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Behavior Change
A Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma:
New Insights, Approaches to Brand-Led Culture Change

Creating meaningful consumer behavior change remains a ‘white whale’ for Purpose-driven brands. Here, we hear a behavior-first approach to changing culture, needed paradigm shifts for regenerative leadership, and the latest research on meaningfully connecting with dithering consumers.

An ongoing theme this week at Brand-Led Culture Change is unlocking the secrets to authentically engaging consumers on living more intentionally and understanding the widespread impacts of our behaviors and purchases on ecosystems around the world. We heard a primer on this from a variety of perspectives on day one — here are a few more nuggets of wisdom that were uncovered …

Behavior-first culture change

Brands have a unique opportunity to create culture change through their ability to influence their consumers. This is particularly critical to help consumers make decisions toward a flourishing future for all.

On Tuesday morning, Guy Champniss — Head of Behavioral Science of London’s Creative Engagement Group — shared a novel framework of 7 ‘levers’ that can help brands expedite ‘behavior-first’ culture change as well as inspire people to think more creatively and robustly about enacting change.

Culture change is behavior change, he explained. There is an iterative relationship between culture and behavior, where culture reflects the behaviors that we see around us; and collectively, behavior determines culture. We can change culture, Champniss said, by trying to change behavior first.

Defying Online Algorithms with Authentic, Impactful Storytelling

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“Culture is a whole series of behavior changes,” he said. “A behavior-first approach makes culture change more manageable and practical. It breaks off little bits, focuses on different areas, and lights lots of small fires — all of which together combine to be the culture change we want to see.”

Champniss laid out 7 areas of focus in a behavior-first culture change framework:

  1. Attitude — Attitudes can be powerful. However, Champniss explains that attitudes ultimately predict behavior less than 50 percent of the time. Keep this in mind when creating change goals.

  2. Perceived control — Make sure that those we want to influence recognize they have the capability to do what we’re asking of them.

  3. Sense of self — In stimulating change, we need to recognize that we are different people in different contexts; and our behavioral responses can be different, too.

  4. ‘Mental shortcuts’ — We all use mental shortcuts to preserve our cognitive energy in our everyday decision-making and processing of information. Messages need to be simple and easy to understand. Change efforts can increase the friction to disrupt unwanted behaviors or decrease the friction to encourage desired behaviors.

  5. Social influence — We’re heavily influenced by what we see others doing around us (descriptive norms), or what we believe others around us would like to see us doing (injunctive norms). Injunctive norms can be highlighted for more visibility and to influence desired behavior change.

  6. Experience — Change is reliant on having a great experience at the moment of that change occurring. This means applying behavioral science to the user experience.

  7. Motivation — Ensure people are intrinsically motivated to commit to the whole series of habits that make up the culture change. Instead of externally incentivizing people to do something (i.e., compensation), the specific habit or change it needs to ‘speak’ to them. Intrinsic motivation can be stimulated through supporting people’s sense of autonomy, increasing their knowledge (mastery), and confirming with them that making the specific change makes them integral to their community (relatedness).

A behavior-first approach offers practical, targeted applications for creating sustainable change. To lead the way in culture change, brands must be practical, innovative, and creative, but not at the expense of due diligence. A behavior-first approach couples verifiable metrics with the creative maneuverability needed to effect lasting culture change.

5 paradigm shifts for brand leaders with an eye on a regenerative future

A global pandemic, compounded crises of climate injustice, income inequality, fact integrity and more — this is the context global brands are facing. In a concurrent breakout, BBMG, Inter IKEA Group and Ben & Jerry’s discussed how brands are shifting structures within organizations and out into the world in an effort to move toward a regenerative future — one in which the business world operates as a positive force that repairs and adds value to natural and human systems.

The world is in a liminal space between an old mode that no longer serves and the building of a new one that uplifts all, explained BBMG’s Raphael Bemporad.

“How might we as human beings, as organizations, as brands, navigate in a liminal world?” Bemporad asked. “At BBMG, we believe we’re entering a new era for branding, one that is no longer about just trying to understand and chase small, incremental changes or shifts in people’s preferences.”

Branding and its relation to culture change uniquely represent societal system design, Bemporad explained. At the same time, brands are vessels for stories of understanding. Brands are on the forefront of a cultural reset and reckoning as we shift to new paradigms.

“In this space between stories, we’re navigating stress and overwhelm,” Bemporad said. “Young people are feeling this, and they’re looking to brands to help navigate where we are and help design solutions for where we might go together.”

Based on BBMG research, Bemporad identified five paradigm shifts brands and other leaders need to make to span the liminal and create a regenerative future:

  • Power: Giving voice, choice and ownership to those with the most at stake. A shift from centralized power over others to shared power with others.

  • Space: Closing the distance between the people and places that make, sell, and use brands. This minimizes externalities; distance between production and consumption creates opportunities for exploitation of people and the planet; so, brands must shift from a mindset of “over there” to “right here.”

  • Time: Slowing down, moving with intention, and becoming good ancestors. This embodies a transition from instantaneous to intentional — thinking in terms of generations, not the next quarter.

