Behavioral Science and Digital Marketing

by Mischa McInerney

Posted on Jul 23, 2021

In front of the microphone this week is DMI's own head of marketing, Mischa McInerney. Her particular passion is the psychology of marketing and she chats with Will Francis about all aspects on the "Why", covering  examples of some key brands who have benefitted from smart application of the science.

Podcast Transcript - Behavioral Science



Will: Welcome to "Ahead of the Game," a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. This episode is a big Q&A, where we explore an area of marketing through a leading industry expert. And this is our last episode before we take a summer break, so no episodes during August. But we'll be back in your podcast feed soon enough with the next episode dropping on the 3rd of September. Well, I'm your host Will Francis, and today, I'll be talking to Mischa McInerney about behavioral science and digital marketing, how we can resonate more strongly with audiences and then drive customer action, improving trust in our business, and ultimately growing revenue. Mischa is the Chief Marketing Officer here at the Digital Marketing Institute. She has over 20 years experience in various different countries, industries, and roles around the world, including hosting a cooking show on Japanese television, co-founding an email marketing company in Australia, and running her own marketing consultancy in Ireland. She later worked in key roles and major energy and banking firms before landing here at the DMI nine months ago. Hi, Mischa. Welcome to the podcast.


Mischa: Oh, thank you, Will. Great to be here.


Will: It's great to have you. I am very interested in talking about psychology and marketing, is something that I think everyone is naturally very curious about. And it's something that lots of people ask about in workshops. I think, you know, people have this idea that there are very certain colors that promote action or certain words and that these hacks are like the sort of secret recipes kept somewhere in a vault in the smartest marketing agencies. Is that true? Are there little kind of nudges and little rules that act as hacks? Or is it actually a bigger, deeper thing than that? That we have to think a bit harder?


Mischa: Yeah, I think it's twofold to be honest with you. I think there's a lot of tactical stuff that you can do in marketing that will...looking at the why behind people's decisions, understanding the why, and then actually implementing tactics that will actually influence their decision and buy your product. So there's that, yeah, definitely tactical stuff. But then there is the more meaningful why, which is more about if you really understand the problem that your customers face, and understanding the issues that they face and solving that using behavioral science, I think that's really powerful in terms of changing brand perception, and brands. And I think that's where the behavioral science and marketing can be really, really powerful.


Will: That's interesting. And just to frame it before we get into more detail, is that a very long-term thing? Or are there ways we can work on that in relative short term?


Mischa: If you try to do it at a very surface level, it will be just that because there are some examples of brands that are using it at a very surface level, and it doesn't have depth. And I think that's the difference between brands that are doing purpose-led marketing well, and brands that are not doing it well. So if you start to dabble in it, it'll look really superficial. It'll look fake, and people see right through it.


Will: What would be an example of a very superficial dabble? Are we talking about just little tweaks in the way we write copy and present our imagery and things?


Mischa: No. I think, like, if you look across any of the banks in the world, right? All of them have financial well-being, wanna help our customers prosper, right? To be honest with you, it's just a bad choice. So if you look at a company that did it tactfully and it didn't have any lasting impact on the brand, it was just a gimmick. And Westpac did that. And it worked well as a tactic to be honest with you, but they had this thing. So they looked at a problem in New Zealand, and they said that $16 million was being wasted a day on impulse purchases. And they said, "Okay, well, if you can impulse purchase and waste all that money," I think they were 23rd out of 29 in OECD in terms of their spending and their lack of saving. So Westpac had that insight. Well, you know, we wanna improve people's financial well-being, so we'll help them save more. So they turned the impulse spending on its head and became impulse saving. And they developed this big red button, that every time you take your phone out of your pocket, you could do impulse save, or, you know... So it was cool. There was a big red button. There's a lot of advertising around it like bus shelter advertising with the big red button. So it was really, really good.


Will: It's quite gimmicky, but quite an effective tactic and an effective little kind of mechanism to put into people's lives.


