The Latest Neuromarketing Insights

The Ultimate Weapon to let People Embrace a New Product or Habit

Relevant topics Archive, Conversion

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    People are more likely to change their buying habits when they experience social proof that change is needed.
  • Application:
    By offering your customers a cue that the world is changing and a social example that your product suits this change, the customer is more likely to buy the product.
  • People love routines. Of course, we like to think that we all make well-considered choices. But as a matter of fact, most of the time we are slaves to our own habits. This makes psychological sense, because why spend your precious time deliberating on your options and getting distracted by unnecessary details, if you can also apply a working recipe and go straight for the best result?

    However, the world around us evolves. Companies launch new products. Governments introduce new policies. And as we grow older, we gain different responsibilities. This poses a challenge to advertisers and marketers, as the consuming public is generally less enthused to adopt a new habit. Why did all pioneering tablets fail miserably, before a giant named Apple made the concept successful? Why do twenty-somethings refuse to think about a retirement fund, even though it’s in their future best interest?  People don’t always realize the world (i.e. the new situation, the product or the policy) has changed, which leaves them using an old routine.

    So we need something to shake up people’s minds; a Cue for Change. Researchers realized that a Cue for Change might just encourage the person to consider an alternative choice and deviate from his or her habits.

    Imagine this: you just bought a new laundry detergent and have been happily using it for months (routine) until you suddenly notice that your favorite leopard striped pajamas have lost all its colors and doesn’t resemble the fierce predator that you are anymore. There’s your cue for change right there. Make way for a new laundry detergent!

    The secret to breaking habits: Cue for Change

    So how exactly does this type of decision-making occur? First of all, there is the situation in which you need to make a decision. This will automatically trigger the following analysis in your mind: “has the world and thus the situation changed and must I therefore make a new choice?” or “has the world not changed and can I therefore use my old and previously successful routine?”.

    This ‘inner battle’ between the old and the new is quite effective in itself, but as marketers we would like to point it towards the new. So what better way to boost this process than providing a Cue for Change.  Psychologists have recently discovered a particularly effective Cue for Change: Social Proof, which will likely ring a bell amongst most marketers as an influence technique by Robert Cialdini.

    Social Proof simply refers to the fact that people are particularly influenced by the behavior of similar others. When used as a Cue for Change, you would let another person tell or demonstrate a different choice and its more beneficial outcome.

    Research has shown that these cues in the form of Social Proof are especially effective when it comes to changing longer standing routines. In other words: the products they buy and the habits that guide them trough life.

    Life is filled habit-debunking social proof. For example, a friend shows you that it is better to buy your groceries at a different supermarket because it’s cheaper. But how can marketers and advertisers harness this same power?


    We all know the advertisements where we are bombarded with ‘brand new products’, supposedly to attract our attention and make us buy this product…

    But as we just saw, ´NEW´ doesn´t always attract us. What you and I need is the knowledge that we actually need to choose the New. In other words, we need a Cue for Change that tells us something in the world has changed and therefore we need this product. In your ad campaigns, set the stage by stressing how our ever-evolving world asks for a new product or habit. Secondly, add social proof in the form of vivid testimonials, stories or sexy statistics.

    How to change product purchase? The ipad case

    So, why did the iPad thrive so well in a market that every analyst pronounced dead for years?

    As we all know, Steve Jobs was a living and breathing cue for change the moment he walked on stage. He didn’t just launch new things – he made new things necessary. Add to that a nice big chunk of social proof, naturally surrounding the widely endorsed Apple brand, and you get the ideal recipe for new products and habits to take root.

    How to change behavioral habits? The IBAN case

    How to motivate people to use the same product but in a different manner – let’s say, to switch from their short old fashioned bank account numbers to the newly introduced IBAN? In this case you ask your customer to change his or her routine.

    A very clever  – but unused – strategy in this situation would have been the use of Social Proof. The campaign consisted of traditional commercials with a voice over announcing the upcoming changes. The switch to IBAN met with tremendous public disapproval. The campaign would’ve probably succeeded better had it shown everyday people telling the necessities and benefits of IBAN.

    Take-Home Points

    • A Cue for Change encourages the customer to consider an alternative and deviate from his or her routine
    • Social Proof = another person promoting a different and more beneficial choice
    • Social Proof is especially helpful in changing a routine
    • Social Proof is an especially powerful form of a Cue for Change and is a great marketing weapon to stimulate purchase of a new product and/or adoption of a new habit
  • The Ultimate Weapon to let People Embrace a New Product or Habit
  • Reference:

    Betsch, T., Lindow, S., Engel, C., Ulshöfer, C., & Kleber, J. (2015). Has the World Changed? My Neighbor Might Know: Effects of Social Context on Routine Deviation. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 28(1), 50-66.


    Further Reading

    • These are the 7 most interesting neuromarketing insights of 2015

      These are the 7 most interesting neuromarketing insights of 2015

      I vividly remember reading a cool article last year.  Scientist found that words that sound alike could trigger the same brain areas. Specifically they found that ‘bye now’ and ‘buy now’ were closely linked together. It was good to know that the hidden gems from the scientific journals still found their way to us marketers. But after that it got quiet. Where was I going to get those latest juicy insights? 

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