Every habit starts with a conscious decision that with time and frequent repetition becomes more adept. What initially took effort becomes automatic. Many habits are helpful in getting us through the day and allow us to expend less brain energy that can be redirected somewhere else. Some habits are good, like healthy diet and exercise, some less, like smoking or overeating.
Charles Duhigg, an investigative reporter from The New York Times and the author of “The Power of Habit”, knows why we do the things we do and how we can change that and has shared this secret with at his today’s session. What’s the secret? The Habit Loop!
It starts with a cue – something that triggers you to act in a certain way. The Cue is responded to with a routine behavior which is then rewarded. The more we engage in this pattern, the more automatic it becomes. Identifying the cues and the rewards can help us easily disrupt the cycle and change or create new habits. Like buying new or different products, for example 😉
Yes, companies have been using the power of habits and the science of habit formation to manipulate our habits and what follows, increase sales. When P&G’s* new product – fabric refresher Febreze – was launched, it was advertised as a solution that will remove your bad smells (cue: bad smell; routine: use it; reward: no bad smell). Soon after, the product was on track on becoming a big money loser. Researching the problem, P&G discovered that people get accustomed to bad smells and do not sense them anymore. Trying to advertise getting rid of bad smells when people cannot even smell them could not have been too successful.
To find new ways to encourage people to using the product, P&G gathered specialists in habit formation and marketers in one room and examined people’s cleaning routines. That’s when they found that there is a certain satisfying moment in the cleaning process, the celebration of the moment right after. The reward. That fresh smell. Result? Having shifted the focus in advertising to that moment right after has transformed Febreze into a $1 billion hit!
Interested in the book? Find it here.
* P&G is a Porter Novelli client.