February 24, 2012

ALL WE LIKE SHEEP:

How Habits Hold Us (Jonah Lehrer, , 2/18/12, WSJ)

The malleability of habits isn't news to Madison Avenue: Effective commercials show how people can be quickly trained to do something new and then keep on doing it. The secret, it turns out, is the quick combination of a memorable cue and a rewarding experience.

Consider Febreze, a product designed by Procter & Gamble in the 1990s to remove bad odors. As Charles Duhigg recounts in his fascinating new book, "The Power of Habit," Febreze underperformed in early tests and was in danger of being canceled. Consumers couldn't fathom what the product was for.

Febreze didn't become a superstar until the P&G marketing team created an ad campaign based on habit formation. The television spots showed homemakers performing a chore--making a bed, mopping the kitchen--and then spritzing a little scented Febreze into the air. The spritz was always followed by a big smile.

What's most interesting is that instead of focusing on removing bad smells, the ads set up Febreze--to which perfume had been added--as the reward for a bout of cleaning, satisfying the desire to make things smell nice, not just look good. The ads taught consumers a new habit, training them to associate the rewarding positive cue--a spotless space--with the use of Febreze. Before long, the product was a best seller.
Posted by orrinj at February 24, 2012 6:53 AM
  
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