Does naming a behaviour encourage people to do it? Study says ‘yes’

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

Researchers believe using a behavioural label can create a commercial advantage for a brand, versus a competitor not using such a label.

Researchers from three universities have published a new study that explores marketing uses for ‘behavioural labelling’ – when giving behaviours specific names or tags may encourage consumers to adopt those behaviours. 


The study, forthcoming in the American Marketing Association’s per-reviewed Journal of Marketing, is titled ‘Behavioural Labelling: Prompting Consumer Behaviour Through Activity Tags’ and is authored by a team from Zeppelin University and the University of Cologne, both in Germany, and the University of New South Wales in Australia. 


Marketing literature suggests consumers adjust their behaviours in response to words that evoke certain images, such as brand and company labels.  


This new study finds that naming or tagging an activity with a special word can make people want to do that activity, which the researchers call behavioural labelling. 

Photo by Dellon Thomas from Pexels

The study shows that labels can encourage people do all sorts of different things, even if the connection between the label and the action seems random. This happens because when we give something a name, it can create pictures in our minds of what we are talking about. 


In five different studies measuring actual consumer behaviour, the study shows that labels can encourage positive new behaviours and discourage negative existing ones. Creating mental pictures in people’s minds might be why this works, but more research is needed to fully understand the connection. 


Behavioural labelling as a marketing advantage 


Understanding the phenomenon and its related effects offers marketers an alternative and complementary perspective on branding in general, as well as a fresh way of designing advertising campaigns for products and services that revolve around a specific consumer behaviour or required actions.  


For example, Ariel, a P&G brand, introduced its ‘All-in-1 Pods’ laundry detergent, where a single ‘pod’ can be dropped into the washing machine before clothes are added.  


To market the product, Ariel introduced the verb ‘to pod’ (or ‘podding’), representing a behavioural label, to encourage the consumer behaviour of using Ariel pods. 


In another example, two competing grocery delivery services in Germany – named Flink and Gorillas – had near-identical offerings. 


After a while, Flink started to communicate a behavioural label translated as ‘Flinking’ (or expressed as ‘Flink it!’) while Gorillas did not introduce any behavioural label. Results showed that Flink had more Google search inquiries than Gorillas after the behavioural label was launched. 


“While we introduce behavioural labelling and provide initial evidence for [its] effectiveness, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of this interesting new area. We hope that our findings spark additional research and new marketing practices in this intriguing domain,” says Professor Valentyna Melnyk of the University of New South Wales. 


You can find out more about the study here. 

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.