Will Leach, the author of Marketing to Mindstates, is an expert in the realm of marketing. He is the founder of TriggerPoint Design and he’s worked with fortune 50 companies to solve their most important behavior challenges.
Will is actually known as one of the top experts in America in applying behavioral science to marketing, and in this episode, he explains exactly how he applies these behavior design principles to marketing for these huge companies.
It’s really powerful. So if you’re a marketer who loves books by Robert Cialdini or Dan Arielli or Seth Godin, this is the episode for you. It’s pretty mind-blowing.
Will Leach: It’s funny because a lot of people think that subtle changes and packaging will show this massive behavioral change. Frankly, there’s so many different factors that influence people shopping behavior. We try to do much bigger packaging changes, just test really, if something significant was going to make a significant lift in sales.
The whole genesis of behavioral design—and my journey—was in a moment. It was a study that I was running in this laboratory for Frito-Lay, and I pre-recruited 75 people. I was running shopper insights, and we had 75 people shop our laboratory. Then, I was expecting to have new packaging come in later on that afternoon. I was going to then switch out the old packaging with our newly redesigned packaging, and then the next day, have 75 more people come through and just see if the packaging made any significant lift.
Well, 4:00 came, no packaging. 5:00 came, no new packaging. So by 6:00, I’m thinking, I don’t have any new packaging to test for tomorrow.
We found out that the agency was running late. We weren’t going to get that packaging, but I had already pre-recruited 75 people to come in and shop the next day. So I just said, you know what? Keep the same environment. We’re not going to make a change. I’ll just get a sample size of 150 people.
Next day, another 75 people come in, they shop the environment, and then they leave, great. We actually looked at the data. Just merged the data. And in doing that, actually, a really scary thing happens because between one day and the next, the data changed dramatically.
Imagine in my world, I had the exact same variables. I had the same planagram, the same packaging, the same pricing, the same flow, but yet, very different shopping behavior.
That as a researcher is a very big deal. Because now, what’s right? What’s the reality—is it the first day or the second day?
Well, just so happens, a VP over in a shopper marketing, basically said, “Hey Will, you need to figure this out, because if you can’t tell me which reality is true, is it day one or day two…we’re spending a lot of money each year running these tests.”
I thought I was going to lose my job or, certainly, this entire laboratory and all the employees we had—about eight employees. We’re all going to lose our jobs.
Also, it’s kind of two stories merging.
I went to a conference from the Institute for the Future, and it’s kind of a think tank if you will. I just so happen to get invited. This is where I was introduced to this idea around marketing to the non-conscious. It was around persuasion.
I had something that wasn’t supposed to happen, which was a changes in sales, but I controlled all the variables that I could control and I didn’t understand why and right around the same time, I go to this conference that’s all around the idea that there are these other non-conscious things that are happening in environments that we can’t control that influence behaviors.
I had this eureka moment, right? I was looking at mathematical processes to try to figure out what reality was, and that wasn’t it.
“You can’t mathematically find this.”
It was what’s happening at the non-conscious. I couldn’t stop thinking about this stuff. I couldn’t stop reading enough.
I started reading everything I could on behavioral economics, motivational psychology, just trying to understand the deep psychology that influences us. And it got to a point where literally, it was 2:30 in the morning and I was reading the stuff, and my wife, she wakes up in dead at night, she’s like, what are you doing? She goes, will you just leave?
I thought, okay, I’ve got to leave the bedroom.
She said, “No, just leave Frito-Lay. You’re never going to read about chips the way you read about this. Just go off and do it already.”
That’s where I started my own company.
A Whole New Approach
Charlie Hoehn: As soon as you discovered it and started reading about it, did it kind of just completely debunk your previous work?
Will Leach: Yeah, there was a moment where I’m paying off student loans and I had my degree in applied econometrics and I’m looking at that and econometrics and economics—this idea that we make decisions based upon emotions—was very foreign.
In fact, it was not even talked about.
This idea is that we’re always trying to do pros and cons or looking for maximizing utilities. We’re trying to look for the cost benefits.
Diving into understanding our psychology and context influences, how we perceive decisions, that totally made me rethink my entire graduate degree and thinking, why did I pay all this money for a graduate degree?
