User-insights via M&M’s bowl: Learning’s from Digital Summit 2015 Part 1

I recently heard a great story by the behavioral psychologist Matt Wallaert at Digital Summit 2015. He asked the audience why people love M&M’S®. The answer? They are easily available, affordable, and beautiful.

Matt then pauses for a minute to explain his theory on the core of human behavior. Humans either feel pressures to do something, or, not to do something. He calls these Promoting and Inhibiting Pressures. Promoting Pressure is what influences you to act and Inhibiting Pressure is what influences you not to act.

Matt circles back to M&M’S (and by now I am engaged but bitter that he hasn’t handed any out!). He tells the story of how he leaves a bowl of M&M’S on his desk in front of the guest chair. Matt does this not because he is a nice guy, but because he likes performing behavioral experiments on unsuspecting co-workers. He’s proven that when the M&M’S are right in front of someone, they usually take a few. But when the bowl is out of arms reach to the chair, the rate of consumption drastically decreases. Back to Promoting and Inhibiting Pressures. When the appealing M&M’S are in front of someone, they are so easily attainable that the pressure to act outweighs the pressure not to act. But, when the M&M’S are out of arms reach, there is a pressure not to take the M&M’S because they are out of the way, not easily accessible.

I appreciated the tie-in to user-experience – that influencing someone to do something requires some understanding of their core Promoting and Inhibiting Pressures. As marketers, we ask questions and brainstorm about what a target user will do and why, but Matt is challenging us to see a world where we ask why users are not doing something. If we understand that, then we can begin to remove unnecessary barriers that inhibit users from interaction and provide them with great experiences.

At Brown Bag Marketing we are curious for knowledge, which is why my business cards say “Ask Why” on the back. I really appreciated this session at Digital Summit. Did any of our readers attend, and what did you think? And is anyone else out there still craving M&M’S??