Talking to Your Customer: Leo Burnett’s Behavioral Archetypes

Companies struggle with what to say to potential customers and consumers. Too often, they fall back on a recitation of facts and claims:

  • We are the leading…
  • For over 40 years, we have been…
  • Drawing on deep industry expertise, we…
  • Headquartered in New York City, we are the…

Messages like these are not only boring, they fail to be relevant and fail to motivate. They do nothing for your marketing.

Leo Burnett has released a new tool that can help any company do a better job talking to their customers. The idea is that communications should be based on your audiences’ values, attitudes and behaviors.  The agency reviewed dozens of existing behavioral theories and studies and then conducted more than 10,000 interviews with classifications of 1,500 to 1,800 discreet behaviors. They clustered the behaviors into eight discrete categories:

The green inner ring contains the eight behavior categories/values/motivators.
In the light green center as specific behavior examples fitting within each category.
The light gray ring contains the negative extreme or result of each behavior category.
The outer ring contains our most likely behavior when a value or motivation is thwarted by something we do not control.

Marketers can look at specific values and behaviors associated with each category in order to craft messages. They can also look at adjacent behavior categories or opposite behavior categories for inspiration.

An example cited by Leo Burnett is Allstate and its “Mayhem” campaign. The campaign seeks to persuade people who might be buying cheaper insurance that such behavior isn’t really “preservation” behavior. They think they may be increasing their financial security by carefully choosing a budget conscious policy. The “Mayhem” campaign crosses to the opposite side of the behavior wheel suggesting that these careful people should make a change. “Mayhem” shows that they are actually more vulnerable to loss and disruption with a low-cost policy.

If you are refining how you talk to your customers, map them against this wheel. Don’t start with what you want to say, start with what they value, what motivates them, and what lies behind their behavior.

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