How to Shape Human Behavior for Advertisers

How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition – Book Preface

Thanks to Olivier Massanella for helping with the print cover of this 2nd edition (paperback available on Amazon), and a very special thank you to the professionals who took the time to answer my questions for this 2nd Edition of How to Shape Human Behavior as well as those who didn’t make this edition but will appear in future versions.


How To Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Advertisers was published in 2014.

Originally, I set out to answer the question ‘How can startups create their own advertising campaigns on a budget?’ I envisioned a manual that outlined step-by-step the creative process professional advertising agencies use to create advertising campaigns. All my early research centered around answering this question.

However the more I researched, the more I realized that I was asking the wrong question; I was merely scratching the surface of a deeper, more important question. And so I felt compelled to deepen the focus of my research.

Humans prefer consistency and predictability. It’s evident in the products they repeatedly buy, the books they typically read, the beliefs they unquestionably defend. It shows in their logic and reasoning. In the short-term consistency and predictability make society run more smoothly. They make life easier and decisions safer. In fact, there are over a hundred other heuristics and cognitive biases that shape the way humans behave and make decisions.  How To Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Advertisers addresses each and every one of those biases from an entrepreneur’s perspective.

Why? Because successful entrepreneurs don’t sell products and services; successful entrepreneurs shape human behavior. And for entrepreneurs, shaping human behavior begins from inside the consumer’s mind. The more intimately you understand the mechanisms and complexities of human behavior, the more control you have over the future of your business decisions. In the hands of an entrepreneur, applicable knowledge of the human mind is priceless.

Whether you’re a new startup creating your branding strategy or an established business looking to add a fresh new perspective to your brand, How To Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Advertisers takes you step-by-step through every phase of shaping human behavior needed to build a successful, consumer-centered business.

An important note. How To Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition for Advertisers is intentionally written as a guide to building a successful business through understanding and using human cognitive weakness that shape human behavior. There will no doubt be times when the offensive and defensive strategies and techniques outlined herein will make you feel uncomfortable or go against what you consider to be ethical behavior. Humans don’t like the idea that they are being ‘manipulated’ into making decisions and giving their money to brands for any reason other than their own free will. But just because you may consider using this knowledge is unethical doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t mean that other entrepreneurs aren’t currently using them to their advantage. It is critical for you to be able to distinguish between manipulation and persuasion. More importantly, it is crucial that your consumers correctly distinguish manipulation and persuasion when it comes to evaluating your brand and integrity.

The research in this book is based on academic research and interviews and discussions with professional marketers and executives. Careful attention has been made to accurately cite every reference used. All references are denoted in superscript so you can both verify the research as well as conduct your own.

Another important note. Before implementing any of the advice outlined herein, always consider how your message will be perceived by your target consumer demographic as well as the short- and long-term positive and negative implications your actions will have on your brand image. Most importantly, never do anything that would cause consumers to feel like you’ve tricked them.

Joshua Smith

How to Shape Human Behavior 2nd Edition – Interview Index

The research in this book is based on academic research and interviews and discussions with professional marketers and executives. Careful attention has been made to accurately cite every reference used. All references are denoted in superscript so you can both verify the research as well as conduct your own:

  1. Rémi Noel, Creative Director for TBWA\Paris
  2. Dominic Dangerfield, Co-Director of Speechmark
  3. Céline LePrince, Digital Producer for Ogilvy
  4. Sabine Lenglet, Associate Director for TBWA
  5. Jean-Baptiste Daudet, Data Consultant for Ogilvy
  6. Ignacio Rodriguez, International Account Manager for TBWA
  7. Thomas Palugan, Data Consultant for Ogilvy
  8. Aurélie Chalaye, Account Manager for Ogilvy
  9. Hervé Thevenard, Financial Controller for Ogilvy
  10. Laurence Maas, International Coordinator for Y&R
  11. Sidavy Chau, Financial Controller for Grey
  12. Martine Meyer, Print Producer for TBWA
  13. Muriel Benitah, Account Director for Ogilvy
  14. Anne Cerutti, Account Manager for Ogilvy
  15. Siegrid Bourgois, Brand Division Leader for TBWA
  16. Derek Banas, Owner of New Think Tank
  17. Eric Holden, Executive Creative Director for TBWA
  18. Fatiha Sanhaj, Model Booker for Idole Model Management
  19. Sylvie Réveillard, Art Buyer for The Shop
  20. Joshua Waldman of Career Enlightenment
  21. Delphine Guerin, Executive Producer for Irene
  22. Sam Fajner, Regional VP of Client Relations for Teecom
  23. Tenin Coulibaly, Accountant for DDB
  24. Hervé Godard, Owner of Blake Magazine
  25. Daphné Claude, Co-Founder of Citigate Dewe Rogerson
  26. Steven Brinlee, Senior Creative Director for AR NY
  27. Lisa Ward, Senior Account Manager for Iris Worldwide
  28. Adrien Laugher-Werth, Co-Founder of EuroBusiness Media
  29. Heather Huhman, owner of Come Recommended
  30. Roc Chaliand, Editor of Ever Magazine
  31. Gézabelle Hauray, Project Leader for Havas Life Worldwide
  32. Aurélien Pécoul, Digital Consultant for Havas Worldwide
  33. Marie-Charlotte Lafront, Account Director for Being
  34. Pauline Gandaubert, Branding Consultant for Havas
  35. Bérénice Goales, Client Services Director for Wunderman
  36. Ian Swan, Independent Copywriter
  37. Kristel Pecnik, Content Director for Vivaki Performance
  38. Vivien Urtiaga, Digital Art Director for Grey
  39. Isabelle Nancy, Account Manager for JWT
  40. Benjamin Descazal, Data Consultant for KBMG
  41. John Foland, Independent Web Developer
  42. Ivan Pejcic, Strategic Planner for Ogilvy
  43. Matt Marrocco, Lead Industrial Designer for Streng
  44. Rory Sutherland, Exec Creative Dir & Vice-Chairman
  45. Arnaud Marullaz, Art Director for Y&R
  46. Marine Soyez, Art Director for Pixelis
  47. Cédric Quissola, Art Director for Y&R
  48. Akim Zerouali, Art Director for Y&R
  49. Olivier Hubinois, Account Manager for Pixelis
  50. Timoni West, Freelance Product Designer
  51. Gregory Ferembach, Art Director for Y&R
  52. Paul Johanet, Digital Account Executive for Being
  53. Julien Hérisson, Freelance Art Director
  54. Sophie Andresen, Owner and Curator of Neuromaencer
  55. Peter Spear, Brand Listener and Strategist
  56. Karen Rudel, Owner of Sight Seeker’s Delight
  57. Kevin Knight, President of Expatriate Party SAS
  58. Thomas Yve, Art Director for Being
  59. Derek Sivers, Owner of WoodEgg
  60. Emmanuel Lorry, Creative Art Director for CB’a
  61. Léa Stagnaro, Account Manager for CB’a
  62. Eric Auvinet, Copywriter for JWT
  63. Samantha Bilodeau, Data Miner for Ogilvy

