Where Content & Human Behavior Intersect

October 4, 2019 Maggie Callahan

I was recently speaking to a colleague who asked if I had dined at the new “no-human” restaurant in San Francisco. He talked about how, when you walk into the restaurant, you order your entire meal via a self-service kiosk and receive your food out of a dedicated locker, never seeing a human in the three to five minutes it takes to obtain your meal. This is not an uncommon idea in the world today–less human interaction and more digital experience. The Harvard Business Review took to figuring out how more digital content can drive human behavior and their findings are fascinating. When customers ordered food online, their orders net approximately 3% more calories and included 14% more instructions. When purchasing liquor at a self-checkout, the sale of labels with difficult-to-pronounce names increased by 8.4%. What do both of these situations have in common? The change to digital messaging and self-service are helping to eliminate social pressure.

This may seem like a far-off hypothesis, but let’s dive into the impact that content can have on human behavior. There are two very distinct methods to gain and display content to trigger an action–pull vs. push. 

We pull information from our phones on an hourly basis. “Pull” allows us to privatize our communication, making it more personal and less vulnerable to the public eye. This type of communication is critical because it allows users the access to what they want to see when they want to see it, and data analytics can track commonalities to target messaging.  

Target messaging is where we see the “push”. Companies need their message to be seen, heard and felt by their consumers and their employees. This type of push data allows us to publicize our communication, gathering a broader audience, bringing people together and managing content for specific purposes.

This likely isn’t a new concept to anyone who owns a smartphone, but one piece that many don’t consider is the design of the content that sits behind both push and pull communication.

When we consider the messages, we are both sending and receiving, there is a distinct purpose why we gravitate toward certain companies, clothing lines or inspirational leaders, and that is all about design.

This likely isn’t a new concept to anyone who owns a smartphone, but one piece that many don’t consider is the design of the content that sits behind both push and pull communication.

When we consider the messages, we are both sending and receiving, there is a distinct purpose why we gravitate toward certain companies, clothing lines or inspirational leaders, and that is all about design.

Design can change human behavior.

I mentioned earlier that the change to digital messaging and self-service help to eliminate social pressure and I want to come back to that. There is an expectation that arises when it comes to digital messaging and that is, “easy, intuitive, fast.” I should be able to easily navigate to what I need (similar to how I can on my mobile device). I want to understand the layout of the content and associate colors or imagery with things I already know (think red, yellow, orange–McDonald’s). I want to get my information in a matter of seconds because I have no patience.

Design is often an afterthought when it comes to pushing critical content to consumers or staff. Many believe that the textual message is critical, which it may be in times of emergency, but even still, humans react and engage significantly differently with motion graphics, colors and imagery rather than text.

In a world that is becoming more focused on digital and less interested in physical social interactions, making your user feel understood via the design of your content is integral to the success of your messaging. Getting behind this type of branding with strategy, consulting and intention is the absolute first step.

Here are some best practices you can follow when evaluating digital assets, thanks to FWI’s very own Kelly Byrom, Senior Director, Digital Experience:

1.     Ask Why 5 Times–get to the root of why, not the surface. You’ll often be surprised at the real reasons people want to do things, most of the time stemming from an emotional response.

2.     Iterate on impactful designs frequently–if you’re passionate and care about a message you’re sending, make sure it continues to get better. That doesn’t mean touching it every day, but it means having a game plan for what to add next.

3.     Experiment–put your work out into a test environment and examine how people interact with it. You’ll learn a lot about how everyone thinks and feels differently, and you’ll have great personal feedback

4.     Ask for help–embrace the people around you who have different opinions and different outlooks. Bounce ideas off everyone!

5.     Have fun–design offers the ability to use your imagination is a really influential way. Enjoy it!

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