Framework For Planning & Building Campaigns with Behavioral Psychology

Take a more in-depth look at what we’ll be covering in iAcquire EDU, including behavioral motivation and modification with BJ Fogg, and the seven universal marketing behavioral actions.

As we get closer to the launch of the first session of iAcquire EDU on August 14th, we’ve tried to offer plenty of background information to help you prepare for the material we expect to cover.

Our framework is built from three distinct components:

  1. The Behavioral Model of BJ Fogg.

  2. A model of 7 universal marketing behaviors developed by myself, Joshua Giardino, with assistance from Michael King, Norris A.A. Rowley, & Tom Harari.

  3. A model of human needs

Understanding Behavioral Motivation & Modification with BJ Fogg

The Fogg Behavioral Model is the product of BJ Fogg’s research at Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab. It suggests that a behavior is successfully triggered when a sufficient combination of Motivation and Ability coincide with a behavioral trigger. If the behavioral cue is triggered without a strong enough combination of Motivation and Ability, it’s likely the behavior will not manifest as desired.

Why the Fogg Behavioral Model?

This behavioral model has the benefit of being concise, easy to understand, and pretty robust. It’s also backed by plenty of research focused on encouraging behavior change in via human/computer interaction. Fogg and his team have studied using tools such as Facebook, and mobile technology to drive human behavior, making this framework particularly relevant for Inbound Marketers and other Digital Marketing professionals.

The Components of the Fogg Model

  1. Motivation: A Model of Human Motivations
  2. Ability: A Theory of Behavioral Inhibitors & Enablers
  3. Trigger: A Model of Behavioral Triggers

Motivation: Fogg’s Model of Human Motivations

  • Pleasure/Pain
  • Hope/Fear
  • Social Acceptance/Rejection

Fogg’s Model relies on a dual model of Human Motivation, where we seek the positive motivation and avoid the negative. For example, humans tend to seek pleasure, and avoid pain. We favor hope, and avoid things that make us afraid; and I think it’s pretty self evident that we all want to be liked instead of avoided and shunned.

At first glance, it’s tempting to dismiss Fogg’s Model of Human Motivation as simplistic, however that would be a mistake. The model is actually very refined, which makes it simple to understand and apply. It’s also in line with modern research into human motivation, with one important exception. The model as it stands appears to suggest mutually exclusive duality in human motivation… however there are times when individuals will risk pain, rejection, or fear to fulfill other more urgent needs.

I believe this is part of the refined nature of the Model; it’s designed to be easy to apply, and in general decreasing the negative motivations and/or finding ways to increase the positive motivations are the keys to providing the sufficiently high motivation required to enable a behavioral trigger to take root.

How we accomplish that goal is outside the scope of the framework, but is squarely within the territory of human needs models, which help us understand the needs that lead to motivation. As we discussed in The Behavioral Psychology of Bold Creative, Human Motivational is closely linked to Needs Theory. During the course of iAcquire EDU, we’ll be exploring various theories of Human Needs and how we can use them to augment to Fogg’s Model of Human Motivations to create compelling campaigns.

Ability: Fogg’s Theory of Behavioral Inhibitors & Enablers

  • Time
  • Money
  • Physical Effort
  • Brain Cycles
  • Social Deviance
  • Non-Routine

Fogg proposes a pretty comprehensive list of things that can Inhibit or Enable behavior. Some of these are not necessarily things we’re going to be privy too right as marketers; for example access to money, or time. Another great example would be whether or not a certain behavior is routine. This is another reason why Persona modeling is so important for Inbound Marketing, as we will have access to cohort based demographics, psychographics and behaviorgraphics to help us peek behind the curtain and gain some insight into the unmeasurable variables that may weaken our behavioral trigger.

Time to complete a given task on the other hand is a great example of a behavior we are able to directly measure. A secondary aspect related to Time is how long we want the behavior to occur; is this a one time action, once a day for an entire week, or every day for the rest of your life? Fogg’s framework categorizes these differing durations as Dot, Span, & Path… where Dot represents a one time behavior, Span represents a behavior pattern over a fixed duration, and Path represents a permanent behavior change.

The most difficult behaviors to encourage are going to be Span & Path behaviors due to the investment in Time, Effort, and Brain Cycles. However with time, the behavior will form a routine making Path behaviors particularly self-enabling over time.

Physical Effort and Brain Cycles are slightly harder to directly measure, but by utilizing cognitive load theory and performing detailed usability analysis we can try to identify bottle necks in the process and eliminate them.

Fogg suggests that simplicity is one of the major ability factors, and in this he’s not alone. Be sure to build tools CrazyEgg and UserTesting into your measurement planning.

Social Deviance is largely a factor of culture, though it will have demographic and psychographic components as well. For example political and religious affiliation can influence whether or not a behavior is seen as Socially Deviant. Affinity for environmental causes, or parental status as well may also influence the perception of certain consumption behaviors as Socially Deviant. Social Deviance and Culture can also impact whether or not a behavior is considered routine. Once again, Persona Modeling can provide some insight into this otherwise unmeasurable aspect.

