The easy choice - tapping into decision-making behaviour to attract new members

18 JULY 2016

Emma Thompson, Director

I’ve just been reading the IPSOS white paper for June - written by Pascal Bourgeat, Director of Behavioural Science - which looks at how key elements of consumer behaviour can be used in a range of sectors to influence decision-making.

Bourgeat acknowledges the many ways in which decision-making behaviours are studied, noting that these varying analyses sometimes create a different view of the same behaviour.  However he concludes that ‘three key forces’ - SAM - are common to all, and shape a consumer’s decision and choice processes.

“The SAM consumer Seeks to maximise, wants to Avoid negative emotion and Minimise effort.”

In the paper, the SAM principle is applied, by way of example, to the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) sector.  Bourgeat refers to 5 of Byron Sharp’s 7 rules about making choice easy for consumers i.e. the M of SAM: Minimising the physical and mental effort required to make the decision.

And here’s where a similarity with the membership sector begins to materialise.  Below are the 5 rules as described by Bourgeat for CPGs, and how I see them relating to a membership body’s approaches to attracting new members:

1. Be easy to buy (how the brand best fit in consumers’ lives, have distribution, have the right sizes and flavours on shelf)

Make it easy for a member to join - and stay.  Emphasise why membership is relevant to an individual, how it can support them. And make the actual process of joining as simple as possible.

2. Get noticed (attention to advertising and processing stimulus, being visible on shelf)

A member organisation needs to have visibility with potential members – promotion and marketing must use a variety of relevant channels; the organisation needs to be where the members are.

3. Refresh and build memory structures (build appropriate memory structures and reinforce them)

Long term memory encoding requires emotional attachment.  If a potential member is going to seek out and engage with a particular organisation at the point they decide they need a membership, that organisation needs to have stuck in their mind because of a connection at the emotional level. About member engagement.

4. Create and use distinctive brand assets (distinctive visual, aural and verbal imagery minimise consumers’ processing and enable fast recognition, memory structures need to link effectively into brand to be reinforced)

An organisation should have a strong brand identity that is distinctive, easily recognisable and consistent.  And it should be applied to everything from the Twitter logo to delivery of training events. See our case study.

5. Don’t give a reason not to buy (e.g. ingredients consumers don’t want, excessive premium)

This equates to making the membership offer relevant for an individual - taking into account career stage, location, age and any other number of profile characteristics - and communicating that offer using the most appropriate channels. See our case study.


The ways we measure and use knowledge of behaviour are sometimes unique to the membership sector. However there is much we can learn from the consumer sector – after all, members are also an organisation’s consumers.