Modern Species Modern Species Strategic Branding & Responsible Design
Menu x


A Sustainable Design Blog

Why Branding Works / The Behavior Model Perspective

by Gage Mitchell | Feb 10, 2016 | Branding

Do you ever wonder why people are willing to pay more for luxury brands, or why they often choose the name-brand over the generic competitor sitting nearby? Well wonder no more, because we’ve modified the Fogg Behavior Model to shed light on why branding works so darn well.

First, let us quickly explain how the original behavior model works:

FOGG Behavior Model

According to Dr BJ Fogg’s research into human behavior (Stanford), you need three forces to align in order for a certain behavior to occur. First, you need Motivation, which isn’t constant and is notoriously hard to predict how long that level of motivation will last. Second, a person needs the Ability to perform said behavior, because without that, it’s quite impossible. Third, you need to have a well-timed and properly-designed Trigger that, well, triggers the person to act. So in order to predict a behavior, or design a process to result in a certain action from your audience, you need to place the right trigger in front of a relatively motivated person who has the ability to perform that behavior right then and there. Seems straight forward right?

So here’s where the ahah! moment happens. In the graph above you’ll see the curving Action Line, starting from high-motivation and swooping down (convexly) across the graph to the easy-to-do side. Any trigger placed below that line is unlikely to result in the desired behavior. Anything above, is very likely. The key to the whole thing is that since you can’t control people’s motivation (they have a hard enough time controlling their own motivation), you should aim to control the trigger and ability, or ease of the action. If a person is highly motivated you can ask them to do a more complex task. If they have low motivation at the time, you’d better make that task super easy. Placing the correct trigger at the right place in this chart will accurately predict whether or not the desired behavior will occur.


Brand Trust Model

Now that we understand the basic model, let’s modify it to explain how branding works. Instead of Motivation we’ll use Trust, but the rest will stay the same. In this model, the more you do to cultivate trust with your audience, the more effort you can ask them to put forth in order to purchase your products. Think about the long lines at the Apple Store to buy the newest iPhone. Would that happen if an unreliable discount brand launched their product at Radio Shack? Heck no. People trust Apple to deliver a great product and a great shopping experience. So they’re willing to pay more and wait in line all day/night just to get their phone a week earlier than their friends.

So what about name-brand items versus generic? The same basic theory applies. Whether or not the name-brand is any better than the generic, or new-to-market competitor, people are familiar with the name-brand. They’ve heard their commercials, and they’ve seen their ads, so as long as that brand doesn’t do anything to destroy the buyers trust (massive recall, or a prior bad-experience, etc), that person is far more likely to buy the name-brand, even if it costs a little bit more, because they’re afraid of wasting their money on a crappy alternative. 

So of course, if you are that scrappy new brand on the shelf, you now know that your first goal should be to build trust with your audience. Make sure your brand is authentic (a.k.a. trustworthy), and professionally executed (reduce fear of your product being crappy) so that when the potential customer sees your product on the shelf (Trigger) next to the name-brand, they’ll be willing to take a (smaller) risk and give it a try. And then, of course, you’d better follow through on those brand promises and deliver a product, and experience, that matches that sexy brand. Otherwise, you’ll break their trust and they’ll go right back to the name-brand, or the next new product on the shelf.

Gage Mitchell is the Principal / Creative Director at Modern Species. For more posts from him, click here.

Some Related Articles

Do right and you will be conspicuous.- Mark Twain