Trigger: A Model of Behavioral Triggers

  • Facilitators
  • Sparks
  • Signals

So what constitutes a Trigger? Basically it’s your call to action. Fogg’s Model of Behavioral Triggers involves three categories: Facilitators, Sparks, & Signals. Facilitators are triggers with high motivation, but low ability. Consumption of status products is a great example of a Facilitator Trigger… most people want to own the latest iPhone, but not everyone has the ability to due to factors like carrier contracts, product cost, or inventory availability.

Sparks are behaviors with High Ability, but low motivation. Social Sharing is a common Spark; the widgets are everywhere, but most content just isn’t interesting enough to get me to log in and share the content.

Signals are the holy grail of behavioral triggers… they’re High Motivation and High Ability. Purchasing a common utilitarian product at a great discount is a likely example of a Signal Trigger.

Dollar Shave Club is actually a great example of creating a campaign that leads to a Signal Trigger. Buying razors can be expensive, time consuming, and is in and of itself generally an undesirable activity. By offering choice, a discount, and layering on a subscription component to reduce the time and physical effort invested in this activity, a powerful behavioral trigger was born.

We’ll explore specific Triggers and ways to improve the strength of our Trigger all throughout the iAcquire EDU video series, so be sure to stay tuned.

Seven Universal Marketing Behavioral Actions

  1. Share
  2. Transact
  3. Engage
  4. Create
  5. Rate
  6. Invite
  7. Reward


This behavior is ubiquitous in the modern digital age, but it has always been a staple of advertising & marketing. It’s sometimes known as “Word of Mouth Marketing” in the offline world.

It’s not just fundamental to marketing though, sharing information is a fundamental part of human behavior; social media and mobile technology has just made it easier for us to share everything from information to what we’re having for dinner, as we have it.


The Transact behavior is another staple of marketing. It sounds pretty simple, but it’s a little more than a sale. Any exchange of value between the brand and a consumer is a transactional behavior. Service sign-ups, newsletter opt-ins, Tweet to Buy, and any other incentivized value exchanges are all “Transact” behaviors.


This behavior is easier to apply thanks to the popularity of User Generated Content, social listening, & real time streaming video. Live casting is one of the most powerful forms of engagement the modern world has ever known.

However through fan clubs, focus grouping, surveying, & even town hall/round table events, engagement between a brand and its audience or between a brand and its fans amongst themselves has always been available to marketers willing to invest in nurturing the community. This behavior is among the holy grail of behaviors because it opens the way for an honest, authentic, & open Consumer Dialog.

From increased engagement, we drive transactions and shares, while continuing to gain valuable insight and positive consumer sentiment. Entire product lines can be built from paying careful attention to what your audience has to say.


How do we get consumers to engage the brand by creating content, campaigns, & buzz for us?

Using Create, we encourage our audience to engage with the brand beyond mere conversation. The audience moves from passive brand observer, to being a member of the tribe by creating items of value within the community.

In our own industry, Moz has really shown the power of nurturing a community of creators via the YouMoz platform.

The digital age has seen an increase in campaigns leveraging the Create behavior, thanks to User Generated Content portals like Youtube. Spreadshirt, Mechanical Turk, and Lulu have turned “Create” into successful business models, while UGC has transformed sites like Reddit into some of the most visited websites on the internet.

However it’s not just digital campaigns that can leverage the “Create” behavior. Brands have used all sorts of contests for marketing; Public Service Announcement contests from organizations like MADD, and the Google Doodle contest both some to mind.


Ratings are specific form of user generated content that not only increase engagement with the brand for the rater, but can also increase transactions and engagements through the power of the vouch. Ratings and reviews are a powerful form of social validation that helps increase the motivation of other users by increasing trust and reducing risk.

Another example of the Rate behavior in action is community content moderation, like comment spam scoring. Why pay for a team of moderators when your community can do it for you?

Ratings are also a major boon for planning future content marketing initiatives, as they can help you determine which pieces of content or topics resonated with your audience.


Invitations are sort of like shares… but instead of sharing content, the Invite behavior is an opportunity to empower your audience to not only share content with their friends, but to express either a personalized or automated invitation to engage in the same behavior, join the same tribe, and/or share a similar experience.

We can leverage principles such as exclusivity, authority, and social acceptance, fulfilled through being the leader of a tribal experience.

Common examples include Social media, coupons, rewards clubs, “bring a guest” initiatives, and exclusive free trial memberships.


The Reward Behavior is a little different from the Transact Behavior in that it’s a no-strings attached or a one-sided value exchange. It’s a great opportunity to re-activate users who are already connected, though it can also be used to empower members of a community to reward one another, encouraging behaviors that are beneficial to the community like rating, creating, or sharing.

A popular example in the off-line marketing world is the use of loyalty marketing and rewards programs, which are especially popular with credit card companies.

Models of Human Need

We’ve briefly explored a few models of Human Needs in some detail in “The Behavioral Psychology Behind Bold Creative.” As we discussed in that article, there are more than a few models out there that might work, so we tend leave this open ended and adaptable.

I think this would actually be a great topic for discussion before the official iAcquire EDU session begins… so let’s talk about it: What Model of Human Needs do you use in your campaign planning and why?

Leave a comment, or tweet a link to your response @iacquire with #iacqEDU.

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