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Monday, July 14, 2008

Consumer secret: it's all about the habits

An anthropologist with a passion for public health was stymied by the challenge of changing hygiene habits in Africa.  But with a little help from the consumer products industry, she's getting folks to soap up their hands and prevent the spread of disease.

The most fascinating?  The tangent into consumer psychology.  Because nearly 45 percent of our daily activity is habitual.
Over the past decade, many companies had perfected the art of creating automatic behaviors — habits — among consumers. These habits have helped companies earn billions of dollars when customers eat snacks, apply lotions and wipe counters almost without thinking, often in response to a carefully designed set of daily cues.
Proctor and Gamble faced a problem with Febreeze.  When marketed as a killer of bad odors, it flopped - people didn't have bad smells around enough to remember to use it.  But they changed their tactics:
The perfect cue, they eventually realized, was the act of cleaning a room, something studies showed their target audience did almost daily. P.& G. produced commercials showing women spraying Febreze on a perfectly made bed and spritzing freshly laundered clothing. The product’s imagery was revamped to incorporate open windows and gusts of fresh wind — an airing that is part of the physical and emotional cleaning ritual.
Thanks to marketing, Americans now spend $650 million a year spraying clean things with Febreze.  And Ghanians have increased their use of soap after a bathroom break by 13 percent. 

For more on how they marketed clean hands, check out the piece.

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