Collaborative Marketing – What’s in it for me?

Increased product awareness, positive sales impact, authentic pieces of UGC… Brands have a lot to win from collaborating with consumers, but what’s in it for the consumers that choose to engage and collaborate with brands?

In this guest blog Gill Green, consultant psychologist at ORConsulting Ltd discusses what drives people to collaborate, and to participate in marketing programmes with companies.

What's In It For Me?

When brands genuinely involve us and invite our feedback and criticism, we feel rewarded. We hear the message “you matter and we trust your opinion”. But beware, the key word here is genuine…our brains are hardwired to mistrust anything that sounds fake. However, there’s a solution.
We just need the answer to one simple question:
‘What’s in it for me?’ This is the “WIIFM”.

Recent neuropsychological studies conducted by David Rock at UCLA suggest our limbic system (the “oldest” part of our brain) scans our surroundings for signs of threat and it does this about every 5 seconds. Without us realizing it, the brain can react to anything it doesn’t trust - words, body language, tone of voice or physical presentation - as if it were a real threat.

Brain limbic system

This matters because in turn, brain activity shapes our behavior. Our brain will encourage us to avoid a threat, whereas we will be attracted by and seek out a reward. We are looking for the “WIIFM”.

Using sophisticated brain imaging techniques, Rock has identified five factors (the SCARF model) which can trigger either threat-avoid or reward-approach brain activity. Brands can use these SCARF factors to increase their credibility. They need to tailor their message, just for us.


  • Status/Standing: If I buy into this brand, will it make me look good? Will it enhance my social standing? Will others be impressed? Does the brand make me feel special?
  • Certainty: Is the brand being clear about what it offers? Are its messages straightforward or misleading? Does it keep its promises? Will it keep me well informed about new developments?
  • Autonomy: Does the brand let me choose? Does it treat me like an individual, respect my intelligence and personalize my experience? Does it give me control?
  • Relatedness: Do I feel connected to the brand? Does the brand make me feel part of a ‘like minded’ community? Are other customers real people I can relate to?
  • Fairness: Does the brand act fairly and respect my values? Does it fit with my view of ethical behavior and justice?

So brands can win our trust and attract us by understanding these SCARF factors and answering, genuinely, “What’s in it for me?”

Gill Green, Consultant Psychologist, ORConsulting Ltd

« Previous page
Next page »