What’s happening is academics for let’s say 30 years, at least since the mid-70s, you can even go back a hundred years if you really wanted—there had been great schools and great professors out there doing incredible experiments. But it hasn’t trickled into marketing because it sat in the silos inside universities like Stanford and Harvard and Michigan.
It’s all out there on Google Scholar, and I was able to bring these four different social sciences that we talk about in the book together into one uniform model.
It’s all based in strong behavioral sciences, but it’s been out there for 30 years. Because it’s becoming popularized—Cialdini and Ariely and Kahneman—marketers, brand managers, creative people are reading these things.
“It’s giving them science behind what their intuition was telling them to do in the first place.”
There is a guy that you can look up on YouTube named Derren Brown, and he takes creatives from their hotel and takes them on a taxi ride before they get to the office. Darren Brown puts him in a situation where he says, I just want you to come up with a campaign.
They literally draft up the exact same images and words as Darren Brown was using during the taxi drive. He was priming them the entire time.
It’s a great video and I use that actually when I teach this over at SMU and I teach my clients. I use this thing to say, the power of priming. And priming is a big part of this book.
Behavior Design in Marketing
Charlie Hoehn: Let’s talk about why humans behave this way in the first place? You start off your book with just understanding human behavior. What is this behavior design and why do sit affect us this way?
Will Leach: As we get more and more messaging and more and more access to channels like platforms better, it’s computers, watches, artificial intelligence, things like that.
We’re inundated with so much information. Your mind naturally has been created actually to filter out a lot of content. Because if you had to really do cost benefit analysis on every one of these kinds of stimuli, you’d never get through today.
Here’s what happens—we have two decision making systems.
System one are all those decisions that you make, more or less, considered non-consciously right? These are thing that are kind of more habitual, emotional in nature, and things like that.
Then there is the system two part of your brain, which is much more conscious decision making. You’re thinking through, you’re more likely to think analytically.
What’s been happening in the last 30 years is a lot of researchers now focused on that system one, non-conscious. How much more power there is in that part of your decision making.
Since the days of Proctor & Gamble back in maybe the ‘30s with polling. We’ve always thought of marketing as “Tell people to think differently about my brand—I want you to persuade people to use my brand. Here’s all these great benefits and here’s some things that we want to make sure they understand.”
“We’re the cheapest, we’re the fastest, we’re the best.”
That’s system two thinking. Now we’re starting to realize that system one, that non-conscious, emotional part of our brain is so much more influential. That’s the part that researchers and marketers haven’t really started to kind of migrate towards.
We’re getting better, particularly here in the states, but we’re starting to now tap into that.
If you understood that you are making the vast majority of your decisions and your experience is happening at the non-conscious level, you would start thinking about how you would message differently.
I’ll give you one fact, and this puts things in perspective for my clients and my students. Research will tell you that you make 75,000 decisions on any given day.
The vast majority of those have to be at the non-conscious, because you wouldn’t get out of bed if you had to start doing post analysis of why you decided to turn off the alarm and not turn off the alarm, put out my left hand or my right hand.
You have to understand these non-conscious factors that influence.
Who’s Getting It Right?
Charlie Hoehn: Let’s dive into some actual examples of this and trying to think of the best way that we can do this. Maybe you can point out companies that are marketing to the neocortex, right?
Will Leach: Yeah, you know, it’s kind of funny, we’re in this incredible state of the industry where there are a lot of overlaps. Don’t think of it as much as there’s either/or. Now, many more companies are speaking to that system to rational brain, the slower rational brain, because that’s been happening for the last 60 years.
That’s how modern marketing has been set up previous to all these sciences.
All the big brands, absolutely, all the way down to the local real estate agent, the local plumber, the ad agency that’s right down the street, they’re still thinking around this idea of building preferences and your unique point of differentiation and your benefits. What’s your call to action? That’s very system two.
Then, there are those companies—think about the Coca Colas, the PepsiCos, the SE Johnsons, the Kellogg’s—these companies are now moving through the space. They’re bringing greater behavioral science expertise.
“But old habits die hard.”
We talked a little bit about that a while ago. You’ve learned through your MBA programs, this modern, what they consider modern day marketing and now.
All of a sudden, it’s totally flipping things around to where you can actually incorporate a psychological prime inside of your ad. You can reframe the benefit in a way that’s about avoiding loss or maximizing your chances of success. These small things which previously were never even thought of, now we’re starting to gravitate towards that, but there’s still a lot in the middle.
