Communications Is Often No Match for Human Behavior


We all know that we should eat healthier and exercise. Then why is there a growing obesity problem in America? 

Doctors know the importance of good hygiene. Yet many still don’t wash their hands properly, contributing to an estimated 98,000 deaths from hospital-acquired infections in the U.S. alone each year. 

Millions have been spent on campaigns to resolve both problems. “All we need to do is educate people,” the reasoning goes. But human behavior is far more powerful.

J.C. Penny appears to be learning that the hard way. Same-store sales at the retail giant were down 18.9 percent during the first quarter since the company announced its “Fair and Square” pricing strategy, disavowing traditional sales and couponing. 

The problem? Coupons are a “drug,” JCP’s CEO Ron Johnson (ex-Apple, ex-Target) explained to analysts. “We’ve got to wean them off this and educate our consumers,” added the retailer’s COO.

Good luck with that guys. But “sales rapture” is a potent addiction. And human behavior is resistant to a cure.

J.C. Penny’s efforts to replace that shopper’s high with better service, merchandise and store environments may take years. It’s doubtful that consumers and investors will be that patient.