How Ad Campaigns Piggyback on Habits to Hook You

Students on campus weren’t eating their fruits and veggies. Researcher / author Jonah Berger (from his great book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On) and psychologist Grainne Fitzsimons devised a plan: come up with 2 slogans, survey students to see which they thought would be more effective, then actually measure which was better.

“Live the Healthy Way, Eat Five Fruits and Veggies a Day”

“Each and Every Dining Hall Tray Needs Five Fruits and Veggies a Day”

As you might guess, the second slogan was rated as having the worst chance of success. It’s longer and was seen as “corny”. But for effectiveness? The second slogan saw an uptick of 25% more college students eating fruits and veggies.

The difference was the trigger of the “dining hall tray”. Since most of the students ate at the cafeteria, the tray cued them to the slogan. And because they used a dining hall tray often (this is important), they were cued often.

dogsofa450

Saved by Dogs, As Usual

When first released, Febreeze was failing miserably. The product was developed to neutralize tough odors, so the first ad campaigns showed people spraying them on sweaty, smelly clothes or on jackets that had a cigarette smoke smell. But there was an inherent problem with this trigger: the situation just didn’t occur often enough to cue the trigger.

So Proctor & Gamble rejiggered the campaign brilliantly. What do people do often? Clean the house. Tidy a room before people come over. Dog on the sofa? Future campaigns showed people cleaning a room then adding the finishing touch – Febreeze. Cleaning a room or having a dog on sofa are triggers that occur frequently.

Leverage Emotional Triggers

Only 4% of people in Ghana were washing their hands with soap after using the toilet. Dr. Curtis and the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing With Soap (reference this NYTimes article), had what seemed like an easy fix: inform Ghanaians about the diseases caused by not washing with soap. The problem was that toilets are perceived as an hygienic upgrade from holes in the ground.

Since the current campaigns weren’t working they consulted Proctor & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive. The campaign that worked didn’t mention disease or diarrhea; it showed mothers and kids walking out of restrooms with glowing purple pigment on their hands, spreading to everything they touched.

The campaign appealed to the emotion of disgust. And worked.

Studies reveal that up to 45% of what we do each day is cued by habit. How do you get people to use your product or service regularly?

Attach it to a habitual trigger.

About Mattr

Mattr is social analytics software for marketers who want to design products and campaigns their target audience will love. Using just your social feed, surface personalities, demographics, and benchmarked interests – all without surveys.  


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