Here’s my classic thing that happens all the time. I’ll go do a big project and I’ll say, here is the mindstate that two really need to start messaging towards. It’s the cautious, optimistic mindstate.
There’s 18 of these mindstates.
I told a major client here this recently. They said, “Yeah, but it’s over a hundred year old brand. We don’t feel real comfortable with that. So can we just kind of keep doing what we’re doing but then just integrate some of these ideas?”
That seems to be the path that most are coming. Those are big brands. The only exception that companies that are truly going all in and they’re hitting it is Silicon Valley.
Those guys know what they’re doing because they have environments where they can test these theories out almost immediately. They don’t have heritage on their brands.
Think of the Amazons in the world, a lot of the tech companies, they’re using this all the time and they’re absolutely incorporating these principles into their apps or into their messaging as well.
What Are Mindstates?
Charlie Hoehn: You talk about activating the goal, priming the need, framing the choice and triggering the behavior, right? That’s the mindstate behavioral model.
Will Leach: That’s right. Let me take a step back. The reason this model is so effective at marketing, is this understanding that we make all these decisions on any given day. Let’s just even take a step back and just say that maybe there are a couple of hundred, which I think is low. But let’s just take that.
These moments in your day are called hot state moments where you go through, let’s say a couple of hundred times a day where you’re very susceptible to influence.
These are called mindstates.
In this moment, you’re in a mindstate. Here is a reason why: When you have a mindstate, if you’re under this influence, you have high emotional arousal. When you have high emotional arousal, you’re much more susceptible to influence.
That’s biologically why emotional marketing works. There is science behind emotional marketing. This science is this mindstate idea.
Charlie Hoehn: What’s one of those mindstates, those moments where we’re susceptible?
Will Leach: Absolutely, there’s one called optimistic achievement, that is a person who is under achievement motivation so they want to feel successful, victorious and proud and they want to overcome obstacles.
Imagine Olympic athletes, imagine the type A personality, the entrepreneur who is really going after it. But go after that using a promotion regulatory approach, which means that they’re seeking to maximize gains or their chances of successfully achieving their goal.
Under those conditions, under that mindstate, there are very specific words, very specific visuals that you should be using in your creative to activate that mindstate. Because when they’re in that mindstate, all of a sudden, they’re using that system one thinking. They’re making decisions on intuition, their gut. It will feel so natural to them.
They’re seeking messages and brands and strategies to help them reach that goal that they had under the optimistic achievement.
It’s so important to understand these four factors, because if you understand the factors, you can now market to those mindstates. To that non-conscious system one.
You’re able to increase that emotional arousal or that hot state decision making.
“That leads to much more effective marketing.”
You’re not trying to convince anybody of anything. You are creating a feeling of intuition and naturalness with your messaging that breaks through the filter.
You have too much stimuli, too many people trying to convince you to buy this product over that product. This brand over that brand.
So how do we try to convince? I try to do a really big viral event and I try to get an actor to promote my product—that’s the classic thing that companies do to try to differentiate themselves.
If you just understood that every company’s trying to do the exact same thing to break through that filter to convince you to buy your product…what if I told you that you could just access the non-conscious to seamlessly go through that filter, and it just feels natural? It bypasses all that other messaging that’s out there.
Results from Mindstate Marketing
Charlie Hoehn: How much more effective is it to go the route that you’re talking about, to let go of trying to convince and instead create the emotional state the person wants to have. How much more effective is this?
Will Leach: Yeah, variables make a big difference, and of course, you’ve always got to remember, there’s still the system two. I can create emotional arousal, but ultimately, you have to be able to justify it for big purchases, budgets, things like that.
We’ve been doing this now for about five years, and we’re seeing gains of 8, 10, 12%. Every so often, we’ll get something up to around 20% change in behavior, and that actually for me is quite scary. When you start hearing people talking about “I was able to convert 80% of people,” there’s often times something that’s way outside of what they’re really doing.
Traditionally, if you’re getting 8 to 10% lift, that’s pretty normal. That could be sales lift or just click rates or whatever. But every so often, we’ll get something around the 20%.
When I do that, I go back in the data really hard to make sure that I’m actually measuring what I think I’m measuring, because people are complex.
