Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Persuasion Marketing: Driving behavioral changes

Dr. BJ Fogg from Stanford University (establishing authority here!) has a model for driving behavioral changes. 


The Fogg Behavior Model


Under the Fogg model, for someone to take an action, three elements must come together:

  1. Motivation to take the action (I want to do it)
  2. The ability to take the action (I can do it and it’s easy to do)
  3. A trigger to make them take the action (I am compelled to take this action by the words “click here” or “buy now”)


If no action is taken, then at least one of these elements was not present, or there was friction that prevented them from completing the action.. 


Friction is described as a characteristic that makes taking an action less desirable. Filling out a 100 question form starts out easy, but by question 12, you look down and see all the other questions, immediately losing the will to complete it… that’s friction. But that’s also probably because you were not incentivized enough to fill out a 100 question form. Now if we switched it up and said, “Fill out this 100 question form and you could win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas with first class flight tickets and unlimited open bar”… you’d fill that out in a heartbeat. 


It is important to take the time to increase people’s motivation before you even look at asking them to take any action. The higher the motivation, the less effect friction will have on people. 


Knowing this, e-commerce sites do what they can to make checking out easier. They store your credit card information and billing and shipping address, because if you had to pull out your credit card and type it out every time you had to make a purchase, you would not buy as many items. By storing that information, they are able to reduce friction drastically, and by extension, you are more likely to take the action (looking at you, Amazon). 


Elements of Behavior

A standard formula for behavioral decisions is: Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger.


The trigger is important to get people to take action; however, you need to make sure that taking the action is as easy as possible and that the target audience’s motivation is high enough.



When a user lands on your site, technically they are already slightly motivated to take the action you want them to take–after all, that’s why they are there in the first place. Your job now is to increase this desire to take action. BJ Fogg’s outline for motivation consists of three things:


1: Pleasure/Pain

With this motivator, the result is immediate. People respond immediately to what is happening, giving in to their primitive responses: hunger, sex, and self preservation. The efficacy of this motivator is why businesses are increasingly using gamification as a sales tool. Users experience pleasure when leveling up or earning points and badges, making them take instant action. In cases where video advertisements are employed, the pleasure of continuing to play the game makes them watch the video to get an additional life.


  1. Hope/Fear

This motivator looks at the anticipation of an outcome: hope that something good will happen, or fear that something bad will happen. Insurance is a good example. You accept the pain of buying car insurance in order to overcome the fear of crashing your car. Other examples are the hope of joining a dating website or the fear when purchasing antivirus software.


  1. Social Acceptance / Rejection

This one is big and impacts everything from how we dress to how we speak. We are social creatures, conditioned to take actions that increase our likability or social acceptance and avoid ones that make us socially undesirable. Even on social media, we only post the best pictures to project the favorable parts of our lives.



Ability is more important than motivation. If I am committed to eating healthy, but there is never any healthy food around when it’s time for me to eat, in most cases I will eat unhealthy food simply because that is what is available. The more work I have to do to take an action or to understand what is being asked of me, the less likely I am to do it.



Without the right trigger, the action will never occur. A trigger is what prompts you to take a specific action. It’s basically a call to action, but you need to sequence your triggers correctly.  Think back to commitment and consistency from Cialdini’s 7 principles. Start with a small commitment and gradually lead up to a large action. 


With this in mind how will you go back and change your existing landing pages?

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