YspeopleExplore tab

Play to norms

About DJC

The older I get, the less I know and the more inquisitive I get.

Unfortunately, despite a lifelong search, most of the answers elude me. That said, I love to ask the questions and fuel the debates that will ultimately lead us all to a better understanding of the big issues in life, the universe and everything.

They say that we spend 98% of our lives in our head. I for one would like to use that time as effectively as possible.

Consumers are attracted to what they see as the norm.

There was a fascinating experiment completed in the United States in 2015 by a group of behavioural economists. It dealt with the consumer response to norms, and how this response might impact on purchase decisions. This same experiment has since been replicated with similar results.

An experiment using hotel towels threw up some very interesting results.

An experiment using hotel towels threw up some very interesting results. Pic: iStock

The experiment in question was undertaken in a hotel chain. In the first of two samples, people having checked in and entered their bathroom were confronted with a sign that read "to save water and help the environment, please recycle your towels". The second sample saw a sign reading "80% of our customers recycle their towels".

From the first group, some 30% of patrons recycled their towels.

From sample two, some 60% of patrons recycled their towels.

Some may suggest that this demonstrates that patrons of this hotel chain do not care about water or the environment. Perhaps they don’t. Other similar experiments, however, have led researchers to the conclusion that the second group was more likely to recycle their towels because they believed it was the norm. They wanted, consciously or otherwise, to behave in a manner consistent with other people.

Perhaps more importantly, they did not want to be seen to be behaving in a manner inconsistent with that of the majority of patrons. They did not want to appear to be out of step.

This effect has also been identified in retail environments. Seeing another customer looking at, or buying, a new product or brand significantly impacts the likelihood of a new customer studying a product or making a purchase. The same range of products was tested, with sample one seeing no one else viewing the product while sample two saw someone else viewing the product. Subjects in the second group were significantly more likely to make a purchase.

We all like to think we are individuals, but we are, in fact, sheep. To appreciate this, you need only look at the dress worn by teenagers – all of who look the same – and all of whom think they look distinctive. The same is true of other fashion conscious groups. They consciously, or otherwise, want to look similar.

Consumers are naturally attracted to the norm. Most human beings want to behave in a manner consistent with that of the majority of people in their world and, in particular, the people in their world that they respect.

Yes, we are sheep. We like to be like everyone else and to be seen as normal.

While it may not always help to suggest to people that they are sheep, or that they should behave like sheep – it is important to appeal to this instinct.

In the case of the hotel experiment, the researchers actually created a norm that people could respond to. They created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Appeal to the need most consumers have to be seen as normal. Use perceptions of the norm to influence behaviour. Create a new norm if you need to.

  • Marketing is the business of managing human behaviour to achieve behavioural outcomes that facilitate commercial objectives. As such, marketing cost-efficiency cannot occur without an understanding of ‘how’ and ‘why’ consumers do what they do. This series of articles will provide helpful insights into how consumers think and respond.
  • Banner 1
    | Your rating
    No ratings yet

    Related stories

    Do you have a canny tip for saving money.

    Share your money-saving hacks here

    Everyone loves to save a dollar or two when they can. Do you have any money-saving tips to share with your YsFriends?

    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    Because you're never too old to pursue your passion.

    Your midlife career-switch advice is golden

    Have you started a new business or pulled off a major career switch in midlife? We'd love to hear from you.

    Money Ageing
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    Rejuvenate in Retirement.

    6 ways to retire from work, not life


    Are you ready for The Lifestyle Change? Retirement can be a more difficult adjustment than we realise.

    Money Retirement Relationships Ageing Health
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    James Packer: born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

    Bring back death duties for silver spooners

    Why should the privileged offspring of Australia's elite inherit their billions tax-free? Let's level the playing field.

    Money Business Ageing
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    Retirees have copped a rough time in recent years.

    A new approach to retirement planning

    I’m going to stick my neck out just a bit and say retirees have had a raw deal over the past couple of decades.

    Money Retirement Ageing
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    Funeral directors prey on the vulnerable.

    Funeral directors are blood-sucking leeches

    Leveraging grief to up-sell expensive funerals to vulnerable families is a loathsome practise and must stop.

    Money Business Family Community
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    Trickle-down economics my arse.

    How big business is giving you the shaft

    Are you battling to make ends meet thanks to stagnant wages and lack of jobs? Here's who's to blame.

    Money Business Community Social Issues Politics
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    What impact will the eventual death of Queen Elizabeth have on us in Australia?.

    What happens to us when the Queen dies?


    As a part of the Commonwealth, the impact on Australia will be greater than you think.

    Community Social Issues Politics Australia UK
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    Myer - no Harrods.

    Good riddance to Myer's CEO!

    And there are plenty more who should follow him. Don't these obscene executive salaries make you furious?

    Money Business
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)
    New CBA CEO Matt Comyn.

    Why 'banker' should start with a W

    It's our fault that the big banks treat us with such contempt and arrogance. Time to hit back by taking our mortgages and...

    Money Business Community
    About 1 year ago
    (Money & Business)

    Message board

    Derek, 10 months ago:
    I am great
    George, 10 months ago:
    What's up Thomas?
    George, 10 months ago:
    Messages are now updated in real time on other browsers.
    Thomas, 10 months ago:
    Thomas, 11 months ago:
    DJC, 11 months ago:
    George, 11 months ago:
    Message board active from June 2018

    Have your say!

    Your Great Australians

    Trending stories
    When it comes to great bloggers you can connect with, this list has you covered.

    20 mature bloggers worth following

    Looking for Australian...

    (Entertainment & Culture) About 2 years ago
    They may be hideous, but geez, some toby jugs are valuable.

    Is your toby jug worth a fortune?

    Did you know that some of...

    (Nostalgia) 10 months ago
    JB Hi-Fi is on the money when it comes to customer service.

    JB Hi-Fi Vs Harvey Norman

    When it comes to comparing...

    (Money & Business) Over 2 years ago
    Sammy's no slouch when it comes to rattling cages.

    Connect on hotelnepal ... and make new friends

    This blogger may be shy,...

    (Pastimes) About 2 years ago
    Have we been sold a lemon with the NBN? And what should we do about it? Picture: Shutterstock.

    What should we do about the NBN?

    The NBN is now being called...

    (Money & Business) Over 1 year ago
    Weekly Poll
    Photographic memories
    It's 35 years since the Ash Wednesday bushfires in South Australia and Victoria claimed 75 lives and more than 2500 buildings.