The Power of Habits in Inbound Marketing Services

The Power of Habits in Inbound Marketing Services



As mentioned in a previous article, we’ve been reading more at Momentum Consulting. I just finished reading “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I have to say I really enjoyed it. Now in addition to examining my own personal habits, I’ve discovered something interesting about inbound marketing services as well.


What is a Habit?

In his book, Duhigg gives us some insights into traditional advertising. The most successful marketers are the ones who can influence our daily habits. A habit, Duhigg explains, can be broken down into three parts: cue, routine, and reward.


For example, a cue could be a plate of cookies left in the office break room. The routine would be walking over to the platter, picking up a cookie, and eating it. The reward would be the sugar and fat in the cookie that makes it tastes so good. If everytime you go into the breakroom you grab a cookie, you would find yourself reaching for those breakroom goodies automatically. In other words, you could start craving sweets every time you take a break. This in turn, could negatively affect your health and your waistline.


How Habits Affect Traditional Advertising.

According to Duhigg, advertisers aim to cause us to crave their products. In order to do this, they come up with simple cues. These cues are the problems their product could solve. Then they clearly define the reward. For example, take the advertising campaign Claude Hopkins (one of the great advertising pioneers) used to propel Pepsodent from an unheard product to an international commodity while simultaneously creating a daily habit of tooth brushing for the American public.


Hopkins used the film that naturally develops on the teeth as a cue. In his campaign, he told people to run their tongue across their teeth. By telling people to run their tongue across their teeth, they would feel the film and immediately seek to remedy the problem. How would they remedy the problem? By using Pepsodent toothpaste, of course! Duhigg later explains, the reward was actually the clean feeling left by the mint oils mixed into the toothpaste. It wasn’t the the desire for white teeth like Hopkins had proclaimed.


Cue: Tooth film.

Routine: Use Pepsodent.

Reward: Clean minty feeling.


What Happens When You Focus on Rewards.

Procter and Gamble found a different way to market their product. When P&G tried to market their product Febreze at first they had a difficult time. They came up with a cue: bad odors. The routine was using Febreeze spray. The reward: an odorless house. However, they later found out that people with stinky homes become “nose blind” meaning they can’t smell the odors in their own homes.


So they tried a different tactic. Instead of creating a new habit, P&G added Febreze onto an already existing habit their customers practiced every day: Cleaning a room. Instead of being an answer to the problem of bad odors, Febreze and its nice smell became the reward for a well cleaned room. They marketed it as an air freshener for people to spray into the room after cleaning. This way the cue became a dirty room. The routine was to clean the room. And the reward was Febreeze spray.


By focusing on marketing their product as a reward, Febreze sales skyrocketed and it became a household name. Duhigg states, “Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the cravings that drive our behaviors. When the Febreze marketing team discovered that consumers desired a fresh scent at the end of a cleaning ritual, for example, they had found a craving that no one even knew existed.” (Duhigg 290)


What Does This Have To Do With Inbound Marketing?

This focus on reward is why inbound marketing is so effective. Inbound marketers don’t have to come up with cues or routines. We simply provide the reward.


When people type keywords into a search engine, they’re not doing it for the enjoyment of doing a Google search. They’re search for a remedy to a problem. They’re searching for a reward for their cue. Whether that cue is buying a jet ski or downloading the newest hit song, people go to search engines to satisfy a need.


The Importance of Keywords

This is why it’s so important that you know which keywords your customers are looking for. In the inbound marketing world, we call the process of improving your website so that it attracts more visitors from search engines Search Engine Optimization or SEO.


To help customers find your website via search engines, the first thing you need to do is create a list of words. What are the words your customers actually use when they ask questions about your product? Think about the actual words and phrases your potential customer would use.


You can determine which keywords people are already using to find you with tools such as Google analytics. Try to avoid short broad terms like “jet-ski”, “cookie” or “shoe.” Many websites use these short terms, and focusing your webpage around them makes it difficult to rank on search engines results. Instead, focus on long keywords like “Jet-Ski for Sale in YourTown, Your State.” You could also use an actual brand name like “Yamaha Waverunner Jet Skis for Sale in YourTown, Your State.” Fewer websites compete for these long tail search terms making it easier for your website to make it to the top of the search results.


What are the rewards your customers are searching for? Let us know in the comments. Are you getting ready to start your own inbound marketing program? Download our Inbound Marketing Checklist to make sure you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s.



Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Random House Inc, 2014.