Advertising for Behavior Change is Different.
This story starts with a CMO getting fired, two months into a hundred million dollar campaign.
Fired, after hiring one of the best agencies in the business.
The campaign was expensive to produce. The whole team was so excited that they added a million dollars to the production budget to produce an additional spot.
The goal of the campaign was to recruit more users and activate them.
And here’s the rub – from the day it launched, this campaign drove recruitment numbers down.
Down is what led to out.
The CMO had been a strong marketer, with a record of selling consumer packaged goods, and sweet and salty snacks. But this was a different kind of organization – a behavior change marketing company.
The problem was, this company didn’t understand that they were in the behavior change marketing business.
All the senior leaders came from private equity or packaged goods.
Yet this company had a mission to help people improve their wellness. It did so through memberships and subscriptions with a heavy component of education and community.
A year earlier, our friend and former client had gone over to this company to work for the now-former CMO.
Our friend also had a package goods marketing background. To help our friend succeed in his new role, we told him,
“You’re playing a whole new game now, and this game is different. It’s behavior change marketing. That means recruiting members, selling subscriptions, building relationships, smoothing out gaps, drags, and blocks in the membership experience, designing for motivation and momentum at each moment, building a community. You’re playing the long game now.”
He listened politely and then said, “I think you’re right, but I’m new here. My boss has a plan. Let’s see how it goes.”
A year later, after the failed campaign and selling season, we got the call.
“The game plan you were telling me about… I need that now. And I don’t have much time to show a success.”
Behavior change must be taken in steps. It is a series of actions.
Actions are the result of motivation and ease coming together at the same time. The brand can help drive motivation, while design informed by behavioral science can reduce friction and complexity.
Solving the wrong behavior problem at the wrong time is too common. In the true story I told at the top of this post, the failed campaign aimed to recruit new members but focused on a promise to help them through the challenging times down the road.
After that decision, nothing else really mattered. The wonderful creativity of the agency people who worked on the campaign didn’t matter. The amazing production values and gorgeous editing of the spots didn’t matter.
The brilliant integration across platforms, digital and traditional advertising didn’t. The excellent media planning and buying only served to spread the fatal message virus. The wonderful public relations program only ensured that failure would be a famous one.
If you are in the business of helping people make better decisions or form more empowering habits, you are in the business of behavior change. Whether healthier, wealthier, wiser, kinder, saner, calmer, less anxious, better for the planet, happier, fitter, more resilient, a better citizen, better educated, or even just better entertained, if you are helping people to become better versions of themselves, you are in the business of behavior change.
If you are disrupting a category, you ask people to make a different decision and build a different habit. You are in the business of behavior change.
If you are working at a non-profit trying to scale positive impact, you are in the business of behavior change.
Marketing, branding, advertising, design, content, and community building for behavior change are different.
When marketers are new to behavior change, their agency contacts aren’t truly knowledgeable about the full range of behavior change marketing skills.
Most agency experience is still packaged goods experience. Shallow strategic thinking about awareness and preference may be appropriate for driving decisions between adjacent cans of soup on a grocery store shelf. This level of thinking is misapplied to behavior change
That’s why assembling a team to tackle these challenges is different too. When you work with the right team, you can achieve amazing and important things.
We can help great marketers become successful behavior change marketers. CEOs and Investors bring us in or recommend us for exactly this purpose.
This story has a happy ending.
We got to work with our friend on this brand and put in twelve quarters of record revenue growth before he left to take the CMO job at another company where his now proven behavior change marketing chops would be highly valued.
Of course, he hired us to work there too, so we got another great brand to work on. And the new management of the now successful first company have been great clients to us ever since.
Increasing recruitment led to over five million people enjoying the life-changing benefits of our client’s excellent service.
As one of our clients likes to say, “Now that ain’t salty snacks.”
About DiMassimo Goldstein (DiGo)
DiMassimo Goldstein (DiGo) is a Behavior Change Marketing agency, trusted by sophisticated marketers and committed change agents to understand complex situations quickly and to bring forward highly-effective creative solutions.
DiGo helps life-changing brands grow by helping people make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits.
The brand, advertising and design agency’s clients, from start-ups to blue chips, have built legendary brands that inspire action.
DiGo is applied behavioral scientists, growth strategists, brand planners, designers, writers, marketers, data storytellers, technologists, social and digital media experts, project managers, producers, artists and brand leaders – all of them change agents.