“Regardless how much we know about the subconscious, we’re habitual creatures.”
We love to not change.
It’s really difficult to get people to change a behavior. But when you’re talking about the brands that we’re talking about, an extra 10% of lift or even a 3% change in the lift, hundreds of millions of dollars, that’s absolutely right.
Doing It All Again
Charlie Hoehn: I’m curious, going back to like the Frito-Lay packaging, knowing what you know now, what would you change if you’re marketing to the subconscious?
Will Leach: Yeah, wow, great question. I think that we used to build brands around this idea of a brand story and a narrative. So we’re going to create a moment or a movement with our brand lovers.
We would do lots of research to really understand somebody’s lifestyle and a profitable target, things like that. Understand them so that we could try to create an identity that just feels natural to that person.
We may look at Doritos—rather than saying we’re extra nacho cheese, we may say we’re all about expression, self-expression because that’s what our customer or brand lover really want.
“How do we make Doritos a vehicle for self-expression?”
I think that’s pretty good marketing because you’re not talking about the benefits, now you’re talking about Doritos in a very different way. I would take that exact same heart model, brand story, equity, whatever you’re going to build your brand around, and I would tell you that you could overlay these mindstates.
In that moment where they’re trying to create the self-expression, they have belief systems, they have attitudes, preferences of how they want that experience to happen.
In our case, we said the optimistic achievement mindstate. I could say, how they want to express themselves, we need to create psychological primes and frames around optimism and this idea of maximizing my chances of self-expression.
It sounds very scientific by the way, and it’s sometimes feel like, why are you bringing all this complexity?
I did an experiment when I was at PepsiCo. I created a checkered flag for a race car. A checkered flag, that association of winning, right? People associate that with race cars, which associates the winner gets the checkered flag.
That creates a feeling of achievement. I just cued that optimistic achievement. I didn’t have to talk about, “If you eat Doritos you’ll be an achiever.” That is such an artificial way.
“People will see through that.”
But just by putting a subtle cue there, I can create an association of Doritos with achievement.
When you are in front of 300 different chips and all of these different private label chips that are trying to say, “We’re cheaper than Doritos”—you are not cheaper than making him feel like an achiever.
That’s the power of using this stuff on top of equity. So yeah, I think that would be a pretty good example. I would say take these sciences to activate on your equity.
And you could do it much better and you create this emotional route so that you will get people to buy more. That is why you are doing it in the first place.
Activating the Goal
Charlie Hoehn: I want to dive back—activating the goal. Is this deciding on the goal? I don’t even know what you mean by activating the goal.
Will Leach: Here’s the idea. Every behavior that you take, you have a goal associated with that. You personally have a goal associated with it.
It is important to understand people’s goals as relates to your client’s category.
That could be what’s your goal when you buy a car, what’s your goal when you buy a house, what’s your goal when you are deciding what to eat for lunch?
Let’s go to a house example. So here’s what I would do.
What’s really important for me to understand—if you are going to go buy a house—is your functional goals. Meaning, those things that you would expect. “Well it has to be under this price. I want to be in this kind of a neighborhood,” etc.
“Those are just functional things that goal theory helps you understand.”
Then there’s this thing called higher order goals—why is that important to you. So I do an activity within our research to try to understand those system one, non-conscious goals.
So I’ll do it to you right now, Charlie. Let me just ask you a question, are you a home owner?
Charlie Hoehn: No, I’m renting.
Will Leach: Do you want to buy a home eventually?
Charlie Hoehn: Eventually. I feel conflicted about it. I maybe don’t want to go through far down this rabbit hole for me but yeah, my wife and I got to go back and forth on it. It’s a confusing topic, so yeah.
Will Leach: It won’t matter to me. Let’s just think of your home, whether it’s a house or an apartment. I want you to step into a time machine. So imagine that you are stepping into a time machine, and I want you to go 10 years into the future.
You are going to check out your home, whether that is an apartment, a cabin, a tent, a house, whatever it is. I want you to just step into that 10 years from now and I want you to see that.
Where are you living? Imagine yourself 10 years from now, where is your ideal home? Where is it? Is it in Paris? Is it in Austin? Any idea?
Charlie Hoehn: Gosh, this is so hard for me but I’ll play along because I want you to have an answer. Yeah, so let’s we’re in Colorado, our home is in Colorado.