Mischa: Yeah, and it was really effective in terms of increasing savings. And I suppose it did actually have an element of behavioral science to it because if you say to someone, "I want you to save $150 per month," people are gonna go, "No, I can't do that." But if you tell them to save $5 a day, then that's a different...that's easier. And they can chug it down, they can do the mental arithmetic to see what that would mean. So like a coffee and a chocolate bar, for example. So that's what they were playing on, and they hit that big red button, and you can save your money. You can put whatever denomination you want. I suppose it was tactical, it was effective at the time. But it wasn't lasting because there wasn't a whole architecture behind it that actually went to improve people's financial well-being at a deeper level. So that's what I mean by the tactical stuff. It had improvements. They were temporary. And it helped people but it was more gimmicky than enduring in terms of brand.


Will: Yes, true. And I think just from a psychology point of view as well, that reminds me of some of the stuff that comes up in one of the best-selling books in the last few years, something called "Atomic Habits," a book called "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. And yeah, he talks about that, like he talks about successful salespeople having like a jar, a big empty jar on their desk, and they just put an object like a marble or a stone in the jar for every sales call they make, and just seeing the jar fill up, and actually performing a physical action and the satisfaction of that. And it's like this kind of psychological hack to surmounting what sounds really daunting like you gotta make 200 sales calls. But to boil it down to everyone, a bit like the kind of $5 a day thing. It's those kinds of ways that we can actually promote behaviors that otherwise feel like they're impossible to promote through marketing, right? And appealing to people's, yeah, behavioral tendencies, I suppose.


Mischa: Yeah. I think what's interesting in that book is that they don't try and get you to...or he doesn't try and get you to create a new habit cold turkey. What he does is try and attach it to a habit that you already have like brushing your teeth. "So after I brush my teeth, I will do this," you know, and that makes it more lasting. So for example, you go to a physio, and they tell you, "You need to do these exercises," right? But then physios were using it to actually say, "Okay, after your dinner, sit down and do this." So it was something that you already did as part of your day. And that was the mental trigger for you to go and do those exercises every day. So they went through your day and picked a mental trigger that you could add those behaviors on to.


Will: And yeah, you're right, sort of tethering it to things that you already do. It's interesting. And I think that's good. So that sort of hopefully illustrates to listeners the kind of stuff we're talking about, is working with the firmware already running in our brains. And I suppose to take that analogy further, creating software that's compatible with it rather than a lot of messaging out there, which just isn't. It's telling people to do stuff that's not right for them, they will never do. I mean, of course, that's been a huge challenge in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to get people to use the apps and get vaccinated and all kinds of things.


Mischa: They actually ran a bit of an experiment in the U.S. and when they personalized the vaccine. So instead of saying, you know, "Come get your vaccine," right? It was, "Mischa, we have a vaccine here for you." It actually increased the uptake, which I thought was interesting. So it was personalizing. So again, kind of creating that sense of attachment.


Will: Yeah, personalizing and humanizing things. I mean, I don't mean to just keep pulling out random examples, but it's like the whole thing about how when you drive past construction works on the motorway now. They have life-size cardboard cutouts of construction workers saying, you know, "Keep me safe." I even saw one that was a thing with some life-size cutout of some kids and like, "My daddy works here, keep him safe."


Mischa: Yeah, I saw this.


Will: You know, and it's actually looking into the eyes of a cardboard cutout. Even though it's just a cardboard cutout, it's like, "Oh, you know, I feel like I'm being watched or I'm being...I'm more accountable for my actions here." And similar to that, a vaccination text like when it's addressed to you, is like, "Oh, this isn't just some anonymous cold bot, some dumb bot. Like they know who I am. I feel more accountable and more like... It appeals to the part of your brain that wants to do the right thing for other people."


