21st-century approach for marketing and communication — Know your users through behavioral science point of view

Cynthia Chang
Apr 11, 2018 · 4 min read

Working in the field of UX for more than three years, I’ve conducted numerous quantitative or qualitative research to gain a deeper understanding of “real” users. When doing user researches, I am super curious to know how can I better describe what “real” users are?

Gone are the days for using demographic descriptions such as gender, occupation, salary, age, and location etc.

As a UX practitioner working in an advertising agency, I’ve created some ways to combine online behavioral data with CRM data to get closer to who my potential users are. But, it is just not enough, when we are now good at using all kinds of online data such as Google analytics, keyword marketing, social data, I think we are still not that close to mapping out what a “real” user is.

Recently, I found a truly inspiring approach to reveal what a “real user” can be described.

Understand human based on a cognitive science point of view.

I found this in a webinar hosted by OgilvyRED, a strategy & innovation consulting group integrated with the Ogilvy&Mather, and the speaker is Chris Graves, President of Ogilvy Center for Behavioral Science.

How come I’m so inspired by this new approach?

Because lookalike trap occurs quietly often during user analysis.

We used to view these two people have a similar preference. In reality, they may differ from each other a lot!

Therefore, understanding them through a cognitive behavioral lens is quite powerful and informative.

Here is the summary for the webinar:

Cognitive Biases vs. Cognitive Styles — Rethink marketing and communications.

Simply put, cognitive biases drive behaviors for all humans while cognitive styles help to the segment.

Level 1: Know the drive for planning your communication message.

To better understand the drive behind human behavior, Chris introduces a method called Cognitive Diagnosis, a rapid diagnosis of cognitive and behavioral drivers and barriers to brand and marketing challenges.

Why is it so important? This is where we start to know how we can engage with our users during the customer journey. When we know their drives, it’s where we start to implement creative ideas.

Here’s a glimpse of Ogilvy Amos, a tool we used for cognitive diagnosis.

After decoding the cognitive biases, we can map each cognitive bias to the Customer Journey.

Having a customer journey map like this, we can communicate our target audiences with highly targeting messages.

Level 2 : Segment and engage more effectively through behavioral science.

What to do with the personas ?

I often do not know how to start with the persona at hand. Believe it or not, persona is sometimes useless for you to figure out what should you communicate with your audiences. So when I first see the cognitive segmentation, I am really, really, really excited.

There are three types for you to segment: Personality, Cultural Cognition and Cognitive Styles.


A powerful, hidden force that determines choices and behaviors. Correlations have been found between personality profiles and health choices and behaviors. (Research: Psychological targeting as an effective approach to digital mass persuasion)

It’s quite obvious, right? Your personality shapes your decision process, preferences, and how you would be moved. Let’s take a closer look for what can we say about personality.

Cultural cognition

All individuals can be mapped on a grid of cultural cognition, or Worldviews. People do not shift easily, and not understanding their worldview risks alienating them or rendering your efforts wholly ineffective. Crafting engagement that matches a key audience segment worldview resonates better.

Based on Yale’s Cultural Cognition Project, we can use Hierarchical to Egalitarian and Communitarian to Individualist.

Cognitive Styles

How individuals are hardwired to perceive control, risk, time and other aspects of their lives determine their behavior and choices. Knowing this allows for more effective engagement, communications and behavior change. Matching engagement, content and messaging to key cognitive styles boosts effectiveness.

In sum, when we view our target audiences through the lens of behavioral science, we can get more insights for their drives and know how to segment them. Let’s go back to the lookalike trap, and add on the insights from previously mentioned. It’s clear that they are not alike anymore!

If you want to know more, you can download the whole deck here: https://www.slideshare.net/socialogilvy/whats-next-the-real-why-the-real-who

Cynthia’s E Lab

UX consultant’s daily discovery for fun stories and thoughts about Engineering, Experience and Empathy.

Cynthia Chang

Written by

Consultant, marketer, UX designer in e-commerce industry. Actively seeking chances to bring the best out of people, brands and organization.

Cynthia’s E Lab

UX consultant’s daily discovery for fun stories and thoughts about Engineering, Experience and Empathy.

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