Will Leach: Do you have a family? 10 years from now do you have a family?
Charlie Hoehn: Yes, we already have a daughter, but yes, we’ll likely have another child.
Will Leach: Awesome, so what makes that the perfect house for you? Lots of rooms?
Charlie Hoehn: I would say that actually nature, that is easy access to nature around us. And that we’re close to a community that we’re close with, and the home is not so big that we feel compelled to fill it with stuff.
We both want a compact home, not a tiny home which I know is popular now, but a compact home that feels cozy.
Will Leach: Awesome, then I have just one more question and I could keep going of course but okay, so if you have this ideal home.
It is integrated within nature, it is in an area that you want because it is close to people that you identify with and that you want to be around. If you had that home, what would it provide you and your family?
Charlie Hoehn: I think joy and security and stability.
Will Leach: Brother, out of that small conversation I just identified a particular mindstate or actually two just from that experience right there that you would be susceptible to your future self in particular. But I would talk to you now to help you reach that ideal goal.
So those words that you’re talking about just now put you into a place called optimistic safety. Actually what’s interesting, I love where you went.
So you are driven in that case because you said you are looking for security. So security is defined as to feel secure, safe, and protected from threats. You are trying to make sure that your family is safe.
You use that word twice, and then you talk about belonging.
“Belonging motivation is to feel aligned, accepted, and affiliated with others.”
So there are nine of these motivations and that is one part of the model. What you just told me is you have a goal, and your functional goal was in that conversation was you are looking for a home that is a particular size and a particular place.
Those are very functional goals.
Then what you told me was a high order goal was bring family together in a place that is safe psychologically and hopefully physically safe too. That right there, if I can activate that in messaging to you, I am not going to tell you, “If you buy this home you are going to be safe,” that is too artificial. But showing you creative or showing you an image where you are activating that concept in your mind’s eye view, and not consciously.
It is going to start that emotional arousal process.
So I tap into that higher order goal just by that conversation. I identified a little bit of it. I would talk to you longer if I was doing the research.
That’s goal theory, that is one part of the model. Then you told me the motivation. So the second part of the model is motivations. Totally different social science, but an important one.
It is the engine that drives you after your goal. So that engine is going to help you pursue your goal. Think of it as an engine to a car. Your goal was the destination you are trying to go to.
You told me that you were driven, if you will, your motivation is around belonging and security as it relates to your home.
Imagine I am a real estate agent.
I can talk to you and say, “Well you know this area in the neighborhood, this is one of the really safer areas of Colorado. What is really great about this area as well is that there is a real community here where people feel safe, keep their doors open and invite people over. Just come over, we have a really tight knit group of people here.”
That’s a very different message than if I thought you were being driven by cost or you are driven by say, competence, which is another motivation around maybe you desire to do a fixer upper.
So if I understood you were driven by competence, I am going to talk about things like, “This house right here there is a lot of tweaks that the last owner was working on that you could actually make your own. They are the same house, same floor plan.”
I can position that slightly differently. That is how I use motivational psychology, because when I use the motivation for you, which was belonging and security, I should now start making you feel much more comfortable with this idea of taking on that behavior.
Charlie Hoehn: So this is even beyond marketing, just understand how to communicate what’s important to us.
Will Leach: The way I did that is I did what’s called a third party projection. Rather than saying, “Tell me what you are looking for in a house,” which all real estate agents do. If I really had you keep thinking about it and keep asking you what is important, why is that important, I can create that emotional arousal.
And because you are in that system, you are going to tell me a lot more about what you are really looking for, and I can make sure that you don’t make a bad decision, right? And so it is not just to persuade and manipulate. It is actually understanding what is going to truly make you happy and that is what’s important to do—provide the services for that.
Charlie Hoehn: Yeah, I am a big believer in the phrase ‘ask why until you cry’ because you need to get to the core of why you are doing what you’re doing, yeah.
Will Leach: We call it laddering. So that was where the first two parts of the behavioral model, understand people’s goal, activate their goal and messaging, understand why they’re going after the goal that is motivational psychology. That is how you prime people’s needs.
The next thing is this—we all go after goals in one or two ways. One is called promotion regulatory focus, meaning we are seeking to maximize our chances of reaching that goal.