Mischa: Yeah. They did that in Japan and rather they did an experiment between speed cameras and plastic dummies of police. And so they did speed cameras, which didn't have a material impact in speed reduction. But when they did these, they dropped these various different plastic dummies that looked like policemen all around various different areas where there was big speed infringements, and that had a better impact because people had this kind of sense of duty, you know, and also that kind of guilt, I suppose. They did, also another study is when you give customer service agents a ribose name, people were nicer to them. But what I think is...and I think Amazon do customer experience really, really well. But they call their bots or even their chat agents associates, which is really dehumanizing. Like, "We'll put you through to an associate." It's like, "Really?" So are they gonna be bots in the future and they can just continue to use that language? You know, I think it dehumanizes us.


Will: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, look, that's been the big challenge. And anyone listening that works for a company knows that a big challenge in the last 10 to 15 years has been humanizing brands. And I think the pressure was really put on us when social media became a mainstream channel because we suddenly had to create this whole other brand voice, this whole other approach to customer service, this whole other way of talking about our products and services because we were doing so on platforms that were originally designed for us to just keep in touch with our friends. And brands couldn't just steam in with their corporate style and tone. And not that, but that keeps moving in that direction because now we've got lots of even more casual types of social media like TikTok and stories and open forums like Clubhouse and things like that. And then bots and sort of semi-human, semi-personalized conversations and all kinds of things. So, I mean, where do we start in surmounting that challenge? If someone's listening and thinking, "How do I humanize my brand?" Well, are there some go-to ways to do that?


Mischa: I think you have to be authentic. And I don't think you can have borrowed equity.


Will: Interesting, borrowed equity. Talk to me about that.


Mischa: Yeah. Borrowed equity is when you try and get the equity of some thing or someone already in existence, and try and borrow the equity of. And I think the biggest example of that is probably pride. You're borrowing the equity of pride, and you're sticking the pride logo on your corporate logo, and you're borrowing that equity that people see right through that, that they don't like that corporate badging of pride. I think one of the biggest things in brands is to be authentic. I think the other thing is try and find a problem that your customers face that is close to their heart, I suppose, and that they care about, and try solve it with them. That is authentic. That, you know, I think Patagonia do that really well. They care about the environment, everything that they do. And it's about the environment, and their clothing is sustainable. It's not, you know, the landfill fashion that exposes promotion today. So everything that they do is about the environment. And you can feel a sense of purpose in that. And I think that's a differentiating factor. It's discovering the why, solving something that people care about and working on it together. So that people feel that they're contributing to that problem, be it for themselves or actually for society that they are helping.


Will: Oh, that's interesting. That's interesting. That's a really good point. Yeah, I think that people like to get behind brands that they believe are a positive force in the world, right? So whether it's environmentally sustainable brands, whether it's brands like Toms, you know, the shoe brand, who they give a pair of shoes to the developing world for every pair of shoes you buy. But also I think I probably bring them a lot in the podcast, but there's about an American beauty brand called Glossier. I mean, their tagline is skin first, makeup second. And they are all about real women, real people making the best of their actual self with just quality, not trend-driven, just down-to-earth quality makeup, right? And there's even a brand like that, they're not talking about sustainability, or environment, or social good, or anything like that, but they've got a clear mission. And by spending money with them, you feel like you're sponsoring something better than was there before.


Mischa: I think if you unpick that, what...and you were looking at the why for that brand. You know, and you ask people, "Well, what do you struggle with with buying makeup?" And they say like, "Well, when I put it on, my skin just breaks out." And I know that if I'm wearing...if I don't give myself a break from makeup, then I'll get like spots or my skin won't be good. But when I do give my skin a break from makeup, it actually is better. And I think that's a problem that actually they may have solved in their branding, and that it's about the skin. And then it's about the makeup. So it's kind of reversing it, you know, because some of the other brands say, you know, "And it's good for your skin, but actually it's a bolt-on." And you don't believe it when they come out with skincare then because they started first with makeup, and they didn't make you believe that it was good for your skin. Yeah, I think that's really interesting.


