How do you increase the effectiveness of advertisements? This question is answered by Annelies Wittenberg and Folkert van Oorschot, research consultants at Validators, in a series of four blogs specially written for Adformatie. These blogs introduce you to the BEST CREATION Framework, which underlies Validators' creation tests. This framework contains four elements that increase the effectiveness of your creation: Breakthrough, Engage, Stick and Trigger. In this fourth blog, Folkert tells you about the final step in developing your BEST CREATION; How do you make your commercial drive behavioral change? That he knows how to trigger?

Decisions you make in life often feel deliberate. Yet they are likely to be guided by impulses, emotions and other unconscious instincts and reflexes. Researchers have been trying for decades to figure out the exact mechanisms behind these unconscious decisions.

Trust the auto-pilot
One of the best-known researchers in the field of decision making and consumer behaviour is Daniel Kahneman. He developed a model that distinguishes between decisions from a fast, intuitive and unconscious System 1, and decisions from a slow, rational and conscious System 2. His research shows that the majority of our (purchase) decisions are made in the unconscious System 1. Even if you have consciously thought about this decision.

One of the important hypotheses of this so-called 'dual-process model' is that in System 1 decisions are made much faster and more efficiently. As a result, System 1's unconscious decision making process is completed before System 2 can even begin the process, and System 1 will be the final decision maker. This hypothesis is frequently supported by research with the 'Cognitive Reflection Task'. Take this example:

'A bat and a ball cost €1.10 in total. The bat costs €1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?'

Kahneman had respondents perform various tasks under light time pressure. Because respondents had to make a quick decision, they did not have time to recruit the slower System 2, so in almost all cases they automatically went for their intuitive System 1 answer: €0.10. Without time pressure, respondents were able to use their analytical System 2, so they ended up choosing the right answer much more often: €0.05. Because a System 1 decision is often the most efficient and easy way, our brain still chooses a System 1 decision in most cases.

Numerous studies of this kind show that our decisions are made on our auto-pilot. They are based on previous experiences, emotions and feelings. So if you, as a marketer, want to influence the (buying) behaviour of a consumer, focus on sharing emotionally charged content instead of rational content.

Behavioural change in the long and short term
In essence, the aim of advertising is to achieve an ultimate change in consumer behaviour. How do you let the consumer make the choice for your product or brand? This allows you to focus on both short and long term behavioural changes. A popular technique to bring about short term behavioural changes in consumers is 'nudging', giving a 'gentle nudge' in the right direction. Think of travellers who unconsciously keep a train cleaner when sprayed with lemon spray beforehand, or a company that sticks coloured lines on the floor towards the stairs so that many more people unconsciously take the stairs instead of the elevator.

On the other hand, you can try to bring about behavioural changes by focusing on long-term changes. In the previous blog, my colleague Annelies already talked about how important repetition is for making links in our brain. With each repetition, our neurons become more and more intertwined and the associative connections in our memory with your brand become stronger and stronger. Stronger associations with your brand in our memory cause your brand to be considered more quickly, which will eventually lead to more purchases (Romaniuk & Sharp, 2004).

Weapons of influence In additioto Daniel Kahneman Cialdini also plays a major role in research into (consumer) behaviour. Although we have all read about Cialdini from time to time (or regularly), I would like to quote him for his 7 principles of influence: commitment, reciprocity, sympathy, social probative power, authority, scarcity and unity. To this day, they are used with great regularity in TV commercials, e-mail campaigns and on websites. Open any large webshop or website like, Skyscanner or Gamma, and Cialdini's principles can be found in abundance. To have an example, I was looking for a hotel in Utrecht for next weekend on Even on this small part of the website no less than three of Cialdini's principles stand out:

Reciprocity: we are quicker to do something for someone or buy something from someone who has done something in return for us. For example, clearly informs us that you can cancel free of charge and that no prepayment is required, which means that as a consumer you run 'no risk at all'. For what, belongs what. Good deal, right?

Social evidential value: we are quickly inclined to follow the (buying) behaviour of others. In the example below, the website says that this hotel was last booked 7 hours ago.

Scarcity: when we know that something will no longer be available in the short term, we want to have it much faster. I see in red letters "Still 2 rooms available on our site", something which by the way is almost always there. The scarcity principle in full glory!

Once you know what the seven principles are, you will regularly come across them in many campaigns, and also in every major webshop. Cialdini's principles are very effective. So make sure you incorporate these principles into your creation.


Are you up to it?
Still, as a marketer you can't indiscriminately use commercials and advertisements to influence consumer behaviour. The situational context in which a consumer finds himself also has a major influence on the purchase of your product. That's why it's important for marketers to understand which different buying situations there are around a product and which of these buying situations you want to respond to as a brand. Byron Sharp calls these outlets 'Category Entry Points' (CEP's), something we at Validators do extensive research into.

Byron Sharp showed that larger brands call up more CEPs in the minds of consumers than smaller brands, which means the larger brands are also considered in more situations. Larger brands have more 'mental market share' than so called. The higher your mental market share, the more often your brand is linked to different CEPs (buying situations), the greater the chance that consumers will think of your brand during a buying situation. And that of course has a positive effect on your sales figures!

When designing your creations, it is important to respond to these CEPs. You do this by using predefined storylines with a clear message in line with the CEP's you want to send. When you also take repeating elements into account, use emotional context to steer on System 1 and add at least one principle of Cialdini, then you are well on your way to designing your BEST CREATION.

Now test your own creation within 24 hours
Together with my colleague Annelies, I will summarise in a fifth blog the whole series of blogs that describe the different pillars of the BEST CREATION Framework.

Validators help marketers to optimize their creations and look at their unconscious perception. An effective campaign is 60% determined by the power of creation. You test your commercial within 24 hours in the STORE.

Folkert van Oorschot is a cognitive psychologist and Research Consultant at Validators.

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