When you pull back from the narrow focus of influence and influence marketing and look at marketing and advertising overall, the linchpin to being successful in any of this stuff we call a job or career is understanding consumers. The first rule of any type of communications is to know your audience. If you don’t know them, or don’t start there, you’re creating a long way to the goal rather than an efficient one.

But it’s more than just understanding where they live, how much money they make, their gender, age and ethnicity. To be really good at persuading an audience to take action, you also have to understand their behavior, their psychology and as much as you can, get in their heads.

Nancy Harhut studies human behavior. Her background is in the advertising world. She spent time at Mullen and Hill Holiday in Boston. She’s been a creative director which may sound nothing like studying human behavior. But the best creatives put that topic at the front of their mind to better inform their ideas.

Nancy has a new book out called Using Behavioral Science in Marketing. It’s actually refreshing to see a book about understanding consumer’s brains coming from someone other than a researcher or scientist, though I love me some Roger Dooley and Martin Lindstrom.  

I asked Nancy to join us to talk about human behavior through the eyes of a marketing creative person, to uncover how those insights can help creators, agencies and brands in the influence space and beyond. 

This episode of Winfluence is presented by Tagger, the complete influencer marketing software platform. Sign up for a free demo today at jasonfalls.co/tagger.

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The Winfluence theme music is “One More Look” featuring Jacquire King and Stephan Sharp by The K Club found on Facebook Sound Collection.

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Nancy Harhut on Winfluence Transcript

[00:00:00] Jason: Hello again friends, thanks for listening to Winfluence, the Influence Marketing Podcast. When you pull back from the narrow focus of influence and influence marketing and look at marketing and advertising overall, the lynchpin to being successful in any of this stuff we call a job or career is understanding consumers.

The first rule of any type of communications is to know your audience, if you don’t know them or don’t start there, you are creating a long way to the goal rather than an efficient one. But it’s more than just understanding where they live, how much money they make, their gender, age, and ethnicity, to be really good at persuading an audience to take action, you also have to understand their behavior, their psychology, and as much as you can get in their heads.

Nancy Harhut studies human behavior, her background though, is in the advertising world. She spent time at Mullin and Hill Holiday among others in the Boston area. She’s been a creative director, which may sound nothing like studying human behavior, but the best creatives know that topic is at the front of their mind because it better informs their creative idea.

Nancy has a new book out called Using Behavioral Science in Marketing. It’s actually refreshing to see a book about understanding consumers brains coming from someone other than a researcher or scientist, though I do love me some, Roger Duley and Martin Lindstrom. I asked Nancy to join us to talk about human behavior through the eyes of a marketing creative person to uncover how those insights can help creators, agencies, and brands in the influence space and beyond.

So today on Winfluence, we’re gonna pick Nancy’s brain about picking consumers brains, and I promise that’s as graphic as the show will get. This is the point in the program where I tell you a little about Tagger, our presenting sponsor. It is a complete influencer marketing software package I use every day to find, engage, hire, collaborate, review, and measure all my influence marketing efforts.

Thanks to tagger’s new signals feature, I can actually start my influencer discovery process very differently in signals you do enter your topic or keyword, but instead of getting influencer recommendations based on maybe how many times that word appears in someone’s bio or content, you actually start with a list of creators already actively talking about that topic.

It’s a social listening piece that zeros in on the influencers already engaged around the topic, so your outreach is more relevant. . Seriously, if an influencer said trash bags in a post four years ago, they might come up in a regular influencer marketing discovery search that say hefty might do, but in tagger’s signals, you get the people who mention trash bags in their posts or content over the last 30 days or whatever timeframe you choose.

This gives you more relevant creators already teed up to discuss the topics around your brand. I could go on, but you know, I use tager every day, you should check it out too, it might be right for your brand or agency. Go to Jasonfalls.co/tagger to get a free demo and see if Tagger is right for you. That URL again, Jasonfalls.co/tagger.

 How can we all use understanding human behavior in our marketing efforts? Nancy Harhut will explain, she’s next on Winfluence.

 Nancy, I’ve always been fascinated by the exploration of behavioral science. I think if I had a little bit more of a left brain sensibility, I probably would’ve gravitated towards studying human behavior a bit more, perhaps even beyond graduate level studies.

But you know, in the marketing space I’m a big fan of folks like Roger Dooley and Martin Lindstrom, some of the others in our space that have tried to translate brain science into information that marketers can use, and your effort in your new book is certainly no less impressive. I guess my first question for you is, if we all know that understanding human behavior makes us more well informed marketers, why don’t we pay more attention to it?