Will: Oh, that's what they did. They're famous for it. They source the ideas for most of their products from customer groups. They invite customers in in a very, very open way. They share product development quite openly. But I think a lot of those things are markers of a truly modern brand. And, you know, we do live in a more...well, I was gonna say in a more transparent world. It's not that. We live in a world that demands more transparency of us as companies. We live in a world where consumers are inquisitive. They're curious about, "Okay, so what I sponsoring here when I spend money with that company?" And that's why, you know, when I talk about purpose in my workshops, some people do say things like, "Oh, come on, don't say I've just gotta kind of do all the greenwashing stuff just to kind of go along with it all." Well, no, of course, it's not to do with that. It's to do with the fact that people genuinely care what sort of company you are when they hand over money now. So it's on you to decide that, not to just jump on trends like pride, and environment, or whatever it is. It's to go, "No, who are we? And what do we really care about?" And often for founders, it's about why did you set this company up? Like, what would be the ideal place this company occupies in the world, and its role in the world, and in the future of the world? They'll ask us those big questions, you know?


Mischa: Yeah. I don't know if you're familiar with Naked Wines.


Will: No.


Mischa: No. Okay. So they find independent vineyards. So you will never get any of these wines in any kind of supermarket or anything. So independent vineyards. And they will buy their wine directly from them. But there's a forum then. You can ask them questions about soil, about how they're growing process, and they'll keep you up to date. And they'll take pictures of it and you feel part of the process. But I've actually seen some of the people interacting on the forums going, "I actually don't think the yield is gonna be good this year. And I don't think it's gonna be as good as last year." And people were like, "Well, I've already ordered mine. And I'm gonna stick by it because I feel part of it." And I think that's amazing. And it's also mean that, you know, the supermarkets are coming in and working this big levy on it and taking most of the profit. It's going straight to the winemaker. And there was another...there was a lady who actually was working in a vineyard in South Africa. And she decided to set up by herself and the crowdfunder chat is set up by herself. And she became the first female winemaker in South Africa to get accreditation, and this was totally crowdfunded by this community. And I just thought it was was brilliant because you feel involved in it. It feels like there's a real purpose behind what they do in promoting small winemakers and helping you feel part of that process.


Will: Yeah. It's interesting, isn't it? Yeah. As you're saying that, a lot of this stuff speaks to the way that people feel about companies. And that is traditionally what we've talked about when we talk about brand, you know, the sentiment that people have towards companies. But I suppose because of modern marketing techniques, and we're just becoming more advanced in general in the way that we think about things, I suppose that's why that has become more reliant on behavioral science, working with our natural tendencies as humans like the example you've talked about where people love to kind of get together around something, congregate around something that they have in common. And then, yeah, love to see them elevate someone into that position and do it together.


Mischa: And feel part of their success. It's amazing.


Will: Feel part of it. Yeah. I mean, that's the whole thing about brand purpose, isn't it? You know, define your mission, and then put the call out, who wants to be on this mission with us? That's often how I describe it to people, as Simon Sinek says, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." And once you state your mission, either explicitly or not, just, you know, however you communicate it, that's like a beacon. And the people with whom that resonates will just...they'll just come to you. And they're the exact people you want because especially if you're a new company, they will be your early adopters. They will be the people that will go on that mission and then tell 10 of their friends.


Mischa: Evangelize. Yeah.


Will: Totally evangelize what you do. Yeah.


Mischa: Yeah. I think another kind of, let's say, an example of say a brand where people evangelize is obviously Tesla, but I think they've done some really interesting, I suppose, gimmicky and tactful kind of behavioral psychology in their advertising campaign. So obviously, you know, electric vehicle, and everyone who owns one love it and they evangelize it, and it's almost like a mini-contest of people that have one. But they did a really good piece because obviously, it's so quiet, the engine, and people don't get range anxiety because you can travel far and the odds are good. But what was a really good one is it is part of kind behavioral psychology, it's called framing. And that's actually building an emotive connection in the moment with your audience.


