How to nudge

When a brand is successful in gaining market share it shows up as small changes in buying propensity across many consumers.  Based on this empirical fact Professor Andrew Ehrenberg described successful advertising as ‘nudging’ (in contrast to persuading or converting).

Given this is what happens when advertising works, it’s odd when campaigns try to hit consumers with a sledgehammer approach – by this I mean some advertising campaigns ask for a leap not a nudge.  The whole idea of a USP is about hitting consumers with a super compelling argument why they should radically change their buying behaviour to favour that brand.  Trying to achieve a sort of religious conversion (there is even a market research product, the Conversion Model, based on religious conversion).

I suppose that some advertisers feel that a sledgehammer gives best chance of achieving a nudge, given that lots of other things may go wrong with the campaign (e.g. the media strategy).  But as most consumers aren’t going to make a huge change in their behaviour, and they know it, how do they react to claims telling them they should ?  For example, if you overtly tell people they are doing the wrong thing and should change.  The risk is that many people simply reject the message – they conclude that the message is wrong, not them.  Cognitive dissonance in action.

So it’s not true that USP sledgehammers necessarily produce bigger nudges.

If you want to nudge maybe you should ask for something small – ‘please consider trying our brand, it’s nice’.  Sounds wimpy but it fits with the behavioural evidence.  And explains why many soft image ads with no persuasion attempt can be highly sales effective.

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