What is the biggest barrier that can stop you making a sale, and how can it be overcome?

The answer to that question about the biggest barrier is very simple: it is habit.

Although we often don’t like to think so, we are all creatures of habit.  Indeed there is a general agreement among scientists who measure human behavioural traits that at least 40% of what we do is habit.  Sometimes (especially as we get older) more.

The reason that we have habits is simple to understand: habits are automatic activities that take up very little processing room in the brain – leaving us free to concentrate on the more unexpected and unusual events around us.

But there is another fact about habits that is important here.  For, although habits are very easy to pick up, they are very hard to stop.  Indeed it can take months and months to get rid of a habit, even when you are focussed every day on the notion of removing the habit.

But… the purpose of almost all advertising is to get individuals to abandon an old habit and take up with something new.

What this means is that the notion that something is NEW! doesn’t always help in advertising, simply because NEW isn’t what many people actually want. Yes, they will search for something new if they feel everything else has failed, but most of the time that is not the mindset of the individual.

Thus an alternative approach is needed – an approach which offers something different without seeming to challenge the long-established habit. This generally means offering a new benefit – one that your competitors are not offering.

Now that might seem a tall order, but it is one that can be readily achieved if (as most companies find when they look at such things) one’s rivals are not actually promoting benefits at all, but instead are promoting features.

Now at this point, some companies do say, “but the moment I start advertising in this way, my competitors will just copy”, but curiously this isn’t normally the case.  Their own habits will tend to stop them changing.

This approach is one of the elements within our Velocity programme in which we do look at our client’s advertising, and that of their competitors, and come up with new approaches.  Approaches which differentiate, without feeling like a challenge to the established habits.

You will also find details of our most recent briefing papers on the home page of our website  – as well as a total absence of horsemen.

Tony Attwood

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