And they said, "Click here to hear the Tesla start up," and you click on the button, and you can't hear anything at all. It's just like silent. And I thought that was really clever because you're engaging a sense. People are listening, and you've got this immersive experience. It's almost like a two-way conversation. And if you think about it, obviously, Tesla are really well known. But if you think about it, you know, so if you get someone to do an action on behalf of your brand, that's when you will get brand recall. So the passive viewing, what I would think like even in the future of video and passive viewing, they watch a video and they walk away, they won't necessarily recall your brand. But if they're doing something on behalf of the brand, and it's an immersive experience, that's what will deliver cut-through.


Will: Yes, that's true, isn't it? I was delivering a copywriting workshop yesterday. And I use this example of an ad from Pepsodent, a U.S. toothpaste brand, one of the big toothpaste brands there. And they ran this very famous print ad in the 1920s. At a time when only 6% of Americans actually brushed their teeth every day, right? But the ad was basically something...I can't exactly remember the headline, but it was basically about, you know, that film on your teeth is rotting your teeth. And the first thing you do when you read the headline without noticing is that you run your tongue over your teeth and you go, "Mm-mm." I mean, of course, at that time, everybody will be running their tongue over their teeth and be like half a meal where...I don't know what was there, you know, if only 6% of people were brushing them. But within a decade, Pepsodent owns that market. And apparently, two-thirds of Americans brush their teeth. They gave rise to the whole like why Americans smile thing. And it started with these clever ads that they got you to lean in, and it became sensory. So rather than saying, "Hey, you need to brush your teeth, or this is the best toothpaste." It was this clever way of making people go, "Mm-mm, I wonder," and then running their tongue over their teeth. And that makes it really internalize it. It makes it real and it just makes it sensory. And I think there', you know, it doesn't have to be some fancy digital campaign to do that.


Mischa: There was an Australian pillow company. And they changed the market as well. So they essentially, they looked at the germs that you get in your pillow that build up over time, right? And they started putting expiry dates on their pillows. And yeah. And so there was a two-year expiry date on the pillows, and that's when you knew that you needed to kind of throw it out. So they actually proved was a Cannes Lion winner, actually. But they actually proved that they changed market trends because they talked about your pillow expiring, and that's totally something that you wouldn't even think about on a day-to-day basis.


Will: Well, both of those examples are also the examples of raising a problem to an audience that aren't even aware there is a problem. You know, because a lot of marketing is, you know, you want a better car, here's the better car or you're looking for electric cars, here's a Tesla. When Tesla first came out and lots of other brands have this where people don't even understand there is a problem and you need to sort of highlight that. And I suppose that's a whole skill in itself from a marketing point of view.


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So do you have any real standout examples of brands that have used behavioral science and applied that to improve results?


Mischa: Yeah. A standout example for me would be Commonwealth Bank in Australia. So they wanted to improve the... So they have a third of Australian customers or the Australian population as customers. So that's a sizable...they could impact the entire Australian economy by impacting the financial well-being of a third of its population, right? So they set it upon themselves to increase the financial well-being of their customers. As I mentioned earlier, it's probably on every bank's manifesto, but no one was doing it properly. So they engaged with a guy called Mo'Kelly [SP]. And he was a behavioral psychologist. And they said, "Okay, can you help us use behavioral psychology to make a real impact in people's lives?" So I think he joined the digital team to begin with because accessing technology was the best way for him to kind of get to the market quickly.


So they developed a series of financial tools, some digital tools. So savings, not just so...they would do a forecast and say, "Okay, looking at your spending patterns now, it looks like you'll have €200 or $200 at the end of this month. Do you wanna put it into a savings account?" And they go, "Okay, no." "Well, like how much would you like to put in?" "We'll, I'd like to put 50 in." "Okay." So then it goes into a savings account. So it's prompting you at moments that make sense to try and save more, and actually nudging you to do small increments rather than actually big sum amounts. They also had kind of no spend day challenges or spend less challenges. So this was all integrated into their app. They had a bill sense that told you when bills were coming up and helped you put the money aside for that bill so that it wouldn't bounce in your account. So really, really practical tools.


