Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Bad habits, take a hike!

How market research can get to the heart of a habit and help change customer behaviour

The dreaded habit. We all know what they are and we all have our own, and whilst some may be positive everyone will definitely be able to say which habit, or habits (!) they would like to eradicate.

But I have a secret for you: habits cannot be destroyed.

Don’t lose hope though. There are ways to alter those pesky habits that strike at the heart of your good intentions.

Science has shown that habits are stored in the brain, and as we now know, the brain can be re-programmed. Which means whilst they cannot be destroyed, changing a habit is possible.

Firstly, you have to understand a habit. In Charles Duhigg’s book ‘The Power of Habits’ he shows that habits have 3 core components:

In order to change a habit, Duhigg postulates, you have to identify the routine (that’s the behaviour, for example walking to the food point to steal a biscuit). Next, experiment with rewards to find out what’s driving the habit (are you going to the food point because you want to satiate your hunger?), and also isolate the cue (is it hunger pains you’re experiencing?).

Working with Brand Teams within Pharmaceutical companies, we often get asked to help our clients understand why their customers (Physicians, including GPs, specialists, pharmacists) prescribe a product over theirs, even though their drug has ‘better data’, and how they can change such behaviours.

What they’re essentially asking us is: How can we change our customers’ habits?

Well, that is where market research comes in.

We work with physicians, asking them to describe their prescribing practice (the routine), why they prescribe a particular product (the cue) and what outcome they are looking to achieve (the reward). We can do this by having in-depth conversations with physicians, either individually or in a group, or map these behaviours out through online surveys, looking at perceptions of drugs and patient numbers.

As a result, we provide our clients with direction on how to change prescribing behaviours, by giving physicians new cues and rewards that lead them to alter their original habits, helping our clients to position themselves as the brand of choice.

So as you can see, there is hope for you quitting sugar and eating healthy yet! You just need to work out how much you want those cookies, or if there is some other reason you are craving them, and how to break that routine!

Email us at to find out more about how Branding Science can help you understand and change your customers’ habits.