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Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 7 September 2017

The Theory Behind A New & Unique Psychology Model: Monkey Lion Dog

Lab have just launched a new psychology model which marketers can use in order to better understand the intrinsic motivations of their target audience.

In a world of increasingly personalised digital communication, are you really connecting with your consumer?

We all know that we need to talk to our consumer in a relevant way, so we develop hypothetical ‘personas’ to represent them, and then create messaging that aims to speak directly to them. While this sounds like a reasonable method of engaging with our target audience, the problem is that we can tend to become too rational when working through this process – presuming that our rational assumptions correspond to predominantly rational consumers.

The first step tends to be segmenting our market by socioeconomic demographics, then creating a description of them and their lifestyles, and finally identifying the relevant functional needs/benefits that our product or service could fulfil for them.

But here’s the rub. Any behavioural economist will tell you that consumers are often irrationally unpredictable, and any neuroscientist will tell you that all consumer decisions are emotional.

Which begs the question; how can you begin to understand the powerful, emotional, intrinsic motivations of the consumer, when typical personas rely too heavily on rational thoughts?


The challenge is that people are not that predictable - two people within the same persona group can make the same choice but for completely different reasons.


Monkey Lion Dog

Our model is a synthesis of several theories from behavioural and inter-personal psychology:

  • Triune Brain Theory – Paul MacLean PhD
  • FIRO Theory – Will Schutz PhD
  • Self-Relations Theory – Stephen Gilligan PhD
  • 3 Needs Theory – David McCelland PhD
  • Neuro-Linguistic Programming - Richard Bandler PhD & John Grinder PhD

Each of these theories essentially alludes to the same 3 distinctions in human processing, which we’vesummarised in Monkey Lion Dog - our own practical, tripartite model for understanding intrinsic motivation and consumer behaviour.

How you use the model

Monkey Lion Dog is essentially a creative thinking exercise. For each given persona we dive deeper into their motivations, evaluating them through three different lenses – Contextual (revealing a ‘Monkey’ side), Rational (their ‘Lion’ aspects) and Emotional (related to ‘Dog’).

The best thing about this model is that our clients just get it, extremely quickly. It helps them to understand their target consumers’ intrinsic motivations in all types of communication, leading to effective messaging that really speaks to the people they want to be talking to.

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