  • Leadership: Welcoming vulnerability, embracing “not knowing,” and turning challenges into quests — embodied by leadership transitioning from having all the answers to having all the questions.

  • Relationship: Widening the circle of connection to thrive together. Interdependence is the new lived reality, shown vividly by climate change and the pandemic.

For many, sustainability is an unattainable luxury. But Inter IKEA Group is flipping the script with good storytelling and systemic engagement.

“We believe it should be the norm for society,” said Malin Pettersson-Beckeman, Head of Sustainability Communications & Engagement at Inter IKEA Group. “It is our global commitment and is a holistic approach.”

From a systems change in its value chain to empowering customers to live sustainably, IKEA is setting a bar for regenerative brand leadership — embodied by a corporate ambition to inspire and enable more than a billion people to live within the boundaries of the planet by 2030.

Maximizing sustainable principles in its own value chain and empowering customers by meeting their needs for sustainable living are key to IKEA’s ambition. IKEA also enables circular living through its growing buyback program, and captures public imagination with the launch of a tool allowing open source design of circular products for IKEA.

Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry’s has found itself in the center of a paradigm shift in dairy. Its model recognizes the interconnectedness of water, soil, atmosphere, biodiversity, workers and animal welfare. Internally, the company is committed to dramatically increasing non-dairy ice cream sales and reducing on-farm emissions through regenerative agriculture practices.

Externally, Ben & Jerry’s continues to leverage its voice and influence to create systemic change, actively producing social media content to engage on key societal issues.

“All of us have the ability to create momentum, to be that drop in the water,” said Dave Rapaport, Global Social Mission Officer at Ben & Jerry’s.

Cracking the nut: The latest data on consumer needs and behaviors

Later Tuesday afternoon, four industry leaders shared insights taken from up-to-the-minute research on engaging consumers and other stakeholders in a variety of areas.

Noah Keteyian from WE Communications explored bringing the net-zero transition down from the ivory towers of politics, business and academia and into the lives of everyday people.

A just net-zero transition, he said, must:

  1. Consider the needs of workers, the marginalized, and emerging communities

  2. Share both the costs and benefits of the transition to sustainable systems

  3. Provide citizens with good, stable jobs.

Keteyian shared five, far-reaching principles to help brands maintain their social license and thrive in a just economy:

  1. Close the gap between C suite aspirations and company-wide action

  2. Expand your sustainability story and impact beyond your backyard

  3. Debunk the myth that sustainability is too expensive

  4. Embrace a global mindset and invest in the people and places that need it most

  5. Harness stakeholders’ willingness to play the “long game”

Claire Tassin of Morning Consult then shared her firm’s insights into how consumers react to brand Purpose initiatives. Her presentation focused on how to stick to values and engage in the public conversation amidst consumer skepticism. Taking action is only the first step: Shouting from the rooftops is the next — though, as she cautioned: “Consumers can be quite skeptical when they see brands making big statements.”

A Morning Consult cluster analysis showed that 70 percent of shoppers say they aren’t affected by a brand acting on social and environmental issues. But the remaining 30 percent can be — and will make spending decisions based on brand communications of ethics.

“The people that care about this are listening — and I want all of us to have permission to be louder and take up more space on the initiatives we’re working on,” Tassin said.

A recent joint study between Sustainable Brands™ and Ipsos focused on the changing drivers and behaviors of mainstream consumers around the intersection of brands and sustainable living. The research focused on the role brands play in driving consumer behavior and closing the intention-action gap. Key learnings include:

  • People want to live more sustainability and are concerned with the climate crisis.

  • Perception of what the most impactful sustainable behaviors are doesn’t align with scientific consensus.

  • In the US, people are drawn to product labels aligning with their understanding of sustainable behaviors.

  • Despite a lack in confidence, most consumers understand what a carbon footprint is.

  • There exists an ongoing role for education and focus on issues with promise for significant positive impact.

96 percent of people try to live sustainably at least some of the time, showing that sustainability is embedded in the mainstream. Brands shouldn't focus on convincing the public that sustainability matters, but help them incorporate meaningful actions into their daily lives.

But recent global events have us distracted. Globally, 2 in 3 people are concerned about paying their bills, and environmental issues are taking a back seat to more immediate threats to personal health and safety. But despite immediate worries of health and safety, 83 percent agree that the planet is heading toward an environmental disaster unless serious changes are made.

The pandemic resulted in a spike in environmental concern for some major economies as people reevaluated their values. And there’s something else we’ve learned from the pandemic.

“All around the world, drastic action was taken to mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” said Ipsos’ Steven Naert. “The world is capable of changing its behaviors drastically in case of an emergency.”

But people don’t always know which actions to take. Globally, recycling is perceived as the best sustainable action to take, even though it is only the 60th most impactful sustainable behavior. Clearly, there’s room to help consumers understand which high-impact changes they should adopt.

“The key is in making sustainable behaviors easy and accessible; so it can be a tiny change instead of a big, scary one,” said SB’s Rachel Whitacre. “That will ultimately help people along their journey toward sustainable living.”