• Avishek Kataria

Marketing Communication Strategies to Change Minds from the Book Catalyst

There are a lot of books on marketing communications. Most of these books address marketing communication from the perspective of advertising to respective target groups. A very few books discuss how to change minds and communicate with a target group that is not receptive to the product.


This is where Catalyst by Jonah Berger shines. It’s different from most of the marketing communication book. It opens marketers to new areas of communication and persuasion. As it takes a step back and applies the science of the human mind in marketing. The centre of the book is how to change minds through marketing.


In chemistry, for a reaction to happen, molecules must break the bonds between atoms. It’s a slow process and takes 1000s of years. They need change enabling molecules that make it happen in seconds, called a catalyst. Rather than pushing a catalyst, they lower the barrier to change. On the same principle, the book discusses changing minds by removing roadblocks and lowering barriers that keep people from taking action.


Based on the concepts in the book, I have highlighted the key marketing communication strategy takeaways that can be applied in modern-day marketing to change minds.


Marketing Communication Strategies to Change Minds from the book Catalyst by Jonah Berger


1. Don’t start by advertising to change minds


If you are looking to change the minds, then please don’t start with advertising. When we push people, people push back. If you are trying to push a message to a user, who is not receptive to it, then it will push back. It may create a negative brand experience for the user and will make your job tougher.


This is validated by marketing concepts like creative fatigue and ad frequency optimisation. When we run the same ad communication for a long time to the same set of users, who are not taking action on it, the ad performance falls significantly.


According to Facebook, the optimal ad frequency is between 1 and 2 exposures during the length of the campaign with a tipping point of 3.4, after which an ad loses its effectiveness.


Start with advertising to the user group who are receptive to your product. You cannot influence someone who is not receptive to your product directly with advertising.


One of the best examples of this is insurance companies in India. In India, the insurance penetration in terms of the premium is 3.76 percent of the GDP, whereas the global average stands at 7.23 percent of GDP as of March 2019. For years, insurance companies have been aggressively pushing users to buy insurance surrounding them with multiple ads and sales agents. But it has not helped and has not increased penetration. It’s not moving the users who are on the other side, who do not feel the need for an insurance product.


2. Break down the big goal to smaller goals


You cannot push a user to change in a flash. You need to break down the change into multiple small changes or steps.


If you ask someone to wade across a raging river, people will say no. But add stepping stones along the way, people will be more willing.


Agreeing to small to a small, related ask move people in the right direction. Don’t start your communication by directly asking the user to buy. The first goal should be small.


One of the best examples of companies following this rule is the FMCG companies. Whenever they launch a new product, they set up a sample tryout kiosk in modern retail stores, where the ask is just to try the product. Here you are not asking the user to buy, but just to taste or try.


In B2B marketing, usually, companies give a free e-book or invite users for a conference rather than directly pushing the product to the users.


Thus, the concept of funnel marketing is essential, where you start by creating awareness, then build engagement and finally push for the sale.


3. Don’t ask just give the right information


We are usually so eager to onboard or convert a user that we directly ask them for the sale, and most of the times the answer is no. More a commercial seems to persuade people more they will change the channel.


People have a need for freedom and autonomy, to feel that their lives and actions are within their personal control. Rather than trying to persuade people; put out the truth or information and let them decide.


You need to make the user feel as if they are deciding to buy and not you. As a marketer, you need to provide them with the right information; using which the logical choice for them should be your product.


This factor is key to the rise of content marketing. Brands have become content creators and are providing the right content to the user and are helping them make them the right decision.


This is successfully used by many top SAAS products like HubSpot and Amplitude with their extensive blog page. They provide insights and knowledge in their respective fields. They have become a learning platform for their target group, thus becoming a prominent choice while deciding.


4. Create multiple corroborating evidence to build credibility


Have you thought about why interventionists are used to break someone’s addiction? In intervention, multiple sources come and say the same thing over a short period, and this creates the greatest impact of change.


In marketing, this strategy can be used in designing the media plan. The media plan should include influencers, media platforms, and advertising platforms. Create multiple stories about the product from multiple sources. All of this should happen during the same period to create an enormous impact.


Imagine if you have launched a new earphone brand. A user views your product on the feed of one influencer, then discovers a few tweets about the same product. Then goes to YouTube and gets a video of tech influencer talking about it. Later, in their news feed finds a few articles on it by media platforms. Also, during this time they are receiving the ads across the net.


If all this happens in 2 weeks, then your chances of persuading the user and generating a sale are very high. As you have injected the user’s mind with your product and taken huge mind space for that time period.


Another important thing to remember here is that diversity matters. All the influencers and media platforms need to be different from each other. If multiple sources are not too redundant, they’re often grouped together and treated as a single source.


Overview of Marketing Communication Strategies from the Book Catalyst


In a nutshell, to change the user’s mind the marketing communication strategy should not start with advertising. Plan a communication journey where you break down the big goal into smaller goals. Don’t ask from the user but make the user feel as if they are making the decision. Finally, to create an enormous impact use multiple sources of communication in a short duration of time.


Final Review of the Book Catalyst by Jonah Berger


Catalyst is one of the best marketing books to read that discusses marketing from the lens of science and consumer psychology. As a marketer, we need to go a step ahead and learn about psychology to build high impact marketing strategies. And this book is a great start if you want to know about marketing from the perspective of psychology. The concepts are very easily explained and you will find some insightful case studies and examples.


Review - 4/5