Why should I?

In a recent article called ‘Decisions, Decisions‘, I explored research that enlightens us about how humans make decisions and how influencing those processes is really what branding is all about. Powerful stuff. The research, not the writing. In this article I’d like to write about some more powerful stuff. Not how humans make decisions but what converts those decisions into the behaviour they use to get what they want. The next step after the decision. More powerful stuff wouldn’t you say? Let’s start with a question.


This is a question that you, as a pharmacy owner, never want to form in a customers mind. Certainly not in so many words and preferably not even an inkling of an unformed idea on the edge of the mind. If it’s there, you are fighting a losing battle. You still have a chance to win but far better if it hadn’t been there in the first place.

None of this is to say that any pharmacist should seek to manipulate customers in any underhand way. That is a sad, negative and all too common aspect of modern marketing – albeit the practice of those who don’t really understand marketing or care about their customers. However, acting to convince your customers that you are their preferred provider in a general sense prior to them making a decision about a specific product actually requires honesty and openness.

It is my suggestion, that if it isn’t 100%, completely clear in the mind of your customer why they should go ahead and do whatever it is you are trying to encourage them to do; pay for a flu vaccination, nominate you for EPS or choose your pharmacy in the first place, then you haven’t understood the immense value of doing the ground work.

Humans are, as we have discussed before, lazy and like shortcuts in their thinking. They are also strongly attracted to, and brilliantly competent at assessing an option from a set that gives them the best outcome. They assess and then, this is the important part, they act. These assessments drive action not just thought. It is a key aim of branding to influence a customers thinking and hopefully helping them stop at your pharmacy before considering other options. Another key aim is to drive the behaviour that you want to see following the thought.


Economists believe that all human behaviour can be boiled down to response to incentives. We are all walking around reacting to whatever incentives we experience, assessing how they fit our needs and responding to those that best fit.

Economists also like to think about three different categories of incentives. Financial, social and moral.

  • Will this deliver me the best return on investment?
  • Will this make me look good in front of those that matter to me?
  • Is this the right thing to do according to my paradigm?

Big questions and they do, on reflection, appear to cover most if not all of human behaviour – at least from an economic perspective.

When we think in these terms we can look at branding in a similar way to the way we did when considering how humans make decisions. There is much crossover between the two but there are differences. In the case of incentives the role of brand is to weigh in and amplify the incentive with framework, context and by reducing the risk comparisons with other options. Although brand can be part of an overarching incentive too.

Let’s broaden it out a little wider and have a look at some examples of incentives working with a brand framework.


I received an e-mail today from Salomon. Purveyor of flippin’ expensive outdoor gear for those who like going outside feeling like they are well dressed for their chosen activity. I have not purchased anything directly from Salomon as far as I can recall and so I don’t have an account on their website. The e-mail promised ‘50% off | Private Sale’. All I had to do was sign up for an account on the website and then, and only then, could I access the products in the sale.

Salomon very infrequently do a 50% sale and I have been dreaming about one of those super light weight hydration vests for a while now. This was a big enough financial incentive for me to sign up and take a look. They were pretty clever / sneaky though and combined the financial incentive with the interesting social incentive of a ‘private’ sale, which when you think about it, doesn’t even make sense (An exclusive sale. Wait. What?) It’s an oddly powerful mix.

I suspect a purchase is inevitable. I was already sold on the brand due to their great work across all touch points and brilliant celebrity endorsements etc etc, so I didn’t need to engage slow thinking there. I already knew I wanted their stuff. It’s aspirational gear. Just too expensive normally. The financial incentive offered a hard to resist push that is enough to get me over the line and they still somehow managed to pull of holding onto the ‘exclusive’ brand attribute! Bloody good job Salomon, now where’s my hydration vest?

(Update – Salomon had £57 out of me – But at 50% off I am a satisfied customer.)


This one really gets my goat but is a good example of a campaign built around social incentives. You can watch the offending article below.

I may be the only one who finds this annoying. Maybe it’s just me who feels patronised by people who sell toiletries thanking me for what I do for my children. Thanking someone for something relies on the one doing the thanking having some level of ownership of what they are giving thanks for and frankly, Dove don’t own anything to do with my parenting, nor that of any other dad save their employees. Which makes it disingenuous. Therefore offensive.

Anyway, before this becomes a rant, let’s focus on what we can learn. The team at Dove responsible for this are ‘thanking’ dads and then asking them to share how wonderful they (the dads) are with videos on social media so that everyone can see just how wonderful they are and they can feel good about themselves. That is a social incentive. Be seen to be a great dad. With Dove’s permission. Thanks guys. Damn, doing it again.

All they ask in return for this fantastic suggestion is that you add the hashtag #dadscare to the post. So that everyone can see that it is them behind it. Somewhere. Weirdly. Like an unwelcome distant family member at a party. A bit awkward. In the corner. Realising they should never have come in the first place.

I’m aware of the Dove brand, even the men’s sub-brand to some extent, but this escapade has only served to create negative associations in my mind with the brand. Possibly even strong enough to prevent me from picking up the deodorant in the supermarket next time, even if it is on offer.

Whether the social incentive is enough to convince ‘dads’ to act isn’t clear at this time. You may be able to tell it isn’t enough for me in this case – or at least not in the way their team want me to.


I was moved to donate to the Big Night In this year. I did it anonymously so there was no social incentive. (Yes, I see the irony with mentioning it here). I gave money away, so there was no financial incentive. In this case it was a moral incentive that drove my actions.

A combination of social but predominantly moral incentives drove people to donate over £70m in total. That’s a powerful incentive right there in case evidence was needed. The Comic Relief and Children In Need brands are well known and trusted and help us to feel that donations are going to a good cause and will be put to use. They facilitate the work of the incentive. Make it easier for it to do it’s job. 


There we have it, I’ve bared my soul to help you understand how incentives move people and get you thinking about how your pharmacy can use them more effectively.

Your brand helps to raise awareness of your pharmacy and increases the level of trust customers will have when they come across your offers (think incentives in this case). Your brand facilitates the work of the offer itself and can ease the work of the incentives you use to drive specific behaviours. 

Think about the incentives you build into your offer, financial, social and moral and search for a mix that does the job.

Can you think of a class of incentive that might be missing?

If you find this kind of thinking interesting and want to explore how it can help your specific pharmacy organisation then get in touch and we can chat.