Beliefs and burgers

It’s easier to get people to eat a burger than it is to convince them that eating burgers is a good idea.

Almost everyone, no matter how health conscious, will do or eat something that they know probably isn’t good for them. When we do this, we get a little uncomfortable. We have just done something that conflicts with how we view ourselves and, like Jiminy Cricket, up pops cognitive dissonance to make us feel bad.

In order to help us feel better we need to bring our action in line with our internal values, we can’t undo what’s done so we rationalise it to ourselves. “It was a one off, I hardly ever do it”, “I was hungry and didn’t have much time”. Suddenly we feel OK about it again. The interesting thing though is that, the next time we sin, the rationalisation is already available to us, so we don’t feel so bad. Now we can sin, whilst still holding on to our internal beliefs.

This effect doesn’t just apply to dietary transgressions. It’s an inbuilt mechanism to cope with situations in which we act out of step with our beliefs.

Many times in marketing we set off trying to change people’s attitudes and/or beliefs, which is a big ask. Maybe we should encourage our potential customers to try doing what we need them to, and our good friend cognitive dissonance will take care of the rest.

What can Chairman Mao teach us about optimising customer journeys?

In 1949 Chairman Mao faced a major behavioural problem in China. Around 4.4% of the population or 20 million people were addicted to opium. His solution was brutal, those who sold opium were executed. Addicts were offered a choice: abstain or be sent to labour camps. Millions were sent to camps from which many did not return. By 1951 opium addiction had been eradicated from China. But why were so many people, under the threat of death, unable to change their behaviour?

Behaviour change is hard at the best of times. We are programmed by evolution to keep doing what we’re doing once we find something that works for us. When addiction is involved that change becomes far more challenging. This is why addiction therapy is a great place to look when considering behaviour change models.

Models in addiction have evolved from simply locking addicts away, through the religion-based 12 step programmes from the early / mid 20th century, into powerful behaviour change tools like the Stages of Change model first described by Prochaska and Diclementi in 1983.

This model has been enhanced and further developed over the decades, taking in work from other sources. Because of that it is also known as the Trans-theoretical Model (TTM). It is now being effectively deployed across many types of behaviour change, often in health-related interventions.

TTM looks not only at the stage at which the subject is currently, it also considers the barriers to progress and what needs to be done to address them. This is vital to the creation of well-designed customer journeys that reflect the behaviour change that we are trying to effect.

Why wouldn’t we use a rigorous model that has stood the test of decades of use in the most challenging types of behaviour change?

This powerful tool can be harnessed to really enhance the power of your customer journey planning.

Contact us to arrange a discussion on how using the TTM model of behaviour change could really help your business.