The other one is prevention which is we’re seeking to avoid mistakes or minimizing risk of not reaching that goal. You may think of it as approach versus avoidance or whatever. It sounds like a small detail. It is a big detail on how you frame up.
So for you even on the home thing, if I knew that you wanted to belong, I would start talking about how this home is going to make sure that you are never without your family around you right?
I could take the exact same home, the exact same motivation, and now I could say to you, actually this home is always going to bring you together.
So one is about avoiding separation the other one is about more togetherness. The way I frame up that house makes it feel much more intuitive, and that’s just the way you work with that theory.
“It is just finding the path of least resistance.”
Remember that we have all of these decisions, and my job as a behavioral designer is to make this whole decision making as fluid as possible. If I know my path of least resistance is that you were seeking to maximize the benefits, then I can frame up all of my benefits in that way. If it is framed up in that way, it would just feel natural.
It is an easier decision, versus going the other way.
So it is a very simple thing to do with my clients. I am like, “If I do nothing else, let me help you on that right there” and I will tell you same brand, same benefits. Let me just tell you how to frame up that choice and you can see an immediate lift. It’s a regulatory fit.
This is behavior economics 101.
This is just this idea of cognitive heuristics. So for those of you who don’t know, the idea is that we have this mental shortcuts, this heuristics that we use to make decisions very, very easy. So here is an example, its classic in America: it’s scarcity effect.
We tend to value things that we believe are scare in nature.
So when it says limit eight or a limited time only or only one seat left in an airplane, regardless of us doing cost benefit analysis, we often assign value to them and we go, “Oh my gosh, I’d better go buy it.”
Yeah remember you talked about Amazon? Think about what Amazon does—they use scarcity effect all the time. Only three left.
Or social proof. Social proof is a bias that we use or a heuristic that we use that creates value in things that other people have. So the more people have something or the more people made this decision, it feels safer to you.
What does Amazon.com do for you? It tells you reviews.
It shows you hundreds of people, or it will create a conformity effect and it will say, “People like you also bought this.” That is all psychology. They’re creating this cognitive shortcut for you. So when you are on there, you’re in an emotional hot state because you are buying. You found something that you really like, and then it’s triggering the behavior.
A lot of people go to amazon.com, they go to a grocery store, they go to a display, they look at this package of cookies and they get that emotional arousal, and then they walk away.
If people are walking away, if they’re not clicking through that website it’s because you haven’t triggered the behavior. You haven’t integrated a cognitive heuristic, that scarcity effect. That could be the thing to get somebody from emotional arousal to actually buying.
That is why we trigger the behaviors at the end of our model. We take goals, motivations, regulatory focus and then cognitive heuristics. We put those together, and it is what’s called a mindstate.
When you are in this mindstate, there are actually clear cognitive by seizures you should be using, and it is not me saying it. It is out there in social science literature. There are clear biases that people should be under the influence.
There are words, there are visual images—if I want to create a sense of reciprocity, I can actually dilate the pupils of somebody in Photoshop. Research will show you that if I am reading an ad and there is just a slight dilation in the pupils of the lead model within the ad, your pupils self-dilate themselves, and that is a sense of reciprocity.
That signals non-consciously that she’s interested in me. Therefore, I am interested in what she’s saying.
There is a psychological sense of reciprocity.
That small detail could get somebody to create that emotional arousal to then go ahead and look at that ad more and engage with that ad. That’s what behavioral design is at its essence.
Success with Marketing to Mindstates<
Charlie Hoehn: I want to wrap up our interview with maybe your favorite success story that you’ve had with a client with applying this mindstates to their marketing.
Will Leach: Yeah, so I am blessed to have worked with some of the world’s largest brands on this. I was really early in on the market, and I’ve made a name.
But actually, my favorite client of all time was actually a very, very small company. I actually reference them in the book. I can’t remember which chapter they’re in, but it is called Carolina Fine Snacks. It’s a small snack company out in North Carolina, and they approached us very early on with their development of their business.
There’s this guy by the name of Phil Cossack.
Phil is this genius inventor when it comes to food technology and food science. To this day, I’ve never seen a more wholesome nutritious snack, and I came from Frito Lay. So I have been with some of the best.
