Get cognitive with your customer communications

In every scenario, we have the tools and information to reach the best rational decision. But we rarely ever do.

Behavioural Science has lifted the lid on our true cognitive natures.

Our decisions are instinctive and emotional. In fact, we are predictably irrational.

Interesting, right?


  • Just how exactly are we predictably irrational?
  • And how do we harness the power of that in our everyday customer communications?

Let’s get straight into it.

How are we predictably irrational?

Focussing on three areas for starters: Social behaviour, nudge theory and product framing.

Each one is expanded upon below.

Social behaviour

Social behaviour is the behaviour among two or more people. This encompasses any behaviour in which one individual affects the other.

Example scenarios:

(Expected behaviours will be unveiled further down the page)

  1. You enter a lift, with a considerable number of people in it. Then everyone else in the lift turns to face to the back of the lift
  2. You go to a jewellery store to find out a bit more about engagement rings. The jeweller sits down with you for a considerable time and teaches you everything there is to know, beyond your expectations
  3. You go to what is known to be the best restaurant in town for the first time. There is one dish everyone is talking about, but another dish initially caught your eye instead

How would you behave?

Most people will turn to face the back of the lift (check out this video) due to social proof, would also feel quite inclined to purchase an engagement ring from the jeweller due to reciprocity and are very likely to order the dish everyone is talking about due to FOMO*.

*Fear Of Missing Out

Nudge theory

Nudge theory is using indirect suggestion to influence the behaviour and decision making of an individual or group. It truly is fascinating and can take on all sorts of forms.


  1. You walk into a canteen for lunch. There are a range of choices, healthy and unhealthy, but unlike the unhealthy options, the healthier choice meals are front and centre, displayed in prefilled pots/trays, ready for selection
  2. (OK, strange example coming up)… Cleaners of a men’s toilets are forever having to mop the floors around the urinals due to men’s seemingly lackadaisical attempts at aiming. So, they paint a fly just to the back left of each urinal

How would you behave?

More people will start to choose the healthier option in the canteen, due to choice architecture. Oh, and the floor beneath the urinals will be cleaner* due to nudge theory.

*So you now know, that men, in their urinal behaviour, cannot resist peeing on things, especially if they look as though they might wash away.

Product framing

A frame is the way a particular something is presented, in this case different product choices. Small details matter. And different framing often generates a different response.


  1. You’re choosing snacks at the cinema. A small popcorn is £3 and a large popcorn is £6, but a medium popcorn is also listed at £5.50
  2. You’re at the supermarket grabbing essentials. One jar of coffee is £2. Another jar is £2.50, but there’s a label saying its price has been slashed from £4

How would you behave?

Most people will choose the large popcorn due to the decoy effect and the more expensive jar of coffee due to reference pricing. But without the framing, it’s more likely they would go with the cheaper alternative.

How do we harness the power of our predictable irrationality in our everyday customer communications?

This isn’t as tough as you might imagine. It really all comes down to giving it a go. Try following these simple steps..

First, identify your audience groups split by different core customer need(s). In addition, be very clear on your marketing objective for your communication in question. Once both are established, it will be clear what your CTA* is and how you propose to position this in a resonating way to your audience groups.

*Call To Action

Audience 1 Audience 2
Audience description
Customer need(s)
Marketing objective

This will give you the key modules for your communication wireframe. One way to document this out is a COBRAS table, like the below.

Audience 1 Audience 2
C – Connection
O – Offer
B – Benefit
R – Reassurance
A – Action
S – Sign off

Second, think about the deeper context of when and where the communication will be received. Bear in mind that different contexts are likely to apply for different portions of your audience. Try to paint a real picture of what these contexts are likely to look like.

Audience 1
Audience 2

Now you have your communication wireframe, and a profile of the audience and the context in which they’re likely to receive the communication.

Third, audit the communication for opportunities where you can integrate behavioural cues such as social behaviour, nudge theory and framing. Again, it helps to use a templated approach to this.

Audience 1 Audience 2
Social proof

Fourth, now you’ve identified what behavioural cues you can incorporate, identify which you think will work best and run an A/B test to randomly generated portions of your audience base. ‘A’ being with the behavioural cue incorporated, ‘B’ being without. To prove that your behavioural cues are effective, you can test one thing at a time, building up the overall effectiveness of your communications over time.

Here at Edit, we take an intelligent and structured approach to delivering effective customer communications. Get in contact with our Strategic Planning team to find out more.

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