When we are just starting a behavior, we are motivated by the anticipated benefits awaiting us. But, once that first action is taken, we switch our focus to satisfaction and start asking, “Was the effort worth it?” When this happens, we call it the Worth-It Calculus. And like all of our decision making, this isn’t a purely objective calculation. Instead, it is an evaluation of the emotional gains versus pains associated with the change. Even when a significant gain happens that initial positive emotional rush diminishes with time, and we tend to forget ‘why’ we were interested in the first place. 

We see this all the time in healthcare – we call this the leaky bucket of motivation. To maintain momentum, marketers need to work both sides of the satisfaction equation by reducing perceived cost and frustration and enhancing the emotional benefit. 

Some ways to amplify satisfaction include:

  • Help audiences choose a behavior change adventure that follows the Goldilocks’ Principle – it isn’t so easy it will be boring or so hard it could be discouraging. But keep in mind that this might not be static and may need to change over time.
  • Create an experience that ends on a high note
  • Make progress to the goal observable and reward small steps. Reflecting and celebrating along the way helps people learn from their own behavior and solidifies motivation and commitment to action. 
  • Tap into human aversion to loss by reminding an audience what life was like before
  • Leverage human drive to maintain a consistent social identity by giving the audience opportunities to publicly commit to their goals.  
  • Use stories (especially emotional ones) to reframe or remind them of their goals and help them visualize their aspirational self.

Finally, when designing support experiences, don’t forget about the power of emotions. Look for opportunities to spur emotional reactions that align with the type of motivation that will maintain momentum. For example: 

  • Joy motivates people to continue to pursue their goals
  • Envy motivates people to improve their situation
  • Pride motivates people to persist at challenging tasks
  • Fear motives people to protect themselves or avoid loss


In previous blog posts we have covered examples of brands who are successfully achieving behavior change in their audiences, but this week we want to share an example of what happens when a company falls short of re-motivating an audience to continue with that change in behavior.

Lumen is a great example of an at-home health device for consumers that faces this challenge. They’re a company with an impressive website leveraging some of the most important eCommerce strategies, and it comes complete with social proof, a seamless store experience and a robust marketing campaign leveraging influencers. The well-designed companion app is even easy to use and the product concept itself is innovative. However, where the app falls short is tapping into the expected outcomes of two very different audiences and user experiences that need to be re-motivated differently. 

The premise of the device is a measurement of your metabolism by calculating whether your body is burning fat for energy versus burning carbs.  The theory is that by burning more fat, you have a higher metabolic rate, thus getting you closer to your fitness goals.  The app requires the device to be used multiple times a day to get readings, which also requires it to be highly relevant to a user’s life in order to maintain that daily time commitment.

The idea of “hacking your metabolism” is an appealing proposition for most people, but for people who are already on a low-carb diet, once they get a consistent reading that confirms they are in a constant state of fat burning, there isn’t an opportunity within the app experience for them to achieve any other fitness goals. They see the same output every day, which tells them “I don’t really need this tool in my life, I’ve already mastered this, and the $300 I spent was a poor investment.

On the other hand, for people who get initial readings saying they are burning carbs instead, the app is designed to help those people alter their nutrition and lifestyle habits to move towards a fat-burning state.  However, it takes weeks of daily usage of the device for the app to “learn” what causes a user’s body to burn carbs versus fat and then provide personalized recommendations for the user’s lifestyle to change this.  This timeframe isn’t set up with users from the very beginning, so they experience the opposite effect that the fat-burning users do.  Their experience is unmotivating to continue the behavior of using the device because every day all they see is failure in their results, creating a thought pattern of “I don’t understand why I can’t get the readings I’m looking for. I’m doing everything the app says to do and it’s not helping me. This was a waste of time and investment.”

These two very different experiences highlight how the Worth it Calculus is critical to consider in not only developing apps and devices for consumers, but how important messaging is in communicating outcomes and setting expectations.  With just a few small adjustments to the CX to incorporate a “leveling up” option for the fat burning users, and setting expectations with the carb-burning users, Lumen would have the opportunity to keep their audiences better engaged.

About the Author:

Kathleen Starr, PhD, is the Managing Director, Behavioral Science & Insights at Syneos Health.

With a 10 year background in CPG program planning and execution, including 6 years on Unilever as a CX & CRM Center of Excellence lead, Lisa brings advanced digital experience to healthcare. For the past year at GSW, Lisa has worked as a lead engagement strategist to develop groundbreaking innovations for clients, including conversational marketing automation strategies and the launch of the highly successful Edwards LifeSciences Virtual Assistant (Chatbot).