They also did an experiment of the language around credit cards. And I think this is really interesting because everything was like, you know, you can get travel points if you spend on this credit card, and then have the APR and in language that no one understood necessarily. So what they did was they put it into a language that an eight-year-old could understand. But also what they did was they said reasons why you shouldn't buy that card, why you shouldn't purchase that card, which was trying to convince product managers, credit card product managers that they should tell the audience why they or their customers why they shouldn't buy it. That that's a big thing. So they went on board, they said, "Look, we're either in or we're out." They went on board with it. And they were saying, "Okay, well, look, if you travel a lot, get this card because you'll get lots of travel points." And, you know, they just broke it down in really, really easy to understand terms. The financial impact of that was the increased spend. The attrition rate reduced by 20% and actually reduced late payments as well, which is obviously really beneficial to the customer as well. They also and I think this is probably the best example that I could find, they had this benefits finder too, right? Which you access it and you say, "Okay, scan my accounts and tell me what government benefits I'm entitled to."


So it gave 85 million back to the customers on government benefits. Some things like tax rebates, pension refunds, energy rebates. So 2.2 million people accessed it, 700,000 people claimed it, and 370,000 during the COVID pandemic made a real impact in their lives and it really improved their financial well-being. But they have measured their financial well-being at their base. They had indexed them according to coping. You know, they could barely cope in everyday finances right the way up to thriving. So they were able to measure at a grassroots level, depending on people's spending habits, the impact they had in the messaging that they put out, in the tools that they used on people's financial well-being, and they improved the financial well-being of their customers. And what was also really interesting was then when the Australian Government were looking at, "What should we give in terms of furloughs or COVID payments?" They came to the Commonwealth Bank and they stress-tested what if scenarios to test what impact they would have on the financial well-being of those customers. So then when the Australian Government were giving I think the furlough payments, they knew exactly what would make a difference in terms of maintaining the financial well-being of the Australian citizens. So that's phenomenal. That's really purpose-led buttoned work, and it's evidence-based, and it's evidence-based in terms of they improved the financial well-being. But it's also evidence-based in terms of they increased revenue tenfold. And they...


Will: Tenfold? Wow.


Mischa: Tenfold for the customers that were involved in this, right? So what they saw was that...where people had a number of different financial products scattered across a number of different banks, they brought in their financial products into one ecosystem within Commonwealth Bank, because they felt that they were looking after them as a person rather than actually just their credit card. But it also increased their NPS by seven points in one year, which is...


Will: Which means what in plain English just for our listeners?


Mischa: So it's basically a's a universal promoter score that gauges customer satisfaction. So they asked one simple question, "Would you recommend Commonwealth Bank or whatever to a friend?" Everything that scored seven and above, it gets added on, anything that scores and it gets four and below gets subtracted to make a way and then it's the net of those two figures. So they are the number one banking brand. Their brand score and brand strength index score is 85.6 out of 100. They're the third biggest brand in Australia behind two supermarkets during COVID that had no impact. And the banking sector was almost decimated through COVID. So the way they helped their customers have brand loyalty, but it also helped them be able to weather a storm because they had money in for a rainy day. And they had to increase their savings, you know. So I think that's how you do it, right? That's where people can feel the impact of your brand purpose on their everyday lives, and financial well-being has the biggest impact on stress and depression.


Will: Yeah, that's true, isn't it? I suppose, you know, the takeaways from that from a layman's point of view, from my point of view, I suppose, not knowing it intimately, but the obvious takeaways from that are, they understood what matter to their customers. So they listen to their customers, they internalize that and they took seriously the mission of addressing those pain points, rather than, "How can we quickly look like we're addressing them to get a quick marketing win?" They actually went, "How can we fundamentally pivot or just operate as a business to meet those pain points in a end-to-end way that is completely authentic and that is completely how we actually do business not just a quick campaign?"


But also, I think, because when you talk about this stuff to people, purpose people sometimes think, "Well, that's all nice to have. And I mean, yeah, it'd lovely to have a bit of a kind of halo around the brand." But it proves, isn't it? That if you go that deep on implementing and addressing your customer's pain points, people will respect you for that. And that respect does turn into hard cash. So however ruthlessly commercially minded you are, it works. You know, if you had a small to medium-sized business and you saw that example, like what of that could you take and put into a small to medium-sized business? Like can anyone do this stuff however big their businesses?


