No.9 Ben Franklin Effect on Shopping Sustainably

No.9 Ben Franklin Effect on Shopping Sustainably

How we can use the Ben Franklin effect when encouraging shoppers to carry out sustainable actions.

There's a psychological phenomenon commonly known as the "Ben Franklin Effect" that explains why people like you more when they do you a favour.

Asking someone to do you a favour can be so stressful. But if you're stressing because you feel like the person helping you out will find your brand annoying and like you less, don't.

Brands and retailers can use the Ben Franklin effect to drive customer sustainability activity. While shoppers tend to think that they have neat logical reasons for the purchase decisions they make, this is simply not true: Instead, they make purchase decisions for reasons that are complex, instinctive, and often somewhat arbitrary. Then, they devise logical justifications to retroactively explain our behaviour.

Asking environmental favours

In retail, there are so many possible touchpoints that it’s easy to create opportunities to ask minor environmental favours. Below are some examples: 

  1. Request something simple, like ‘please recycle the packaging’ – but be sure to explain to consumers how to do this small favour.
  2. Thank favour providers - Once someone has done you a favour, such as reused their shopping bags, it’s important that you follow up in a way that also furthers their retroactive justification. For instance, say that their favour was “incredibly important” and talk about how much you appreciate it.
  3. Build off that favour when asking for another. Following on from the previous example: “Thank you for reusing your shopping bag, would you like more details about our refills department?”

We like to think that we’re consistent with how we behave and make decisions, so if we’re asked for a favour by someone we certainly did a favour for before, we’ll view it as making a lot of sense. To do otherwise would be to threaten the integrity of the face-saving explanation for the first favour. As such, every time you convince someone to do you a favour, it will add to their conviction that they liked your brand all along.

Use the Ben Franklin effect to develop a solid selection of loyal customers ready and willing to do you sustainability related favours for nothing more than the occasional incentive. Escalate those incentives and you can start turning them into influential brand advocates.

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About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock

Phillip Adcock CMRS
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

Phillips Signature

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