Basal ganglia, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and alpha waves…wait a minute, did I take a wrong turn in the vast Las Vegas Venetian Hotel last week and end up at a neuroscience event? It appears not, but it’s interesting to me that some of the speakers included these very words in their presentations. And what is most intriguing is they came during Experian Marketing Services’ 2012 Digital Summit, which is an event for marketers. One of the overarching themes of the Summit was that in order to be “customer obsessed” marketers need to look into the minds of consumers and understand their habits and behaviors.
Such advice came from Charles Duhigg, The New York Times investigative reporter, who gave a talk from his latest book, The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. Looking very much like a professor, Duhigg recounted the considerable time and millions of dollars that consumer products giant, Proctor and Gamble spent to develop their billion dollar product line, Febreeze.
The story involves a scientist who discovered an odor killing chemical and the P&G marketers who tried, and nearly failed, to turn that innovation into a successful home cleaning product. It turns out you can’t sell stuff to people by telling them their houses stink! P&G’s fortunes turned, as Duhigg illustrated with both scientific rigor and humorous anecdotes, on the fact that we have formed habits controlling nearly half of our daily actions and that Febreeze was a perfect reward for people who take great satisfaction in cleaning.
The habit loop, as Duhigg described it – Cue, Routine, Reward – is a simple yet powerful reminder to marketers that we need to plug into consumers’ existing rituals in order to create experiences that will surprise and delight…the keys to customer obsession. And as Duhigg’s examples illustrate, the consumer insight necessary to understand those habits is derived from careful consideration of consumer attitudes and behaviors.