Our recent COVID-19 Pulse Survey showcases how, regardless of industry vertical, brands are having the deepest positive impact on their audiences through uncomplicated and predictable experiences.
Behavioural science tells us that humans value uncomplicated experiences when faced with constant uncertainty and change. We behave in ways to prevent us from feeling loss, and seek out experiences that harness our anxiety in a way that feels commonplace.
To solidify relationships with your audience during these complex times, focus on delivering simple and predictable experience that nail the core elements of your business. Being relevant without being distracting is key.
Let’s face it, this past year has been anything but easy. The COVID-19 pandemic has added complexity to many activities we used to take for granted and acted on through habit, and with this ongoing reality comes a strong desire for simplicity and ease.
At Emotive we’re always studying the human condition. We believe that in order to understand why audiences act the way they do, we must get upstream of these behaviours to understand the feelings and beliefs shaping them.
We fielded our simple 2-question APEX Score survey with North Americans as we hit the pandemic’s one-year mark to see how attitudes have shifted and what audiences expect from major brands now and into the future.
Through this pulse survey we’ve uncovered,
We know, we know. It’s not the deep and profound message that most Marketers tend to search for when creating experiences, but when we listen to people from across North America, we hear their sentiment echoed in our APEX Attitudes — make this experience as predictable and uncomplicated as possible.
But, what makes an experience uncomplicated?
For all its wondrous features and functions, the human brain is one thing above all else: a prediction machine. We have evolved to make sense of the blooming, buzzing confusion of the world. To help with that, the brain is always thinking one step ahead. When we experience what our brain has predicted, we get a jolt of dopamine that courses throughout the brain and body. At our core, it feels good to experience predictability.
But, when those experiences are different from what the brain predicted, there’s a cascading of “prediction error signals” that fire off to alert our system that something is amiss. Granted, there’s a possibility that some of those “errors” are in the positive direction, like when you go to pay full price for a product and the checkout person rings the item through at 50% discount. But to the brain, losses loom larger than gains, and so the “errors” in the negative direction are weighed much more heavily, and put us into a state of hyper-vigilance in order to protect us against the dangers of loss and failure and other threats.
Now let’s look at where we are right now.
The last year has been chalk-full of losses due to uncertainty, frustration and disappointment. And because of it, our brain, in its obsessive hunt for predictability, doesn’t want to risk any more possible negative outcomes.
It’s a primitive response: the brain will direct our behavior to seek out the things that are the least complicated as a safe bet to minimize the likelihood of something bad happening.
When things are good, we open ourselves up to a multitude of different possibilities. We perceive the world with eyes wide open, and we’re compelled to engage in behaviors that are different and novel. When things are bad, and when there’s a lot of unknown, uncertainty begins to climb.
We are in a state of uncertainty and flux right now. And as soon as it crosses a certain threshold, the brain and body’s very first response is simple and strong: feel anxious. That anxiety triggers our perceptual, sensory and behavioral responses to narrow down all the possibilities of the experience. We think in tunnels, we see with blinders on, and we stick to the behaviors and actions and routine in our lives that we know work for us, that we know we can count on.
In this highly complex state, brands and experiences that are uncomplicated are what we need in order to respond to the anxiety we all feel. You see, anxiety is a good thing. It’s telling us there’s too much going on right now, so let’s seek out things in the environment that are wonderfully uncomplicated.
Let’s talk about hungry bears. When you starve a bear, or any animal/insect for that matter, it will stick to a single food source, and try to get as much out of it as possible. A satiated and full bear, however, will be much more comfortable with going out and trying to find new food sources. It’s referred to “Optimal Foraging Theory” and it explains the tendency of a human (or bear or bee) to consider decision trade-offs between exploiting versus exploring.
The exploitation/exploration idea holds true not just in foraging or food contexts. It’s a basic driver and operating mechanism for life and all behaviors. The Clash said it best in their hit song, Should I Stay, or Should I Go? We are constantly, unconsciously thinking about the trade-off of staying or going, of exploiting or exploring. And the scales tend to tip one way or another depending on what’s happening around us.
We know, for example, that when there’s a great deal of uncertainty, we favor exploitation over exploration. Right now, we aren’t so interested in having product or brand experiences that are novel or different. We don’t want to explore. We want to exploit and get what we need. Nothing more, nothing less.
The consumer seeking uncomplicated brand experiences is like a starved bear sticking to the one berry bush.
Here are our top takeaways to positively impact your brand health and solidify audience relationships in the coming months:
Focus on ensuring your message is clear and easy to connect with so that your audience knows exactly what to expect and can predict their next experience with your brand. Help them build the new habits they yearn for in taking action. Your customers want to know what’s coming next.
Consider things like:
Wherever possible, don’t let organizational challenges around systems, payments, or operations cloud the customer experience. The focus must remain on your audience, not on your organization’s circumstances or experiences during the pandemic.
Consider things like:
It is critical to reinforce your core value proposition in a way that highlights the predictable experiences people have come to know and love from your brand, but in a way that feels relevant and speaks to the current social climate.
Consider things like:
If you’re going to continue to innovate your offering (and we always think you should) don’t do it at the expense of continuing to nail the core elements of your business that your customers have come to love you for.
This study was developed using our proprietary APEX Scoring System, which allows us to understand the strength and direction of the key attitudes that drive the relationships between brands and their audiences.