[00:04:09] Nancy: That’s a great question. So I think honestly behavioral science is a little bit new to marketing, despite the fabulous work that people like Roger Dooley and know, Robert Cialdini and people like that are doing it’s still kind of new and when you start to get into it, you say, oh my gosh, it is tailormade for marketing because behavioral science is all about the study of why people do what they do, marketers of course are trying to get people to do certain things.

So it’s a marriage made in heaven, and yet a lot of times I think marketers just aren’t tuned into it, or they’re beginning to, I shouldn’t say that they’re but they’re slowly starting to get tuned into it. And, think sometimes we just, you know, we’re cruising along, we’re doing things the way we used to do them, we’re happy enough with the results and it doesn’t occur to us that maybe we should be doing something differently, and then when it does occur to us to do something differently, very often we look to technology, and not that there’s anything wrong with technology, but for my money, I’d rather look at human behavior and the crazy decision making shortcuts people use and the decision defaults that they rely on, cause I think we can get more bang for our buck that way.

[00:05:07] Jason: You’re absolutely right. So I guess, you know, marketing, whether it’s influence or marketing, which is a lot of what I talk about here, or influence marketing without the R or traditional advertising, public relations beyond all of it works better the more you understand your audience, but it’s far more than demographics. Why is behavioral science perhaps more important than the run of the mill market research, we’re all used to seeing?

[00:05:32] Nancy: So I think that, the demographics, the psychographics, the run of the mill research is certainly helpful, but where behavioral science adds to that is barrel scientists are studying, why people do what they do, and what they’re finding is that over the millennia, the human brain has evolved to conserve mental energy, and as a result, humans have developed certain, automatic, instinctive, reflexive behaviors and essentially, we cruise along through life on autopilot and when we encounter a certain situation, we just default to these hardware behaviors, giving them little, if any thought.

So that can be gold for a marketer to get out in front of that and to trigger some of these automatic behaviors. You know, if we know, for example, that if you put , two options in front of someone as opposed to one option, people are more apt to make a buying decision with the two options, for a marketer that’s like, oh my gosh, let’s put two options in front of them. Whereas in the past we might have said, well, we’ve got the perfect thing, the data is telling us that this is the right, marketing, message for this particular target, so we’re gonna just put it in front of them, here’s the product that you should be getting jason, it’s perfect for you, but if I give you a choice of two, you’re much more likely to make a decision than not.

So knowing how to trigger these automatic card wired behaviors is really incredibly helpful for marketers.

[00:06:44] Jason: Yeah, yes it is really counterintuitive coz if you’re given the choice of do you wanna buy this or not? Or if you’re given the choice of do you want to buy item A or item B, the statistics tell you that people buy more of item A and B combined than they would buy of the one item alone. It seems counterintuitive, but that’s the way the brain works, I guess.

[00:07:04] Nancy: Yeah, it does seem counterintuitive, I but I think what happens is the question goes from do I or do I not want this, to which of these two do I want? That’s kind of what happens, you know, but you would think, no, I mean, as you said, counterintuitive, someone’s gonna want it or they’re not gonna want it. What difference does it make if there’s another option? But it does make a difference. You’re absolutely right.

[00:07:21] Jason: Well, yeah. It takes away the option of not buying it at all, it’s like, do you want one or two? It’s not, Do you want none? And so, it’s funny how the brain works. So I guess we should start with the two sides, if you will, of everyone’s brain, and I don’t mean right and left. There’s the rational side and the emotional side, where are the buying decisions made?

[00:07:42] Nancy: So the buy decisions are happening on the emotional side, and then they’re later justified, with the rational side and so what happens is, people make the buying decision for emotional reasons. They justify that decision to themselves as well as to other people with the rational reasons.

So from a marketing perspective, what that says to us as marketers is we want both emotional and rational components to our messages. And we want that emotion there to prompt people to make the decision, and then we wanna supply the things that they can point to, justify it, to rationalize it.

There was a, researcher named Antonio Damasio, and he studied people who had sustained injury to the parts of their brain, that control emotion. And what he found was they were virtually impossible or, they found it virtually impossible to make a decision. They were virtually incapable of making a decision, even a decision as simple as, what would you like for lunch today?

They would go around and around and they couldn’t land, so we really need, as people, to access the emotional parts of our brain. So from a marketing perspective, that means we want emotion as well as rational selling points.

