this order:


  • Add 15 percent tip
  • Add 20 percent tip
  • Add 25 percent tip


Now, let’s be honest. The vast majority of people can’t easily calculate a 15 percent tip on a $13.00 fare and make change—at least not without the help of a smartphone. That’s a lot of effort. 


But you know what isn’t a lot of effort? Selecting the middle tip option out of three presented on a digital screen.


Here’s why: with the driver right there in front of you, you often feel uncomfortable choosing the lowest amount (I mean, the guy is right there!), and most would agree that a 25 percent tip for a New York City taxi driver is a bit excessive.


So what do you do? You do what is mentally easiest and deemed fair. You simply hit the middle button to make the choice easy.  That’s the real reason why tips doubled overnight.


It wasn’t because of a slick content strategy, and it wasn’t by convincing passengers that taxi drivers were now worthy of this level of a tip. And it wasn’t a result of building an emotional connection with these drivers either.


It was a simple matter of using behavioral economics to design a really smart choice architecture that made higher tipping mentally easier for passengers. And it just so happened to be double the normal tip. Now, that’s behavior design.


Instinctively choosing the middle option reflects the power of triggers. These quick mental shortcuts used by everyone to make decisions easier. It’s not the highest tip amount. It’s not the lowest amount. It’s the middle option. Thanks to these triggers, the middle option often feels like the safest, best decision. This is the power of behavior design. 

How to Apply Triggers to Your Marketing Creative

Behavioral design opens up a brand new tool-kit for marketers to consider in their jobs. It doesn’t just build brand preference. It drives consumer choice. And it saves you time, money, and effort that would have been otherwise wasted on dated content strategies that don’t provide the results you need.

beautiful smiling asian businesswoman sitting at desk and using laptop in office

Yes, you can spend money on equity advertising to convince people to buy your brand. But behavioral design allows you to scientifically drive consumer choice—like selecting the middle offer—by focusing on how brand choices are presented in the first place and what you should do to advantage your brand in that choice set.  


Of you’re not considering the power of behavior design in your marketing, you’re leaving a lot of tips on the table. In some cases, literally.


For more advice on tapping into cognitive heuristics in your marketing, purchase the Mindstate Marketing Starter Package now. For just $39.99, your bundle will include:


  • An autographed hard copy and digital copy of Marketing to Mindstates
  • A hard and digital copy of the Mindstate Marketing Workbook
  • The Mindstate Marketing Charter


With this bundle, you’ll learn how to implement Mindstate Marketing (including cognitive heuristics) to your advertising creative. Plus, you’ll get the resources you need to start executing a custom content strategy based on science for your business.

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Topics: Behavioral Design, Innovation, Marketing, Marketing Creative