How Behavior Science Makes Influencer Marketing More Effective
Media Post | December 13 2023
When Wellow compression socks discovered that NBA legend Bill Walton was an avid fan of its socks, the brand’s behavioral science instincts led them to believe that he would be the perfect influencer for an important segment of Wellow’s target market.
While many in the ad industry don’t recognize it, there is a body of behavioral science research that explains why influencer marketing is so effective and commanding an increasing share of budget. Some estimate brands will commit $34 billion to influencer marketing this year, representing a 17% increase over 2022.
While influencers, and their earlier cousins, endorsers, often strategically “work” for brands, the industry predominantly deploys them based on “gut instinct,” intuition or in response to the latest tech-inspired trend.
Behavioral science provides the “why” influencers, and other forms of brand ambassadors, work. Applying it consciously can yield better and more repeatable outcomes.
Back to Bill Walton. While he is not as visible today as he once was, he stands tall (literally) as a proven professional athlete. Not surprisingly, former athletes at all levels are a target audience for compression socks. When Wellow found that Walton was a loyal Wellow wearer, the brand saw him as a natural “fit” as a brand influencer.
In applying behavioral science thinking to the selection of an influencer or micro-influencer, marketers can make better choices in who stands up for their brand. Here are some scientific underpinnings to consider:
- Social proof, which is the psychological concept that says consumers are influenced by others who use the brand. It is driven by our desire to fit in, even if we don’t always know why.
- The messenger effect, which recognizes that people are more likely to be persuaded by messages delivered by credible and authoritative sources.
- The halo effect, where the positive attributes associated with a celebrity or authoritative figure extend to the product they endorse. People tend to assume that successful individuals are knowledgeable in various areas, even if there's no direct connection between their expertise and the product.
Many of today’s most successful brands leverage behavioral science principles to understand the underlying motivations of how consumers make decisions. These principles, including those cited above, can help inform everything from a brand name, to its menu design, the shape of its packaging to its tag line.
Uber Eats offers vast offerings to consumers so its menu design was critical to helping consumers make a choice and avoid something called choice paralysis. Research shows that it’s not the amount of choice that’s the problem, but how you structure the options. Uber Eats successfully taps into the principle of “Dynamic Social Proof” by highlighting menu items that are trending or popular. This gives the consumer a reason to choose those particular items.
One bias that was applied when ideating the name of Wellow, for example, was sound symbolism. Consumers will react positively or negatively to sounds. Therefore, there’s a lot in a name. “Wellow” was selected because it exudes comfort, which is a critical component of the brand’s reason for being.