The FBM applied to Marketing & Sales - incl. a Case-Study

The Fogg Behavior Model (FBM) Explained

What causes behavior change? Understand the convergence of how motivation, ability, and triggers intertwine in the realm of marketing that lead to a particular behavior change

Sep 2023

The Fogg Behavior Model (FBM) provides a structured way to understand and influence behavior. By dissecting behavior into motivation, ability, and trigger, it offers a framework that designers, marketers, and even individuals can use to create more effective strategies and systems. Whether it's encouraging healthier habits, boosting sales, or promoting positive behaviors, the FBM is a tool that can guide the way.

There are 3 components to the model. According to FBM, for any behavior to occur, all three components must be present at the same moment. If one is missing, the behavior will not happen.

1. Motivation This refers to the desire or need to perform a behavior. It could be driven by intrinsic factors (e.g., personal satisfaction) or extrinsic factors (e.g., financial rewards).

2. Ability This pertains to the capacity or means to perform the behavior. It could be related to time, money, physical effort, mental effort, social deviance, and routine.

3. Trigger This is the cue or prompt that initiates the behavior. Without a trigger, even if motivation and ability are present, the behavior might not occur.

Background on the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM)

In "A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design" Fogg, a researcher and professor at Stanford University, developed the FBM to understand what causes behavior change? It's an especially important model in the context of persuasive technology and design, as it informs the creation of products, systems, and strategies that can influence user behavior.

1. Motivation that drives a behavior

Motivation can be seen as the driving force behind any action. It’s the "why" behind our behaviors. In the FBM, motivation is often broken down into three core motivators:

  • Seeking Pleasure / Avoiding Pain: This is the most basic and primal of motivators. It's about immediate reward or punishment. For example, a person might buy a product because it promises instant relief from pain.
  • Hope / Fear: This revolves around anticipated outcomes. If someone believes that an action will lead to a positive outcome, they are hopeful and thus more motivated to do it. Conversely, if they fear a negative outcome, they might be motivated to avoid a particular action. An example here would be insurance marketing that plays on the fear of potential future losses.
  • Social Acceptance / Rejection: Humans are inherently social beings, and our behaviors are often influenced by how we believe they'll affect our social standing. For instance, people might be motivated to buy a product because it's seen as trendy or popular.

2. Ability to perform a behaviour

Ability is the capacity to perform a behavior. It's about the ease or difficulty. Factors affecting ability include:

  • Time: Does the person have enough time to perform the action?
  • Money: Can the person afford it?
  • Physical Effort: How much physical work is required?
  • Mental Effort: Is it complex or simple to understand?
  • Social Deviance: Does the behavior align with social norms?
  • Routine: Is the behavior a significant deviation from their routine?

For instance, even if someone is highly motivated to go to the gym (seeking pleasure of fitness), they might not if it's too far away (physical effort) or too expensive (money).

3. Trigger that prompts a behavior

Triggers can be thought of as the catalyst that prompts the behavior. They remind or prompt users to act on their motivations and abilities. Triggers can be:

  • External: Such as notifications, ads, or a friend's recommendation.
  • Internal: Such as a feeling or thought that reminds someone of a behavior.

However, for a trigger to be effective, the individual must have both sufficient motivation and ability. For example, a sale notification (trigger) might be ineffective if the person doesn’t have the money (ability) or doesn't see the value in the product (motivation).

A Venn diagram visualizing the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM)

A Venn diagram visualizing the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM): The center, where all three circles intersect, represents where the behavior occurs because all components converge. The overlapping sections between two circles highlight the insufficiency of just two elements in the absence of the third for the behavior to materialize.

Implications of FBM in Real-world Scenarios

Understanding FBM has profound implications in various fields, especially marketing and product design. If you understand the motivations of your users, buyers, and consumers you can influence that they have the ability to act, and provide them with the right triggers.

For instance, many successful apps utilize the FBM:

  • Fitness apps motivate users by showing potential future selves (hope) or integrating social features (social acceptance). They ensure ability by offering short workouts (time) or beginner-friendly exercises (mental effort). And they often send reminders or notifications (triggers) to prompt users to exercise.
  • E-commerce platforms motivate with sales (seeking pleasure through saving money), ensure ability by offering easy checkouts and a variety of payment options, and trigger with retargeting ads or abandoned cart emails.

Let’s apply this to a fictional case to demonstrate the importance of understanding and applying the Fogg Behavior Model in marketing and sales.

Fictional Case Study: The Copywriting Conundrum

BryghtTech, a burgeoning tech startup, developed an innovative cloud storage solution. They believed it was superior to anything in the market. However, they struggled to communicate its value proposition effectively to potential clients.


The marketing and sales teams had the challenge of crafting compelling marketing content and sales copy that would convert leads into clients. Despite having a great product, their initial content failed to resonate with the target audience.