[00:08:40] Jason: So, what I just pulled out of that, correct me if I’m wrong, but when I asked my daughter in a few minutes what she wants to do for dinner, if she can’t make up her mind, it’s coz she’s got brain damage. Is that what you’re saying?

[00:08:51] Nancy: No, I’m sure there would be many other explanations for why someone can’t make up their mind, but, no, that’s very funny.

[00:08:57] Jason: I’m gonna use that against her though, and Nancy Harhut said this, and it’s gotta be true, so you’ve got brain damage, there you go, that’s my thing. So what are some of the ways through advertising and marketing and, and maybe even some social media marketing that a brand, or to our point, a brand working with or through a content creator, what are some ways that they can try to impact that emotional response? What are some best practices here for marketers to look for?

[00:09:23] Nancy: Sure, so I think there’s, you know, there’s a few of ’em if you’re trying to influence behavior, one thing that we can look towards is the notion of social proof. When people are uncertain of what decision to make, they look to others, they follow their lead, so if we can talk about the number of other people who’ve already made the same decision we’re asking you to make, if we can use customer testimonials.

Flag something is popular or fast growing. that’s a good thing to do because again, when people aren’t certain of what to do, they look to others, they follow their lead. Now, the flip side of that, or the opposite side of that is there are times when people don’t want to follow the crowd, you know, on the one hand it can make you feel, comfortable, safe, you’re not gonna make a decision, someone else has already done this so you can be pretty confident, it’ll work out for you. But on the other hand, there are times when people wanna stand out from the crowd, they don’t wanna think of themselves as, oh, I’m doing what everyone else is doing.

They wanna be the first to know something, the first to do something, so when that happens, then we wanna look at scarcity, the idea of exclusivity and the idea that not everyone else has done this. You’re one of the first, or you are the first, or we have information that only you have, but not a lot of other people have.

Or you can get access that not everyone else has, or you can have first dibs on something and that can be incredibly powerful. So, those are just two of several different ways, many different ways actually, that we can influence behavior, kind of applying what scientists thought about human behavior in order to, Influence it.

[00:10:44] Jason: Well, and if the people out there listening are paying close enough attention she mentioned scarcity, she mentioned social proof, and those happened to be two of Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion which when his original book Influence came out in 1984, there were six of them.

They’ve been updated now there’s seven of them. And let me see if I can get this right, I always muck this up coz there’s a seventh one now and I forget what it is, but it’s reciprocity, scarcity authority, consistency, liking. Social proof, and the new one is unity, which used to be consensus.

So those are the two of the seven that you’ve already mentioned, but when you’re thinking about some of those others, like, I mean, reciprocity I think is pretty easy for people to understand. I do something good for you, you’re gonna do something good for me. And so that’s where coupons and things like that come into play, but for authority and consistency and maybe even unity, what are some examples of how that brain science applies in these marketing mechanisms?

[00:11:43] Nancy: Sure, so, with authority we talked about social proof, it’s like, I’m not sure what to do, I’ll do what other people are doing. The other thing you do is when you’re not sure what to do, you look at what an authority says, because ever since we were kids, we’ve been taught to recognize and respect authority.

And if authority says, we should do something, we usually do it. So if you can pull in, you know, an expert in the field who has endorsed you, if you can say that you’re a member of the, American Dental Association, or you got the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, or, you know, anything like that, it conveys a certain gravitas, a certain, you know, outside expert has approved this, and that’s a good thing, we talked about authority, what was the other one you asked

[00:12:17] Jason: Consistency and unity are the ones I’m curious about.

[00:12:20] Nancy: Yeah, so for consistency, what they found is if you can get someone to do something once, they’re much more likely to do it a second time, a third time, a fourth time, and that’s particularly true if the first ask is relatively small and even more so if the answer is somehow public.

So what that means from a marketing perspective is, start small, if you can get someone to like you on Facebook, if you can get them to comment on a video if you can get them to maybe download a, free white paper, relatively small, but then you can start to increase your asks until you get to the big one, which is, hey, do some business with me, buy my product, sign up for my service, you know, so you just kind of, start small and escalate those asks.

And The idea of unity, which as you say is Cialdini’s newest one, is this notion that we have a tendency to say yes to people who are like us. So if there’s, something about the marketer or something about the salesperson that that you feel connected with, maybe you come from the same, town or you went to the same school or you’re both ardent environmentalists or, there’s just that sense that we’re in this together, I’m more likely to be influenced by and persuaded by somebody who’s like me because of that, sense of unity.

