Are you moving towards long-term success by working together with your customers/consumers? Or are you sprinting towards short-term goals alone – destined to sputter out while the competition glides past?

When long-winged birds fly together, something amazing happens – they fly in a V formation. We all know that squadrons of planes do the same thing to save fuel. This phenomenon is likely the same for the birds – but it is far more complicated.

Fixed wing planes create very stable air currents. Flapping birds, on the other hand, create very turbulent currents behind them. And so, not only do the birds need to position themselves perfectly (just behind and to the side of the bird in front), but they also need to perfectly time their wing beats to catch the uplifting eddies of the air from the bird in front of them.

They do this all inherently, by instinct. And by each bird doing their part in the formation perfectly, they benefit the entire flock – allowing it to reach its destination thousands of miles away with the absolute minimum amount of energy. The decisions each bird makes benefits themselves as well as the entire flock. No single bird needs to exert any influence or persuasive power on the others to encourage the desired decisions.

Humans (i.e., employees, customers, consumers), by contrast, are not quite so easy…

Humans very often do not make the choices that are best for us. We don’t exercise enough, we don’t eat well, we drink too much, we take on too much stress, we spend above our means, etc… Oftentimes, these decisions are not only bad for individuals but they also have implications beyond – for families, for companies, for society itself.

We all know, however, that telling people what decisions to make is not a model for long-term success. People want to be participants and never want to feel as if their ability to choose has been compromised.

Brand ManageCamp 2017 speaker Zoë Chance (Professor of Influence & Persuasion at Yale School of Business; Former Brand Manager, Barbietm) and her colleagues at Yale have studied the intersections between psychology and behavioral economics to build a framework for Influence which involves gently nudging behaviors towards mutually beneficial outcomes – without restricting the individual’s freedom of choice. The framework revolves around the art and science of behavior change – and it has relevance for brand marketers with regards to both internal team dynamics as well as in understanding how best to create environments that allow customers to naturally make the choices we need them to make.

Through her work at Yale, Zoë has identified the four P’s of behavior change – Process, Persuasion, Possibilities, and Person – and has developed a framework that can be used to make desired choices more attractive while, at the same time, making less desired choices more difficult and less tempting.

Notice that Persuasion is but one of the four P’s. To ensure success, you must consider all the factors – and not just be good at convincing people.

I encourage you to check out how Zoë and her team helped the Google Food Team design a program that encourages better food choices with their employees around the globe – to boost both employee health AND performance. You can read more about that case study here (https://hbr.org/2016/03/how-google-uses-behavioral-economics-to-make-its-employees-healthier). It is a prime example of being able to use the framework to nudge people to make the decisions that are not only best for themselves but also for the organization – to help them, essentially, to fly in the V and get farther together.

Now, using the framework to influence customers may not seem as noble. And the argument can certainly be made that the decisions brands need customers to make are not always 100% mutually beneficial. However, the fact remains that to achieve our goals, marketers need to be able to influence and persuade. Just like the birds, we can’t get there alone.

The days of telling people what we want them to do are long gone. By using the latest understanding of human psychology and behavioral economics to gently nudge people towards desired outcomes in ways that acknowledge their needs and wants, brands are more likely to achieve success.

I hope you will consider joining us at Brand ManageCamp 2017 in September to learn more details from Zoë in person as to how you can utilize the framework to achieve more favorable results with your teams and your brands. (See more details about Zoë’s session here).