Application of FBM

1. Motivation: Potential clients were not motivated to switch from their existing cloud storage solutions.

Solution: BryghtTech's marketing team decided to address the primary pain points of potential clients. They highlighted features like enhanced security, cost savings, and ease of migration. They also offered a limited-time discount for early adopters.

2. Ability: Even if potential clients were motivated, they found the process of migration daunting and feared downtime.

Solution: The marketing team developed easy-to-follow guides, video tutorials, and offered dedicated customer support to make the migration process seamless.

3. Trigger: Despite addressing motivation and ability, potential clients weren't taking action.

Solution: BryghtTech introduced triggers like retargeting ads, timely email reminders, and pop-up notifications on their website, urging potential clients to "Switch Now!" or "Start your Free Trial."


With the application of FBM, BryghtTech's conversion rate will likely see a uptick. They will realize that while they have a superior product, the key is in effectively motivating the audience, making it easy for them to switch, and triggering the desired action. In the next customer survey they will receive feedback that their messaging is clearer and more aligned with customers' needs.

By applying the detailed nuances of FBM to this fictional case, we hope to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how motivation, ability, and triggers intertwine in the realm of marketing and behavior change.

Your Next Steps: Tapping into the Heartbeat of Your Audience

Now that you're armed with a wealth of insights from our exploration of sustainable growth and customer psychology, it's time to put theory into practice. The ultimate success of your marketing strategies hinges on understanding the primary motivational factors driving your audience.

Here's your actionable roadmap to truly understanding your audience:

  1. Dive Deep with Market Research:

    1. Deploy Surveys and Questionnaires for direct feedback. What does your audience genuinely need or desire?
    2. Organize Customer Development Interviews. These intimate discussions can unearth deeper motivations and perceptions about your products or services.
  2. Master the Art of Consumer Segmentation: Recognize that motivations differ. Segment your audience and tailor your messaging to each unique group for maximum resonance.

  3. Tune In with Social Listening: Dive into social media platforms and online forums. What are the conversations around your brand? What are the pain points and praises?

  4. Stay Ahead with Competitive Analysis: Study your competitors. Their strategies can offer invaluable insights into shared audience motivations.

  5. Harness the Power of Behavioral Analytics: Dive into data analytics. Which product features or service aspects are your users most engaged with? This is a direct line to their motivations.

Your challenge now? Start today. Choose one of the above strategies and begin. As you better understand your audience, you'll find your marketing and sales strategies evolving, resonating more profoundly, and driving sustainable growth. Don't just understand your audience, feel them. Your path to empathetic and impactful growth begins now.

In what ways can triggers be effectively implemented without being intrusive?

Triggers can often be seen as spammy or aggressive. the fine line between being persuasive and being intrusive?

Striking a balance between the fine line effective and non-intrusive triggering requires tact:

  • Contextual Relevance: Triggers should be contextually relevant. If a user has shown interest in a specific product or topic, triggers related to that will be perceived as more valuable and less intrusive.
  • Frequency Management: Overloading users with constant reminders can be off-putting. Companies should manage the frequency of their triggers, ensuring they don't bombard users.
  • User Control: Providing users with control over the types and frequency of triggers they receive can reduce perceptions of intrusiveness. This can be achieved through preference settings in apps or subscription management in emails.
  • Progressive Disclosure: Instead of presenting all information at once, companies can provide a bit of information initially and then gradually reveal more as the user shows interest.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Allow users to provide feedback on triggers. If they find a particular type of notification annoying or aggressive, they should have a platform to communicate that.
  • Personalization: Ensure that the trigger is relevant to the individual. For instance, if a user has been browsing winter coats, a trigger related to a discount on winter coats will be more welcomed than a generic promotion.
  • Value Proposition: Ensure that every trigger offers value. Whether it's a piece of useful information, a discount, or a timely reminder, it should provide evident benefit to the recipient.

By employing these strategies and maintaining a customer-centric approach, companies can ensure they effectively navigate the complex landscape of user behavior, balancing motivation, ability, and triggers in a harmonious manner.

How can companies ensure that they are not only focusing on one aspect of FBM but are harmonizing all three?

The Fogg Behavior Model offers a comprehensive lens through which businesses can view and influence consumer behavior. By ensuring a balance and harmony between Motivation, Ability, and Trigger, companies can create more effective and resonant strategies.

Harmonizing Motivation, Ability, and Trigger requires a holistic approach:

  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Teams across the organization, from product design to marketing to customer support, need to collaborate. While the product team ensures the product's ability is optimized, the marketing team can work on motivation, and the customer engagement team can devise effective triggers.
  • Continuous Feedback Loop: Actively seek and incorporate feedback from customers. This will provide insights into which aspects of FBM need more attention.
  • A/B Testing: By testing different strategies, companies can determine which combinations of motivation, ability, and trigger are most effective for their audience.
  • Holistic Campaign Design: Instead of isolated campaigns focusing on, say, just motivation (like a brand campaign), design integrated campaigns that address all three aspects of FBM.
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