Scratch-it Conditioning

Using Conditioning to Achieve Positive Results

Ever make a deal with your kids?

If they bring home an “A” in school, you’ll give them a reward. If they behave at a special event, you’ll get them a toy. If they clean their room every week for a month, you’ll take them to the Taylor Swift concert.

That’s called conditioning. Whether you have kids, or not, we’ve all done it.

Remember Pavlov’s dogs? They were the classic conditioning example, the dogs learned that when a bell was rung before were fed their favorite meal, they would start to salivate. Eventually, Pavlov found that he could ring the bell, and not feed the dogs, and get the same result from the dogs.

The dog’s brains had been conditioned to anticipate something they enjoyed, even if they did not get the results in the end.

Pretty interesting, right?

How Conditioning is Used in Marketing

Now, think about how brands and marketers apply conditioning to consumers. It’s not exactly a new concept, but it’s one that’s quite important.

And, it happens all the time. In fact, we think conditioning is so important, we consider it one of the six main psychological factors that drive reveal marketing.

Classic Conditioning: Coca-Cola’s Santa Campaign

One of the biggest users of classic conditioning in advertising, especially around the holiday season, is the massive soda brand Coca-Cola.

Coke is trying to bank of the fact that the vast majority of people have positive associations with Santa, and they want to tap into those emotions.

Because of that, they have spent millions of dollars creating a feeling of comfort, happiness, and joy around their Santa Clause campaigns. And what’s Santa’s favorite drink?

Scratch-it Conditioning Coca-Cola Santa

A nice bottle of Coca-Cola.

That conditioning plays out when you want to replicate the feelings of happiness, joy, and comfort, in your every day life. What do you reach for? You guessed it, the drink that your brain has been conditioned to associate with all those feelings.

Operant Conditioning: McDonald’s Monopoly Campaign

Conditioning isn’t all about Pavlov and his dogs. There is another part of it called operant conditioning. This theory was created by BF Skinner and it essentially found that a reinforcing response to an action can be strengthened to increase the likelihood of that action being repeated again.

You can see this in marketing too. Here though the difference is the brands that avoid bribing and instead generate interest and excitement are those that tend to see more positive (and thus repeatable) results.

Let’s take a look at McDonald’s and their Monopoly campaign as an example. You’ve probably seen this in action. McDonald’s puts game pieces on certain sizes of fries, drinks, and sandwiches during the promotion.

Scratch-it Conditioning McDonald's

The majority of these pieces can combine with others for big prizes (building the anticipation and excitement), but they also include a lot of smaller prizes, like free fries or a drink, which are a positive reinforcements.

That positive reinforcement is what triggers people to buy more McDonald’s more than they ordinarily would during the game, because they are driven by anticipation to get that prize.

Conditioning and Reveal Marketing

These are the feelings and emotions that get triggered to really help drive reveal marketing as well, especially when using it on mobile devices.

Not only do things like Scratch-it, puzzle, quiz, shake, and spin the wheel (just to name a few) campaigns and promotions tap into those feelings of excitement and anticipation, but they use active engagement to trigger the positive response.

The active engagement helps to reinforce only the positive conditioning, which lets brands see more clicks over time.

So, if you are paying attention to how you are conditioning your potential customers, you might find that you’ll have much better results!

Liz Froment

Liz is a marketing content writer for the Scratch-it team. She loves learning and writing about email marketing. You can find her tweeting about it and a lot more at @lfroment.