Sharing and Consumption of Stories Can Become a Habit

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Neale Martin’s book “Habit – The 95 Percent of Behavior Marketers Ignore.” explains how people do many of their tasks and use many of the products they use because of habit.

Habit outweighs loyalty – even when customers say they are loyal to a product and the product served their needs.

This occurs because of two sections in our brain. The first section focuses on tasks that need a lot of attention. For example, think how much we have to concentrate when we don’t know the directions. We might even turn the radio off so we can concentrate better. On the other hand, we can drive our daily commute and barely notice that we’ve just driven a few miles. “Hey, how did I just get here?”

This section of our brains can only do one task at a time. Other tasks – ones that are simpler are moved to a part of the brain that can handle multiple simpler tasks in more of an automatic manner. That’s where tasks become habits. (That’s why sports teams practice the mechanics of the sport over and over.)

For example: If we get up early every morning to go to the gym, it becomes a habit, and we do it automatically. We barely have to think about it.

Mr. Martin explains that this concept is important for marketers, product developers and even executives to remember when new products are created. People don’t buy products because of brand loyalty, but rather because that product is part of a habit.

Take the example of grocery shopping. Many people follow exactly the same routine (a habit) every time they visit the store, and they likely visit the same store each time.

A high percentage of new products fail, Mr. Neale explained, but the ones that do succeed either replace a habit or create a new one.

For example, the iPod replaced disc and Walkmans in a more efficient way. It improved the current tools to execute a task. In other words, it improved a habit.

Let’s talk content marketing for a moment …

We know this has an impact on how we build audience. Let’s use a blog as an example. People come and go to blogs. Search traffic and social media hits can lead to new people finding a blog and a specific article. The trick then to grow an audience is to somehow make this one-time reading a habit.

This could be a regular email newsletter or another opt-in method that allows the blogger to send new content to the person. People might also bookmark a site and keep checking back. In theory that works. Does anyone still go through their bookmarks daily to check news and information sources? I used to do that, but that habit has been replaced by just typing in the address of a handful of websites here and there.

My habits as they relate to news consumption have evolved like this over the years:
1990-2005 – Printed newspapers delivered to my house
2006-2011 – Bookmarked websites and some email newsletters
2012 -2014 – Social media – I see news in my social media streams and click on what I see. Sometimes I use a news organization’s app. Usually only when a notification pops up (that’s a habit perhaps).

Thinking about how habits influence us, and how we can create products that either create a new habit or enhance an existing habit, can be a useful technique and help us create more relevant products that people will use over and over.

I would recommend Mr. Martin’s book to executives, marketers and product developers to dive deeper into how habits need to be considered.