When Adam Ferrier, founder of Naked Communications, stepped up to the podium this week to talk to the VAMFF forum on The New Consumer, he focused on the question of changing consumer behaviour. And he framed up his argument in a very specific way: he pondered the question of how to sell 10,000 dresses.

It was just am example of course, plucked from thin air – but the insights conveyed in answering that question apply regardless of what you’re selling, or how many. Here’s the crux of it.

clothing rack

According to Ferrier:

  1. You can change people and change their behavior.
  2. The old way was to try and change people’s thoughts and feelings, with the hope of in turn influencing their actions. For example: create an emotional connection with a dress via beautiful imagery, and the consumer will go and buy it.
  3. The new way is to turn this belief on its head. Create the behaviour first, and the consumer will adapt their thoughts and feelings to make sense of the action. Otherwise there’s cognitive dissonance. Ever heard of Benjamin Franklin’s theory on how to make someone like you? You get them to do you a favour. They’ve become invested in you – so they change their feelings to fit the action they’ve just done. Consumer involvement may just work in the same way.
  4. So how do you do this? First define the exact behaviour you want to change. Framing it in a way that makes sense can be half the battle.
  5. Then, find a way to get people involved. Don’t wait for them to already be fans of your brand before you involve them; involve them first and you have a strong chance at converting them to fans.

Ferrier’s example was the Steal Banksy campaign for Melbourne’s Art Series hotels. Guests were invited to try and steal a genuine Banksy artwork – if they got it out of the building without getting caught, the painting was theirs. Not only was there an incentive for people to come and stay at the hotels, once they were involved the excitement of the heist then created the emotional connection.

While the hard part obviously comes with working out how to get consumers involved with your brand, especially if your budget doesn’t allow for large-scale art heists, shifting your thinking to the above – i.e., action first, emotion later – may just foster some fresh creativity.

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