Can You Change How People Behave?

I guess the realisation comes to us all in due course – you can’t force other people to change the way they behave, you can only change the way you behave. But it is possible to influence other people’s behaviour though …

Can You Change How People Behave?

Picture the teenager having a tantrum with their parents; the more they cry and shout, the more the parent digs their heels in. But babies, on the other hand, when they cry, often gain an instant change in their parent’s behaviour. So why can one influence behaviour, whilst the other can’t, whilst actually seemingly both are crying?

Now, I’m in no way an expert in psychology, but it appears to me that it must be due to the different emotional responses that the baby and teenager each receive. They are both trying to change the way their parents feel; the baby proving far better at it getting what they want than the teenager, probably because they are making their parent feel like nurturing, whereas the teenager simply creates feelings of rejection.

In a sales and marketing context, connecting with your audiences’ emotions and changing the way they feel about you – in a positive way – is how your business generates customers. Now I don’t believe this is always the case, as some of the more ‘old-fashioned’ sales techniques are more about browbeating and bullying. If that’s your preference then creativity and the use of great design and marketing to drive sales into your business is likely to be of little interest. But there are some fantastic examples of how people have been influenced to change their behaviour by connecting emotionally and changing the way they feel.

A great example was an initiative by Volkswagen. They set out to demonstrate how, by introducing an element of fun into some tasks, it could dramatically change people’s behaviour. 2 of my favourites are:


And in essence, this is what design is all about – creating and implementing ways (branding, websites, pieces of print, events and exhibitions) to make an emotional connection with your audience to change how they feel and hence influence the way they behave; whether that’s getting them to ask for more information or make a purchase.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget that each of our businesses have a different audience, so what is right for one business to make an emotional connection, is not going to be right for another.

Whatever you think of McDonald’s, they have an amazing ability to get a large number of consumers to behave in a way that’s good for McDonald’s; then along comes Jamie Oliver, who – in the American courts – has proven that McDonald’s hamburgers are unfit for human consumption. Despite this endorsement for Jamie, because his audience is not that of McDonald’s, it is unlikely this result will have a real impact on their burger business.

To talk about creating a stronger emotional connection with your chosen audience and finding ways to change the way they feel so they change their behaviour towards you, drop me an email ( or call me on 07583 047103 and we can arrange a free telephone consultation.

Until next time …

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