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. How does the advertising process work?
  2. I want to hire a professional. How can I tell the good from the bad?
  3. What misconceptions do brands commonly have about marketing?
  4. How can I create my own inspiring creative brief?
  5. I have a small advertising budget, any advice?

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Naming is one of the most important parts of a branding strategy.

Brand Jam by Marc Gobé

The construct of an emotional identity is being able to define a brand’s two or three dominant emotions and their order of importance.

Brand Jam by Marc Gobé

The best web design is minimal, preferably invisible. Content is what matters, and web design’s only function is to give the visitor access to as much information as possible in the fastest, cleanest way.

A strategy only becomes a strategy if people in the organisation alter their behaviour as a result of it.

Freek Vermeulen. “So you think you have a strategy?” (via peterspear)

Since emotions are so potent, it is important to handle them carefully when trying to create an emotionalized brand strategy.

Emotions can make or break a brand, and once a mistake is made and you have an explosion, it can be very difficult to put the pieces back together.

The stronger the emotional territory, the longer the brand impact will be – for better or worse.

Emotional Branding by Marc Gobé

A person who prefers a preppy classical look might be a big fan of rap artists or find a safe emotional digression in rap that allows him or her to express a rebellious side.

In the nuances of a brand personality people find personal meanings.

Brand Jam by Marc Gobé

Arguably the hardest part of advertising is making the move from creating single execution one-shots to ideas that are big enough to work as a campaign, with numerous executions.

The maximum number of elements in a single print ad is six:

1.) headline

2.) sub-headline

3.) visual(s)

4.) body copy

5.) tagline

6.) logo

The best branding will not just solicit a community, but help it feel bigger, better, larger, and more robust.

Brand Jam by Marc Gobé

Provocation is not a brand strategy, just a short-term tactic to claim the spotlight.

Emotional Branding by Marc Gobé

An ad is a chance to grab someone and get him/her to buy your product. A line that requires a yes/no answer is always a gamble, because the wrong answer is immediately a lost sale. In this case, the ad has categorically failed to to its job.

If people remember your ad more for how it looks and sounds and feels than what it’s saying, that’s when style has overtaken substance; execution has overtaken concept; and brand has overtaken benefit.

But sometimes you have little or no choice: ‘advertising is the USP’ is perhaps a brand’s last resort in a sea of parity products.

It all depends on how good your ads are.

A unique selling proposition, or unique selling proposition (USP), is the ultimate proposition because it’s one that no other competitor can claim. Of course it has to be something that you could also sell from. Most products are equal, generic, parity products and therefore do not have an obvious USP.

The tone of voice should be evident. In fact, it’s really important that each execution within a campaign has the same tone of voice throughout. If not, it creates a lack of brand integrity, and the consumer will be left feeling confused, even cheated. You can always change it or refine it later. But once it is defined, you mustn’t stray from it.

Print advertising is considered to be advertising’s hardest creative discipline, especially compared to broadcast (TV and radio). Think about it, a print ad has to communicate an idea in a few seconds rather than thirty, the images can’t ‘move’ or use sound like in TV, and it has to compete with the interesting newspaper and magazine articles right alongside it.

Tone of voice. The ‘tone’ of an ad is often dictated by the product’s target group, and/or by the product/brand itself. Usually described in one adjective or more, the tone of voice should be an extension of the values of the brand itself, and should therefore not contradict these values too much.

Headline only, visual only, or headline and visual. The other components might include the product shot/logo, sub-headline, body copy, and tagline.

What happens when there’s no obvious unique selling proposition (USP), you can’t find a USP, and there’s no SP you can own first?

At this point, your advertising itself becomes the USP. It’s the advertising that sets one totally generic product from another, defining your brand while underplaying (and even ignoring) the common generic benefit.

Here the advertising needs to break new ground, exhibiting more imagination, flare, and showmanship than its competitors.

The more unusual the execution, the greater the impact will be.

A poor strategy is virtualy impossible to work from. The three biggest culprits in a poorly devised strategy statement tend to be:

1.) the non-single-minded proposition

2.) the lack of credible suppot points

3.) the undefined target audience.