Mischa: I think they can. I think you've got to stay really close to your customers to do this right. I think you've got to have almost like a testing group with your customers or a WhatsApp group with customers, right? Where you can get quick responses to understand, are you on the right track? Are you doing the right thing? But first of all, trying to understand what their biggest pain point is that you can help solve. Or what the thing that they care about that you can help solve. And I think that's the biggest thing. Once you get that and once you've established what that is, then doing a 360 view of everything that you do, and actually doing it from the grassroots up so that...and also hiring people that believe that. Do you know? Hire people that actually believe that they wanna solve that problem or that they care about it. You know, because then they believe in it. And when your staff believe in it, your customers will believe in it because it's authentic, it comes from the inside out. And I think that's the key to this. But you can't just do it in one element. You've got to do it in everything that you do. And then it becomes authentic. And you've got to believe in it. If you don't believe in it... I suppose some brands when they're changing tack, they go, "Here's our new brand proposition. How can we make everyone else internally believe in it?" They do it from the outside in. It has to be done from the inside out.


Will: We've all worked for those brands, or businesses, or something, you know, where the kind of the new brand and the new brand mission or company charter, and no one's really on board with it. Everybody's just turning up to get the paycheck. And yeah, it's not the right way around. And you're right. It's a really good point. If you're gonna bring people aboard the ship, they need to be okay with how we're sailing the ship and where we're going, is you've gotta hire to some extent on values for sure. That is a very important thing. Right. So to take it even further down to the tactical level, there are some really specific ways we can implement behavioral science in our work. Talk me through those and how they're gonna impact how we present our product pages, or social media content, emails, that kind of thing.


Mischa: So there's a few. There's eight I've got here. So social proofing first of all. And this means, this is helping people validate that they're in good company, or actually turning it on its head. So I'll give an example, the U.S. government wanted to reduce tax fraud, and actually help people or make people hand in their taxes on time. So they used behavioral psychology. And so what they did was they said, "96% of people on your street," and they named the street, "Have handed in their tax returns, right?" That makes you look like the odd one out. That's reversing social proofing that make you feel, you know, that you're the odd one out.


They had at the end know, you go through all your tax form and then you sign it at the end that that it's true to the best of your knowledge. They actually moved that to the top, the signature to the top, and they said, "Everything I'm about to complete will be true to the best of my knowledge and that legally binding," all of that kind of stuff. And it reduced the tax fraud, which was really interesting. And the other thing is about choice architecture, and that's actually not giving people too much choice. So people's brains, as I mentioned earlier, are digitally distracted. There's too much information overload, you need to break it down into really, really simple terms and only give them a limited number of choices. Three is the optimum. And so on a website, for example, you present three of the different products above the fold on desktop, for example, you might have other products that you have below the fold, or further down, but actually the three headline ones are at the top. And you've kept it really simple for them to understand what the features and benefits of those products are.


The other thing would be to look at anchoring. So anchoring is essentially when you put the most expensive item first. So for example, if you're selling cameras at $200, $500, and $800, the first product that people see, you put the $800, then you put the $500, and you put the $300. And you put the $800 one first, it will make the $500 one seem like the better value.


Will: Yes, it sets the benchmark, doesn't it? And then everything else is anchored into that in the context of that initial price so everything else feels relatively cheap. Yeah.


Mischa: That's it. And the other thing is scarcity. So this is actually...airlines do this really well. "Only three left at this price." So it's scarce, and it creates urgency. So scarcity. Loss aversion. And so behavioral psychology says that people would rather not lose $10 than win $10, so they don't wanna lose it. So Amazon use this well, they do lightning sales, 24-hour sales. So creating that sense of urgency, again, for e-commerce selling, it's only available for one day, or 24 hours, and you can do a ticker-tape countdown available as well. It's scarce. And that I suppose that kind of scarcity as well will increase the conversion rate.