So it can be pretty powerful and, there are other ways that, we can use behavioral science to trigger behavior that I’m not sure Robert Cialdini included in his book, but you think about something like availability bias, where or people are likely to judge the incidents of something happening based on how readily they can recall an example so, after Hurricane Katrina, for example flood insurance sales shot right up,

[00:13:48] Jason: yeah

[00:13:48] Nancy: it was like, oh my gosh, we need flood insurance, and, they really increased, and then you know, over time is the memory of the hurricane and all the flooding that went with it, receded the number of flood insurance policies kind of dropped back to their original pre-Katrina base level.

But when we’re judging the likelihood of an event happening, the event is the product or service someone is selling, we think, well, I don’t know, could I use that? Would it make sense? So if we can get them to think of a time in the past when if they’d had our product or service, it’d have been great for them, or if we can get them to imagine a time in the future when they could see themselves benefiting from it, it’s a whole lot easier to get them to then say, Oh yes, I think I’m gonna need that.

[00:14:25] Jason: Yeah, that’s a great point, and back to your point on unity, I love the way that he, Dr. Cialdini kind of rephrased that because, unity to me is the one, although you can use social proof in a couple of the other ones in there too, authority as well, unity is the one that explains to me most best, why influence marketing is so powerful because the influencer’s audience sees a likeness in themselves in this particular content creator that’s why, they follow them, that’s why they’re fascinated with their content, with their worldview, their perspective on things.

And if brands understand that the unity is already there, and partnering with that content creator just you know, helps the brand, go through that creator to that audience even easier than they would through other channels of marketing and advertising that unity factor is really powerful, and that’s why I think influencer marketing works so well.

We are diving into brain science with Nancy Harhut, her new book is out and available all over the places. It’s called very simply, Using Behavioral Science in marketing. There’s links in the show notes at jasonfalls.com, but you can search for it on Amazon’s and elsewhere as well. When we come back, I’m gonna ask Nancy to put all this thinking through that filter of influence marketing a little bit and help us get smarter about what we do, don’t go away.

 Welcome back to Winfluence, Nancy Harhut is here talking about her new book Using Behavioral Science in a Marketing. Nancy, we were talking about the principles of persuasion before the break, I’m curious if you think those people who have emerged as influencers have done so primarily because they inherently either know or at least instinctively leverage those principles, which then builds the audiences that, you know, we brands covet so much in working with them?

[00:16:23] Nancy: Yeah, you know, that’s a good question and I suspect that the answer is both, you know, I think that some people just instinctively have a sense for what works or they stumble into it not unlike, traditional marketers and others, I think, our students are the craft, they study the game they find out, they do research and they, you know, they say, ah, I can use that, that applies, I’m gonna adjust, my approach based on this new information that I’ve obtained about behavioral science. So I think, some people just naturally fall into it or serendipitously fall into it, and others I think make themselves smarter and more effective by actually studying it.

[00:17:01] Jason: Yeah, absolutely. Okay, let’s design a little litmus test for people here. Let’s say that you are in charge of a brand and, you’re looking for content creators and influencers to work with, on the social medias, or in my vernacular, the more right influencers to work with, coz I think all influencers are right to some degree.

But are there indicators that you can look for within an influencers content, within their behavior, within how they engage with their audience, that illustrate that a content creator is in fact leveraging those principles of persuasion well. What are the signs we wanna look for to say, ooh, that person gets it?

[00:17:39] Nancy: Sure, I mean there are a number, but I’ll give you a few of behavioral scientists have found that people are more likely to do what you ask them to do if you give them a reason why, so I would look for creators who include that reason why and bonus points if in teeing up the reason why they use the word, because which has been identified by Harvard University professor named Ellen Langer as an automatic compliance trigger.

When we see or hear the word, because we just start to agree, before we’ve even processed the words that come after it, we’re so used to whatever comes after the word because, being a good, legitimate reason that we’re already agreeing, we’re already complying or saying yes. So I would look for creators that remember to put in the reason why, you know, whether or not they use the word, because they could cheat up a different way.

You know, they could say the reason is or do to, or therefore, or as a result, but having that reason why I think would be important. I would also look from a visual perspective, use of faces and eye contact because humans are hardwired to look at other people’s faces, particularly their eyes.

So I’d wanna make sure that in videos I was seeing that kind of eye contact, or I was at least seeing the strategic use of eye gaze where the creator might be looking at the product, because humans will look at other, humans’ eyes or they’ll follow their eye gaze.

