July 26, 2007
What Social Psychology Offers Direct Response Radio Advertisers
We've written on this topic before - how the field of social psychology has a wealth of insight to offer direct response advertising.
But never has it been so prevalent in the news as it is today, with prominent front page coverate in multiple national newspapers. And, it happens to also relate to yesterday's post on this blog by further enhancing the idea presented there.
"Both obesity and thinness are socially contagious" according to James Fowler, co-author of a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study finds that social networks have an even greater effect on chances of becoming obese than genes do. In fact, a person's chance of becoming obese jumps 57% if he or she also has a friend who became obese during a given time.
Social networks. Social Psychology. Hmmm...
Advertising is fundamentally about influencing behavior. But you have to understand the behavior first - what it is, why it occurs. Because only then can you understand the root, fundamental "need" that is being impacted by your product. And only then can you speak the right message to your customers - the one that helps them see how your product or service meets their needs.
In this case, we're talking about the issue of weight, weight gain and weight loss, the latter being one very large category of consumer marketing and consumer spending. But the idea, the concept, is directly applicable to all other categories.
If you're a marketing person, this stuff is drool-worthy. As today's Wall Street Journal puts it, the findings in this study help "explain why obesity is rising despite widespread dieting and why any weight loss achieved is so often short lived".... That "initiatives to fight obesity should take social networks into account". The study explains why organizations with a social approach to weight loss - like Weight Watchers - have achieved such success.
If you're a psychologist by trade, you're probably saying "duh". We're social creatures and it's common knowledge that we compare ourselves with others, constantly gravitating toward those who "validate" us, that is - their behaviors and words are a source of positive feelings about our own "okayness" (though being external it's an unreliable source of okayness, but that, and it's impact on marketing, is for another post). A large percentage of our "needs" - those being met by the products advertised in all mediums - boil down to the extent to which they boost this feeling of "okayness".
For direct response radio advertisers, the question becomes how to apply this knowledge to building successful campaigns. As a radio agency, this is the kind of discussion we'll push for in the strategy development stage, because it feeds the rest of the process. If you're marketing a weight loss product, perhaps it's a more direct application. If you're in a different category, it'll take some more mental work to reach an understanding of your customer's behavior and then apply it. Either way, if you want to make that connection with your potential customers, you need to show them you care enough to understand them. They'll respond to that, often by buying your product at least once. If your messages are true, then they'll buy more than once and they'll also tell other people. Then you're on to something.
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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
Made to Stick, Heath & Heath
The Power of Persuasion, Robert Levine
Influence: Science & Practice, Cialdini
Words That Work, Frank Lutz
My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, Claude C. Hopkins
Or Your Money Back, Alvin Eicoff
Being Direct, Lester Wunderman