Eugene Paul a middle aged resident of New Jersey suffered from a complete memory blank out, the disease fortunately left all the other parts of his brain intact and fully functional. He underwent a surgery that partially fixed his problem leaving him infected with short term memory loss. The scale of his problem can be defined by his inability to remember his way back home from a mere 100 meters from his house. His wife took Eugene to a walk regularly; the daily walk from the house to the park was the only outing Eugene had in his day. Days went by and something miraculous took happened, Eugene suddenly could trace his way from his house to the park and back all by himself. The baffled team of doctors examined Eugene’s mind and deducted the super power every human holds, the power of habit.
After careful research and experiments triggered by Paul Eugene’s case the doctors deducted that the brain completely abandons the use of the memory bank once it figures a periodically occurring activity performed by the body, in its default state the brain intends to use minimum effort in back and forth of information and to stick to this state the brain converts periodically occurring activities into routines and saves them in a routine memory chunk. These routines are triggered by a cue and are usually concluded with a reward that releases a hormone. The body usually gets used to the hormone and thus the repetition of the habit becomes a subconscious effort to maintain the state of the body and the brain.
Proctor and Gamble had launched their new air freshener product available in a classic packaging offering a dozen different flavors. Febreeze had a pretty solid prediction backing and was expected to revolutionize the market with its ground breaking technology of eliminating odor but it failed and drastically. It failed so bad that the management was left with no option but to discontinue.
During some last minute efforts for the marketing of the product, proctor and gamble hired gentlemen who they thought will have insights into why the product performed so terribly in the market.
The research revealed that humans had the capacity to get used to a particular smell. For example a lady who lives with six cats will get used to the smell which in normal circumstances might not seem very appealing. In simpler words the definition of bad odor is different for different people. This is exactly where the product fails.
P&G made some drastic changes in the marketing strategy of Febreeze. This is where P&G launched into tapping the habit patterns. The marketing team deduced that rather than targeting the product to general people, it was narrowed down to people who were in a regular habit of cleaning their house or making their bed etc.
All P&G had to do was placing the product in the habit cycle of the target audience. The sequence of any habit starts with a cue; once the routine is triggered the habit realizes itself and is concluded with a pleasant reward.
P&G placed their product right at the reward stage, now the target audience made their beds and were rewarded with a fresh smell courtesy febreeze.
Takeaways for marketers from the above research
- Always make sure that you figure out a suitable habit pattern and always place your product in the existing habit loop
- The technique is still relevant because a lot of marketing efforts of the present day are dedicated in different directions with little or no importance given to the position of the product in the target audience’s life
- The above mentioned technique can be a differentiating factor in your next big marketing idea