So I would look for things like that, If a creator were doing any kind of a before and after or cause and effect, a video or, posting some kind of content, the closer together, the two items or the pictures of the items are the stronger the relationship people, will perceive there to be. So I would be looking for the creator to have those two things close together, not really far apart, not at one end of the page or the other, one end of the screen or the other but really close, because what that’s conveying to the person watching or the person consuming the content is, there’s a very close relationship there, and as a result, the product is effective because of it.

So I would look for things like that, that just indicate, the creator knows their way around human behavior and is kind of pulling all the right levers.

[00:19:37] Jason: That’s good stuff. You know, I’m just curious because you know, a lot of the things that you’ve talked about are, tricks that some, you know, advertisers have used in, you know, more traditional advertising, which is very different than influencer marketing content and social media content. But I’m just curious from your perspective, why do you think influencer types, individual content creators, are generally much better at attracting at and engaging audiences these days than brands are.

Brands seem to like fumble over all this content creation stuff, especially in the social world, whereas the individual content creators seem to have much more success there. I wonder if there’s something in the behavioral science, or maybe it’s what we’ve been talking about already, that might be an answer to that question?

[00:20:20] Nancy: Well, I think there’s a certain authenticity, when you’re dealing with a creator and not with a brand. I think from the recipient’s perspective, there’s a little bit of skepticism. The brand says something, we are a little bit more willing to write it off, it’s like, well, of course they say their product is good, they’re the manufacturer, you know, they have a vested interest in it.

Whereas you know, a creator it’s someone that’s like me or someone that I like, or someone that I admire, and so you’re just more likely to take their word for it. I also that, there’s a genuineness and authenticity and emotion that a creator can bring to the party that, you know, brands try to be emotional, some of ’em are better than others, but if you’ve got, you know, somebody who’s, legitimately jazzed about a particular product or service that comes through you, can’t really fake that, and and so I think people pick up on that.

And so when influencers are, you know, legitimately interested in and in embracing a particular product or service or brand it comes through and when people see that, they’re like, hey, I’m feeling that’s resonating with me, that person is like me, and there’s an authenticity and a trust that, kind of comes out of that. And I think that might be some of the reasons, at least why brands maybe are stumbling a little bit, whereas the influencers are not.

[00:21:32] Jason: Sure, the book is called Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, and Nancy, where can people find you on the innerwebs if they want to connect, and more importantly, where can they find this awesome book?

[00:21:44] Nancy: So, you can find me on, Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook, the agency that I co-founded is called HBT Marketing. HBT stands for Human Behavior Triggers and the agency website is H B T M K T G, we abbreviate marketing, so hbtmktg.com lots of, you know, case studies and thought leadership information on the site.

And the book was published by Kogan page, so you can find it at Kogan page. You can find it at Amazon, Target, Barnes and Noble, any place you know fine books are sold Using Behavioral Science and Marketing, drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses.

[00:22:21] Jason: Awesome links will be in the show notes to all those places, go get this, folks. It’s well worth the time and cost investment to get smarter using brain science. Nancy, thanks for making our brains smarter today, appreciate you being here.

[00:22:34] Nancy: Jason, it was my pleasure, thank you for having me.

[00:22:43] Jason: Love me some behavioral science. You should certainly check out Nancy’s book, we’ve got links to it in the show notes over at jasonfalls.com, just click on articles up top and look for the podcast post with Nancy’s smiling face. Good stuff, kind of influencer marketing’s little version of Mind Hunter, Criminal Minds for those of you who watch those shows.

Speaking of criminal, by the way, if you know someone who might enjoy this podcast but haven’t told them about it, well that should at least be a misdemeanor, right? Make your friends and colleagues smarter about influence marketing, tell someone who might wanna know more about it about this podcast, and send them to winfluencepod.com or share a link to this episode on your social network of choice.

If you have a moment, drop, Winfluence, or rating or review on your favorite podcast app, we are on them all. You can also help make a future episode of Winfluence awesome, ask your question about influence or influence marketing that you want my answer to or take on. Send an email to jasonfalls.com if you’re feeling adventurous.

Record a voice memo on your phone and email me that file, I’ll let you ask the question right here on the show using that recording. Winfluence is a production of Falls and Partners, technical production is by MPN Studios. Winfluence airs along the marketing podcast network. Thanks for listening, folks, let’s talk again soon on Winfluence.

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