Brands that want to change behaviour need to change beliefs. Here’s how.

Ed Faith brands

“The best path to the behavioural changes that brands want is to think about the belief changes that are required”

By Ed Faith – general manager, client strategy and solutions, Newsamp NSW & QLD 

In an era where media is becoming increasingly fragmented, trust in various channels has waned, and consumers face an explosion of choice (for example, the Food Marketing Institute suggests we’ve gone from 14,000 to 33,000 items on supermarket shelves in a little over three decades), it’s no wonder that marketing effectiveness has been facing a critical challenge lately. 

This chart shows Kantar’s Australian brand lift norms over time, and I think most would agree that we could be doing better.

NewsAmp chart

To explore why, let’s start with the basics. Simply put, marketing effectiveness is the metric by which our marketing efforts drive a business outcome in relation to our marketing investment. That outcome is usually one of three things: Buy my product or service more often, buy more of my products or services, or become more familiar with my brand.

Achieving the desired outcome is a complex mix of business, marketing, advertising, creative and media strategy that invariably covers the “Four P’s of marketing” (Product, Price, Place and Promotion). But in their simplest terms, most strategies can be distilled down to a single expression using the “get/to/by” framework:

GET our target audience TO do something new or different involving my brand BY addressing a barrier or problem that they encounter in their lives.

But how? 

Perhaps the most widely accepted behavioural change theory is BJ Fogg’s formula, Belief x Motivation = Action. Fogg’s theory says that behavioural change is achieved by addressing or even changing beliefs as well as providing the right motivational stimuli. 

But many brand marketers tend to gravitate toward the motivation bit – creating urgency through discounting, obsessing over cheap performance media or by putting messages out there suggesting that buying the brand will somehow make your life better. They don’t pay enough attention to the belief bit, and when they do, it’s mostly done using brand comms in mass communication channels, almost like checking a box from the ‘reach + 1’ playbook. 

The best path to the behavioural changes that brands want is to think about the belief changes that are required. I’m not talking about beliefs like religion or core values; it’s the simple, accessible beliefs that we can change through gentle influence. Like the belief that by choosing a brand, I am doing something positive, or being more sustainable, or aligning with a community. It’s the belief that this brand can help me make good or better decisions. 

The operative word here is influence – which can’t be achieved by shouting at people.  Our research arm, The Growth Distillery, has just completed a huge body of work on influence. We’ve found that the best way to achieve it is by finding and leveraging whatever it is your audience has an affinity toward and tapping into communities. But more than this, by communicating in the right tone and in the spaces and places where your audience feels that your brand naturally belongs.

This type of positive influence can’t be achieved in mass channels alone. As marketing luminary Mark Ritson regularly reminds us, people don’t give a (insert typical Ritson profanity) about brands and will hardly think about them for more than a few seconds per day. So, if they’re not paying attention to your mass media ads, how do we influence their beliefs enough to change their behaviours? 

If we take Ritson’s assertion and run with it, brands need to go where people show affinity (what they care about), community (where and with whom they care about it) and use the right tone, context and content (authentically being part of whatever it is they care about).

To be clear, I’m not saying don’t use mass channels – reach and penetration remain important, but do give greater prioritisation to where and how to create positive influence and supplement that with clear messages in mass channels, not the other way around.

So, what channels create positive influence?

Social channels and influencer tactics probably lack the trust required to deliver these messages thanks to a cavalcade of mis- and dis-information, scammers, issues with disclosure and the unaudited spread of all of the above. So, with this in mind and as digital literacy improves, it’s news organisations and established, credible publishers that are seeing the biggest resurgence in audience and consumer trust (a valuable currency for brands). 

Equally important are the audiences that these publishers’ ecosystems bring in. Audiences that have a deep affinity with a certain subject matter or with the brand itself. For example, the foodie community who follow delicious. across all its platforms or the millions of young Aussies who look at’s newsfeed first thing in the morning or habitually listen to the From the Newsroom podcast on the commute home. These deep relationships that have been earned over time can provide a brand with an unlimited and powerful halo under which to integrate, tell brand stories, seed relevance and deliver brand messages. Brands can become part of the audiences’ day rather than a passenger in it. 

What’s fascinating is that we are seeing these partnerships playing much more prominent roles in the overall media plan. 

As a publisher with the scale and breadth of News Corp Australia, there is also a whole lot of data within our platform that gives us a lot of information about audiences. We augment this with a strategic process to determine the best brands to integrate with and the best content themes along with an amplification plan in order to craft the right solution for a client.

If you’ve made it this far, you might well be wondering how I know all this. Well, it has been my passion and career for the past 18 years, and I analyse and measure performance everyday. If we think back to that Kantar chart which supported my opening claim that marketing effectiveness has been challenged, and we compare it with this one (*same metrics over the same time period, but applied specifically to large integrated campaigns derived by Newsamp), our campaigns outperform Kantar’s Australian norms in every metric: Now that’s a positive outcome thanks to positive influence!

Newsamp chart 2

So what’s the ask? Perhaps it’s the proverbial media cart coming before the marketing horse; however, in my opinion, marketers can seriously “unlimit” their thinking by considering how to positively influence audiences with an understanding of affinity and community, delivered in many cases through the effectiveness of integrated content. 

Top Image: Ed Faith

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