How Companies Use Psychology to Manipulate You

February 18, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

In a wide ranging article that looks at how companies are able to use data they collect on you to manipulate your spending habits, Charles Duhigg focuses on two companies in particular: Target and Procter & Gamble.

On Target he writes:

  • Retailers are aware that shopping habits are incredibly difficult to influence. Once a shopper has decided to buy a particular product from a particular store they are likely to maintain that behaviour.
  • There are particular times when shopping habits suddenly become flexible. Times such as graduation, marriage, divorce, and pregnancy can all cause a shopper to begin to form new habits.
  • One of the initiatives that Target decided to focus on was to see if they could find out which of their customers were pregnant months before the baby was born. They found that pregnant females had particular spending habits that could easily be identified.
  • They used this data to send targeted, individually customized offer booklets to the women in their database who were determined to be pregnant. It worked too well. One father found out that his high-school daughter was pregnant from the coupons he received.
  • Target decided to subtly embed its offers in catalogues that marketed other products as well – even if their data showed that the customer was unlikely to buy that product. This misled the shoppers into believing that everybody received similar booklets with similar ads for maternity clothing and diapers, and made them feel more comfortable about shopping at Target.

On Procter & Gamble he notes:

  • Procter & Gamble’s initial attempts at marketing Febreze, an odor eliminating product, initially failed, because those who are often in the presence of bad smells become habitualized to it and no longer sense it.
  • Procter & Gamble shifted its marketing efforts to focus on becoming a regular part of your existing cleaning habits, rather than convincing you to adopt new habits entirely.

To read more about each of these case studies, the products you’re more likely to buy if you become pregnant, and how you can use information about your behaviours to achieve goals such as losing weight read the nine page report over here.

Source: The New York Times

Via: Life Inc.