This guy has an invented a product that is actually a nutrition in snackable form. But here is the idea—it is a 20 man shop over in Raleigh, North Carolina, and he’s like, “How do I compete against Frito-Lay, the juggernaut that has all of this marketing?”
Because they don’t have marketing budgets at Carolina Fine Snacks. They don’t have distribution yet. All he has in an invention that he thinks, “You know what? I want to change American eating.”
I actually brought my whole team over to his office because he can convince me over the phone in a grocery store when he just randomly called me and he found out about behavioral design.
He says to me, “I think we need to use behavioral psychology to drive our brand.” So we took this guy’s invention, we go to visit him and did it pretty much for free because I was so inspired by him and the mission of Carolina Fine Snacks.
“We built a brand from scratch.”
It ended up being Wicked Crisps. We actually created the tagline. We created the logo, we created the packaging. We created the website.
It was all based on these mindstates. So we did just very basic research for his marketplace and what we found out was his consumer marketplace—imagine this is a millennial mom that’s his core target. It was a really simple research we found out that she’s under the optimistic autonomy mindstate, meaning she is driven by autonomy motivations.
So being unique and dependent having self-determination in her actions.
But she goes about snacking with the optimistic mindstate, or regulatory focus, meaning she’s seeking to maximize her chances of winning.
So in her world, we found out that there’s always tensions, if you think about millennial moms or just millennials in general, there’s this tension between “we need to fit in,” but “I also want to be myself.”
I want to support large companies because they give you more value, they give you lower prices, but I love smaller companies because they provide my ability to give a purpose.
Playing it safe in life, versus I want to be free to discover.
And then lastly, this tension around doing the right thing versus doing things that I just want to do or supposed to do. It is that kind of tension between what’s right versus what I really want.
From that, we created this brand that literally takes into account these tensions. The idea is this: Traditionally in snacking, it’s either eat healthy or eat something yummy. That’s it.
I used to fight this at Frito Lay all the time. We’d get portfolios of snacks that these are the better for you snacks and these are the fun snacks. Millennial moms don’t see this dichotomy. It’s a false dichotomy, because in life, they see that I could have both. Why do I have to choose whether I want something that’s tasty or something healthy?
“I want both.”
If you go to the book or if you go to Wicked Crisps, we designed in the logo. In the tagline, we integrated these psychological primes to drive this mindstate of optimistic autonomy. What is great about this is I just wanted to see this guy succeed. His first launch, I mean his very first launch of his first brand out there, he had massive distribution like 30,000 stores within the first year. With no marketing research, with no marketing budget at all, in fact he just uses social media.
That was a time where I got to help somebody who otherwise was just going to try to wing it.
He was going to call it Phil Snacks or anything that he could come up with, but he knew the power of behavioral design and to this day, it’s my favorite. It’s my favorite brand and my favorite project at all time. I love all the toilet paper studies I do and all that stuff too, but that is the one.
Connect with Will Leach
Charlie Hoehn: I’ve got two more quick questions for you. The first one is how can our listeners connect with you or follow you if you want that?
Will Leach: Sure, so we are just getting our website up for the book. So that is marketingtomindstates.com. You get a free chapter, and there is going to be some content that we’d put on there because we are trying to actually push the workshops and the worksheets through this.
So there is lots of free content because it is a practitioner’s guide to doing this.
I am trying to take the science out of it. So you can get more information at marketingtomindstates.com.
You can find me personally at LinkedIn and also my personal Instagram account, and then Marketing to Mindstates also has an Instagram account and a Facebook account.
Charlie Hoehn: Excellent and the final question is give our listeners a challenge. What is one thing they can do from your book this week that will have a positive impact?
Will Leach: I would say if you believe that you are making 75,000 decisions on any given day, let’s just say that you are actually making because maybe you may not believe that, right? Let’s just say you are making 400 significant. Only 400 decisions on any given day. I want you to try to remember—how many of those did you consciously consider making that decision.
And if you can name 35 out of those 400, I’ll just tell you, you are doing really, really well and you are very self-aware.
I can tell you the vast majority of people cannot come up with more than 20 decisions that they are actively consciously considering. If that’s the case, for all of those other decisions, mindstates are going to matter.
It’s being aware that you are not really taking in this environment. You are not really aware.So be aware that there is this other world around context, and how things are positioned to you influence your behaviors.