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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The research interview process does more than merely ignore critical components of why people behave as they do, it changes how and what they think.

Consumer.ology by Philip Graves

The best briefs are when the creative team leaves the brief meeting with ideas already in their head.

If your brief is boring, or leaves the creative team with more questions than answers, or worst, demotivated, then your creative brief was a failure.

Include just enough information to spark creativity- you should be able to accomplish this in one page.

Today’s youth view content such as music as a form of free public service.

So business models that charge for access to content isn’t as lucrative or acceptable today as it was in the past.

Brands must take the changing generation’s beliefs into consideration.

Consider the cultural barriers preventing the consumer from hearing your message.

Because we know Millenials are looking to be curators of information, brands can reach them by helping them shine socially.

When I’m confronted with a brief, I think:

‘This could make me and the client famous.’

Sir John Hegarty for The Blank Sheet Project

Brands seek out new branding strategies for many reasons:

– An issue with their product or product line

– A bad reputation among users or in the press

– Prices

– Etc.

Therefore, the first questions you must ask are:

– What is my brand’s main problem/objective?

– What is the problem I want to solve?

– What is it about my brand that keeps me up at night?

Researching a product may uncover ‘hard facts,’ which is great. But sometimes you have to think around the product in order to come up with a unique idea or proposition.

There’s no point having a unique proposition that services no interest for the consumer: it needs to have something that would attract the consumers and generate a lot of potential sales (for example, a brand of car that comes in a unique shade of green is unlikely to be a unique selling point).

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.

Avoid ‘headline repeating visual’ (‘see-say’). This is one of the most common mistakes made by inexperienced advertising students, in which part of the headline (or the entire headline) is repeating what the visual is already communicating.

Brands have literally shut off the excitement that people need to feel when purchasing a product. By relying on flawed consumer research, brands have taken on a look of ubiquity and sameness that has lead to a generic perception of products.

This approach has emotionally disengaged consumers.

Brand Jam by Marc Gobé

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.

Research more than you could possibly need on each particular subject. Why? Because if you research only according to your first impressions on a project, or according to preconceived ideas about what you will finish up with, your end product will be constrained by the limites of your own conformity.

Finding new ways to sell a product requires a cetain amount of lateral thinking, and a considerable amount of original thinking. Once you have a clear strategy in place, you should be able to create multiple campaign ideas (or one shots, if required). Your job is then to pick the best one, or rather, the one that produces the best ads.

Consumers are not rational beings. There is an unconscious collective out there that is far beyond what we see in the marketplace. We barely understand the depth of the emotional vocabulary at our fingertips and people’s relationship with our natural environment.

Brand Jam by Marc Gobé citing Nicolas Mirzayantz

You can’t ask people what they want; most people don’t know or can’t or won’t say how they feel.

Brand Jam by Marc Gobé

People can associate colors to fragrances; an important insight when designing packaging.

Brand Jam by Marc Gobé

If you’re a small brand, you can be the first to own something big, but aside from the credibility issue, the other danger is that a bigger brand may come along and steal it.

That said, there are exceptions.

1.) By owning something big, this may create a perception that you’re bigger than you are.
2.) You may be able to own something big if you put a different spin on it.
3.) If the subject you wish to own takes a social, political or moral high ground, often a smaller, braver brand is more appropriate.

Strategic Planners need to cut to the chase. Out of a massive and growing quantity of information, of fact and impression, a planner’s job is to cull that one thought that will stimulate those working on an account. Planners need to respect complexity but without further complicating things. A simple brief can lay the foundation for a simple campaign. A complex brief cannot.

Jet>Lag by Jean-Marie Dru