Leveraging the 4 Human Behavior Characteristics for More Powerful DM Creative

One of the key differentiators between awareness advertising and direct marketing has to do with behavior change. With awareness, the message creators convey a feeling or attitude toward a given product or service.

For direct response creative teams, the task goes well beyond a good feeling and must elicit a specific action. The ultimate action is to prompt the target audience to buy the product.

This action cannot happen some time in the future. The action must occur immediately for the advertising to work. Simply repeating the same message over again does not work, because the second time, the same appeal generates even less response.

Unlike branding or positioning advertising, the so-called "build effect" does not save the day. Every dollar is trackable and accountable for specific results. The creative work lives or dies by the required results.

How does the creative team write copy that wins business and not just awards? The judge, jury and, in some cases, the executioner is the target audience that receives the message rather than peers or company executives. In fact, the creative team must listen to the voice of its true master --- the target audience.

Now that we have that strait, let’s look at the human behavior characteristics that increase the pulling power of the direct marketing creative professional’s tool kit.

Nancy Harhut, managing director of Hill Holliday Relationship Marketing made an eye-opening presentation at the most recent DMA conference that was recorded in Target Marketing Magazines archives and entitled “Live From DMA 07: Four Ways to Leverage Human Behavior.”
1.    People respond to authority figures.

“Social scientists have found that because we don’t have the time to research everything, we’ll defer to someone who appears to be an authority on the subject. Habitat for Humanity leveraged this behavior when it put Rosalynn Carter’s name in the corner card of its fundraising solicitation.”

Sometimes the best authority figures are not the famous, but people just like us who bought and used the product. Testimonials are one of the most underestimated and overlooked power tools available to direct marketing creatives. Use them frequently.

2.    Long copy is more trustworthy.

“According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, all things being equal, people are more apt to trust long messages over shorter ones—regardless of the quality of the information or whether they’ve even read it.”

I must admit that this rationale is new to me. MS Harhut further explains that long copy in and of itself implies truthfulness.

In my testing, long copy in ANY channel does out pull shorter copy.

But I think that it is not just the length, but the fact that if the copy supports the product promise and takes the time to explain all of product benefits, there is greater opportunity to sell the interested prospect on responding now.
Longer copy answers all potential questions and objections to enable the purchase.

Remember that in direct response, we are talking primarily to those prospects who are likely to buy now. We loose some who are not interested enough yet to purchase, but we still get that precious 1-3%  for a successful effort.

The more expensive the product and the more considered the decision, the greater the need for lengthy copy.

Many inexperienced online people and direct marketers are swayed into thinking that people are too busy to read anything. My answer to this ---test it thoroughly using A/B splits and compile the evidence as I have before refuting my conclusion that long copy typically out pulls short copy.

3.    The negative can be more compelling than the positive.

“Scientific studies have confirmed that the avoidance of pain can be a more powerful motivator than the achievement of pleasure.”

Isn’t it interesting that the truth often contradicts what the layman considers to be true without evidence?

How many times have you heard a client or manager say “That’s too negative. How can we win over anyone with a negative? Let’s turn that into a positive.”

The author uses this example from the direct response creative world.

“Boardroom Inc. has used this tactic to great success in its long-standing ‘What never to eat on an airplane’ control for Bottom Line/Personal.”

The learning here is not to fear the negative headline. People are driven to avoid loss and pain. Take advantage of this human behavior trait.

4.    People want what they cannot have.

“The psychological reactance theory, identified by psychologist Jack Brehm, states that when something interferes with our previous access to something, we’ll react against that interference by trying to get that thing more than ever. Think ‘Limit of two’ and ‘While supplies last.’”

Note how the iPod caused a frenzy of demand when it was new.(It still carries that cache). The novelty became a necessity. People wanted to follow the crowd for fear of missing an opportunity to own what someone else either had or might get. Customers even waited in line overnight in front of Apple stores to make sure they got one before supplies ran out. They also wanted to show their friends that they had one before others could say the same.

This desire works hand in hand with following leaders and others who buy into an idea, a product or service. If others in big numbers buy this, then it must really be good. I must own one too.

There are other drivers to action. Which ones should we add to this list?


Posted on December 11, 2007 and filed under Direct Response Creative.