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Building A "Behavioral 360" Communications Plan

When my wife and I were trying to potty train the youngest of our three children, we were more than ready to be done with diapers.

We had encouraged our son, read to our son, coached our son, and cajoled our son into trying to do his duty on his own. But he was more than content to do his business in his diaper, being then, as now, a rather relaxed individual. Not that this technique is approved by Dr. Spock, but we tied the act of going to the toilet with one of his favorite behaviors: eating. We enticed him with M+M’s, and the kid never soiled his pants again.

Our job as marketers is to instructively change the way people behave. It’s an extraordinarily difficult task that’s become even more challenging as consumers battle the pace and complexities of today’s society. Facing an abundance of choice and an overload of information, consumers are relying more and more on rituals and routines to simplify their lives. Many of their brand choices are instinctive habits versus active decisions. Marketers that are able to tap into these habits and rituals stand a far better chance of influencing behavior than those relying on media-driven impressions and one-way forms of communication. So instead of thinking about your 360 planning from a traditional media perspective, it’s imperative to start thinking of it in the context we refer to as "Behavioral 360."

Historically, a 360 communications plan meant surrounding the consumer with an ever-expanding array of media in order to maximize exposure to the marketer’s message. As it became impractical and unaffordable to be everywhere given the explosion of media choices, marketers would simply check off a subset that it hoped would best accomplish the job given the media consumed by the target audience. But today, as our personal lives and everyday behaviors have become so intertwined with media and technology, it’s less about what media is being consumed and more about the behavior enabled by each medium. From gaming to conversing to sharing to creating to participating to co-viewing to passive viewing and even shopping, the blend between a consumer’s behavior and the media each interacts with is more blurred—and more powerful—than ever before.

So perhaps a better framework to think about how to change a consumer’s behavior is to start with that person’s behaviors and work your way out to each medium that makes sense. Think about how your brand can support and enrich the specific behaviors and experiences of your target. Rather than having a digital or social strategy to reach a gaming-heavy consumer, develop a gaming strategy that spans digital, social, and other channels. If your target audience has a social graphic profile that is more involved in sharing content (a heavy Pinterest user) versus passively viewing content (like a Twitter/newsfeed user), you can build a different content strategy for each. By understanding the collection of behaviors your target audience exhibits, you can build interaction strategies that bring your more traditional use of online and offline media to life in a way that’s far more relevant and engaging.

Remember, it’s always easier to change someone’s behavior through doing than through lecturing. Behavioral 360 planning is a way to keep the focus on what the individual is doing and how your brand can play a role in supporting and enriching those experiences. It’s a different framework that can lead you to different ideas...and better results.

[Image: Flickr user Alfonsina Blyde]