Behaviour change marketing is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath, what do they believe?

Mark Jones, the CEO and Chief Storyteller of Filtered Media, talks us through the importance of belief moments for customers’ behaviour change in marketing.


I love buying new cars. It’s not just the lure of that new car smell, but the excuse to research every possible option on the internet.

For others, it’s much less a thrill and a bit like shopping for cereal. One giant aisle in the supermarket with far too many options – it’s overwhelming.

TV advertising doesn’t help, either. It seems we’re stuck between two primary narratives.

The first one is the white screen with colourful cars at a cheap price (just $14,990!) that reinforces the narrative that cars are just a consumable. Just pick this one, it’s good enough!

The other narrative is the promise of an outstanding lifestyle. Take your pick from sports, offroad, luxury, city living, or family. This storyline is a little more advanced in that it attempts to dig a little deeper into our psyches and underlying motivations.

It’s a legitimate strategy for some brands trying to shift a few more units, but we’re missing something important. Automotive advertising is a great illustration of a much bigger problem in marketing.

We’re obsessed with trying to change behaviour at the point of purchase and we’ve forgotten the fundamental drivers that motivate us as consumers.

Our belief systems – existential, religious, political and cultural – fundamentally shape our buying decisions. In some cases it’s overt, like religious food considerations. In other cases, it’s more subtle and emotional.

For example, I know women who won’t use Uber or Taxis for safety reasons. Safety is another way of expressing a belief system: they don’t believe all people can be trusted. And it’s not hard to understand the experiences that shaped that belief.

As I’ve studied this intersection of marketing, belief systems and storytelling for the past three years, I keep returning to the classic iceberg analogy as the simplest way of understanding where we’re going wrong.

Sitting above the waterline is our rational decision making processes, or IQ, where we focus these behaviour change campaigns. Like an iceberg, this “buy now” storyline represents just 10 percent of the inputs we process before making a purchase decision.

The other 90 percent is this complex, nuanced and deeply held set of beliefs that shape our world view.

We’re looking for brands that align with economic, social, political, and myriad existential beliefs. Here’s a few “I believe” statements that apply to the car purchasing cycle.

I believe all cars are basically the same. I believe cars are damaging our planet. I believe people care about what car I drive, and like fashion, I dress for success. I believe the safety of my family is the most important thing when choosing a car.

On the latter, Volvo has invested millions in engineering and marketing to own and benefit from that belief statement. And I think it will be a long time before that changes.

The belief challenge

With this in mind, it raises an important question. How well have you studied the belief systems of your customers? If your research is half-baked, you risk overlooking the emotions, assumptions and belief systems that guide 90 percent of our decisions.

The good news is there’s a strong appetite to figure out how we can get this right. I’m hearing this first-hand during keynotes and workshops, and globally we’re seeing more brands try something different.

I mapped out a brand storytelling framework called Beliefonomics, and within that approach a critical success factor is nailing what I call the Belief Moment.

You create a Belief Moment when your story captures the hearts and minds of your audience. You appeal to the whole iceberg: emotional intelligence and rational thinking.

In many cases they are highly emotive videos, documentaries, speeches or other creative executions that step outside the typical “just pick this one” narrative. From a marketing strategy perspective, Belief Moments are rarely one-off events. They’re located within a broader brand storytelling campaign, what we used to call integrated marketing communications.

Famous, award-winning examples include Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign, the emotive “Like a Girl” campaign by Always, and more recently ‘Fearless Girl’ by State Street Global Advisors (see below for some impressive results).

These brands resisted the temptation to use women as decorative objects in their campaign and instead dug deeper into belief in their own power as agents in their world. They recognised that confining women to narrow definitions of attractiveness would no longer cut it and instead represented the beauty of diversity, strength and resistance.

The consumer reaction to these brand movements has been phenomenal, gaining social media traction worldwide. The impact was extended way beyond the initial goals of the campaign.

Significantly, these brands shifted consumer belief from “this brand wants to sell me their agenda” to “this brand is part of my agenda.”

As traditional power bases continue to erode and women continue to unlock their own ways of wielding influence, these brands can remain relevant in a way that those stuck in awareness-raising and behaviour marketing simply won’t.

Whether it’s cars, feminine hygiene or financial services, the story remains the same. If you want to amplify the impact of your marketing budget, the same old tricks won’t work. The next generation of successful marketers will be led by those who know what we believe, and know how to create Belief Moments that make a lasting difference.

Mark Jones is Chief Storyteller and CEO at Filtered Media.

Belief Moments that changed consumer beliefs


Fearless Girl

Fearless girl
image by Anthony Quintano
  • Belief change: Confidence in the power of women to smash through the patriarchal systems which have dominated society for millennia. Proof Point: Aspiring advertising creative Jade Delaney physically becomes Fearless Girl for a day to break into McCann.
  • Cultural impact: 40,000 people signed a petition to keep the statue up longer than a month. NYC Mayor’s office is investigating having it permanently instated.
  • Awards: 4x Grand Prix + 18x Lions at Cannes.
  • Social wins: 6bn views of the image on Twitter in first 3 months; 215,000 instagram posts in 3 months.
  • Business impact: ‘SHE’ fund grows by 384% in 3 days following statue’s launch; 170% over following 20 days, $7.5 million in “free”/earned advertising.



Real Beauty

Real beauty - Dove
image from
  • Reach: 2013’s Dove Real Beauty Sketches was, according to Dove, the most watched video ad of all time, with more than 114 million views in a month across 25 languages.
  • Engagement: The “Fat or Fab”, “Wrinkled or Wonderful” billboards garnered media exposure worth more than 30 times the billboard cost, according to Unilever. Within weeks the accompanying “Campaign for Real Beauty” website had 1.5 million visitors.
  • Awards: Evolution, with 19 million views on the US channel, was the first ever ad to win both Cannes’ “Cyber” and “Film” categories.
  • Business impact: From its launch in 2004 to 2014, Doves sales increased by US$1.5 billion to $4 billion.



image from
  • Belief change: Prior to watching the film, just 19% of 16-24 year olds had a positive association toward the phrase ‘like a girl’. After watching, 76% said they no longer saw the phrase negatively. Furthermore, two out of three men who watched it said they’d now think twice before using the ‘like a girl’ as an insult.
  • Reach: 115 million views during Superbowl. The #LikeAGirl conversation trended, changing perceptions and achieving more than 85m global views on YouTube from 150+ countries.
  • Cultural impact: Supported existing ‘believers’ and provoked a clash as misogynists launched #LikeABoy, which was 50% “Y just girls?!” and 50% mocking people sincerely engaging with #LikeAGirl. For a few days this was a notable cultural clash on Twitter.

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