Behavioral design: the psychology of influencing

As a marketer, you are constantly working on influencing the behavior of your customer. After all, you want them to take action; a click to your website, make an appointment or immediately make a purchase. In this blog I will take you on a journey into the basics of influencing behavior.

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5 minutes


Online Marketing



The brain

First of all, we look at the brain. On average, a person, including you, receives about 4.5 million stimuli per second. You can imagine that this is far too much to consciously get everything with you. You are now actively reading this blog, but by now you are probably sitting. And you're not aware of that. Roughly speaking, the brain consists of two parts. The unconscious part, in which things go automatically, such as breathing, sitting and moving. And the conscious part, where you need your attention. Do you remember the first time you had driving lessons? Back then, you were working a lot with your conscious brain about how to shift gears, accelerate, brake and steer. Now that probably happens for the most part in your unconscious brain and you can consciously focus on the road.

The Psychology of Behavioral Influencing

Robert Cialdini has written a book about it and is perhaps one of the most famous behavioral psychologists of our time. He researched the principles of influencing behavior and came up with the following six:


When you do something for me, I do something for you. In your communication, you can also respond well to this, by giving your target group the feeling that you have given them something, and not necessarily something of value. For example, a small gift or a discount can already ensure that people are willing to choose your brand or product rather than the competitor where they get nothing.


The best-known example is Yep, I know, everyone cites it, but they just do it right. Or maybe even a bit too much, but it works. By quotes like '1 room left available' or 'only to be booked with an account', you make sure that people have some sort of anticipated regret: "What if I don't have that room anymore? Then let me book it."

Commitment & Consistency

By saying publicly that when you do a also b will do, you give commitment to yourself. Think, for example, of the government's BOB campaign. The strength of the campaign lies in its repetition. As long as you do it often enough, you will automatically change it.


You've been learning since you were little. You have to listen to Mom and Dad, to the teacher and to people with authority. By claiming authority as a brand, people automatically listen to you. Become a thought leader in your field and you will convince many people!


By creating sympathy, people are going to like you. Think of Albert Heijn's crazy supermarket manager. I don't know if it really leads to extra sales, but it does make the shop a lot friendlier.

Social Proof

Social Proof is showing evidence of others, your customers and for example the media. By showing that others write about your product, you create trust with your target group. But beware: it can also have a negative impact. If the messages are written out of fear, this can also influence fear.


The six principles of Cialdini

Push in the right direction

Sometimes your target group needs a push. You can help them by influencing the desired behavior with language or pictures. Do you want them to use the stairs? Paste a poster on the elevator with the text: "The elevator's not broken. It's relaxed". People will think about it consciously and will check for themselves that the stairs might be a healthier option. By allowing your target group to make their own choice, the choice will be more powerful and will therefore yield more results.


Language can have a great effect on behavior. By rephrasing sentences (this is called framing), you get a completely different effect. Are you job-seeking or unemployed? Is the glass half empty or half full? Is there a climate change or is it caused by... Think about this when you write a text?

Framing: is it 20% fat or is it 80% fat free?


Last but not least, when you say it yourself, you believe it the most. Just look at when you've just bought something new, for example. Then you'll find that you have the most beautiful, best, most expensive product, which is just a little bit better than that of your friends.


Behavioral barriers come into play. An example of this is choice stress. Because there are too many choices, you get choice stress, which gives you a choice strike. Barriers are resistances that we can classify in different areas. Functional barriers (rational), social barriers (what does it say about me in my environment) and emotional barriers (loss of control and fear). As time goes by and the barrier increases, the need decreases. So, to get people moving, you have to know what's stopping them. Identify the barriers for yourself and see which button you can turn to remove the barriers.

Functional barriers are often rational objections. Think, for example: too much hassle, too expensive, too big, no idea what it will bring you. Social barriers are mainly about your environment. You are afraid that it will affect your self-image or that your surroundings will look at you strangely. You don't feel connected to the brand or product. The last in line, emotional barriers, are mainly about your feelings, the lack of self-confidence and the fear of change.

To tackle the barriers, proceed as follows:

Step 1: define the target group and the desired behavior. Then you know where you are going to work towards.

Step 2: collect insights from the target group. What is important to know about them?

Step 3: What are the motives and barriers of the target group?

Step 4: establish your USP (Unique Shifting Point): which button can you turn to remove the barriers?

Step 5: determine your marketing strategy on the basis of the above steps.

Always remember that changing behavior takes time and willpower. So, do it in small steps. An example can be by saying out loud (commitment): "after I ......... I'm going ...".

In theory this means: the attitude someone has (his attitude, how does he feel about it?), the standard that exists (am I the only one or is its common sense?) and the control that your target group continues to have (do I outsource everything or do I stay in control?) together form the intention (the will) to change. And that together, results in changing behavior. We call this the Theory of Planned Behavior.

Customer Experience

You can only carry out the above steps, but we can also help you with them. At Loyals, we've developed a special Customer Experience that helps us get to the heart of the challenge in just a few sessions. Together, we will look at the desired target group and the barriers that play a role there, and then define three buyer personas. These form the basis for the sales tunnel, your personal strategic marketing plan. Are you interested in a CX session or would you like to spar with one of the strategists? Leave your details and we will contact you as soon as possible!

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