Will: Yeah. I think fuse those last three points really well. When you go and look at a hotel room and it'll say something like, "John S. in Manchester has just booked this." So A, it's social proof, "Oh, people are booking it." B is like, "Oh, scarcity, that these are going fast." And C, loss aversion because I'm gonna be paying loads more for this room if I don't book it now. It's annoying, but it kind of works.


Mischa: You kind of feel like you're being sold to in that instance, I think, yeah. And it works. It works. There's partial ownership. So developing an emotive connection with your audience by giving them a free trial, immersing them in your product. So obviously, Netflix do do that really well. They do that. Yeah. So it's to bring them deeper into the product.


Will: Yes. And even see some software companies now doing paid trials. So like there's a popular SEO tool called Ahrefs, one of the biggest ones in the world. And they do something like a week trial for, I don't know, $5 or something. I mean, this is $100 a month product. But again, it's that once you've paid them some money and you've had to go with it, you've kind're already a customer. And as the old saying goes, it's 10 times easier and cheaper to sell to existing customers than new ones. So you've crossed the big line already, haven't you? You've entered the world of the brand and it's much easier to keep going with them than actually then take on the brainpower of assessing a competitor. So what's that? What did you call that?


Mischa: A partial ownership. It's when a few people feel like they've delved into something and now they feel part of it. And it's harder for them to reverse out of it.


Will: Interesting. Interesting.


Mischa: So that kind of emotive kind of engagement. The other is framing. I talked about that earlier, that emotion of selling, the Tesla example, when you're creating that emotional hook in the moment. "Press this button to hear what a Tesla sounds like starting up," that kind of emotional hook. So you're framing it emotionally. I think what you're going for there, and most of them is conversion rate optimization. And they're simple know, a simple version of social proofing, for example, is just testimonials. It's people like you, it's people wanna see themselves in the brand or in the customers of the brand. And you're playing back them to themselves and that's really trust marks as well to boost conversion rate optimization. That's social proofing.


Will: Yeah, absolutely. And for a company that sells online, that's so important, every step of the way, like, even a basket in checkout where you think the job's done, actually, you can lose a huge amount of people. And I've even seen people put testimonials around those places as well just to sort of reassure you that you're still making the right decision even though you've gone through most of the process because we do live, obviously, in this fractured e-commerce world now. And trust is the only thing we've got in terms of working out if I'm spending money in the right place a lot of the time. So yeah.


Mischa: Or even then the secure checkout and making those icons bigger, building that trust, that can have an impact on conversion rate optimization. So yeah, I think building that trust, yeah, at every step of the way.


Will: Mischa, thanks so much. That was incredibly insightful. That flew by. I found that really interesting talking to you about that stuff. And we could definitely talk for a lot longer, but tell our listeners where they can find you online.


Mischa: So you can find me on LinkedIn, so Mischa McInerney on LinkedIn, and hopefully the spelling will be in the show notes because it's not an easy name to spell. But yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. I'm on Twitter as well. So either/or.


Will: Brilliant. Well, that's great. Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it, Mischa, and I'll talk to you soon.


Mischa: Great. Thanks a million Will. Take care. Thanks a million. Bye.


Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training, head to Thanks for listening.

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Mischa McInerney
Mischa McInerney

Mischa McInerney is the Chief Marketing Officer, Digital Marketing Institute. Mischa has over 20 years' experience in various countries, industries, and roles across the world. She is fluent in Japanese and once hosted a cooking show on Japanese television. She was a co-founder of an email marketing company in Australia, before moving back to Ireland to set up her own Marketing Consulting company. She then moved into Ulitities as Digital Marketing Manager of Ireland's largest energy provider, where she won several national and European awards for innovative digital brand campaigns. She then moved to Bank of Ireland, Ireland's largest bank as Director of Digital and CVM. 9 months ago she moved to the Digital Marketing Institute as CMO of the world's largest provider of on-demand certified Digital Marketing Courses.

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