All You Need is Nudge - Nudgestock 2017

All You Need is Nudge - Nudgestock 2017

Back in the golden days of advertising when people like David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach were still around it was fairly common to have people in agencies thinking about what influences human behaviour. Somehow those people left the world of advertising around the 1980s but thankfully they are now coming back and better than before. 

Spearheading the movement has been Rory Sutherland and his incredible team of behavioural change experts that form a group called OgilvyChange. Essentially they are helping to make advertising more helpful and effective using lessons learned from a new field of economics called Behavioural Economics

Last Friday OgilvyChange hosted their 5th annual festival of Behavioural Economics, Nudgestock 2017. It's the UK’s largest gathering of behavioural sciences experts. For one day they get together to discuss the science of understanding why people make decisions and the art of nudging their choices for a preferred outcome.

Rory Sutherland kicked off the day by showing how you can increase the perceived value of a product or service 10x by using behavioural insights, Rory shared an example of an Easyjet pilot framing parking away from an airgate as a positive by saying that the bus transfer will actually take them right to the passport terminal entrance and therefore save time. Rory also highlighted the point that without trust it doesn't matter how good your product no one will buy it by sharing an Ed Sheeran example:

Dr Oliver Curry found in research that there are 10 common morals found all over the world, each country just prioritises them differently:

  1. Help your family
  2. Help your group
  3. Return favours
  4. Be brave
  5. Respect your superiors
  6. Be fair
  7. Respect other's property
  8. Work hard
  9. Tell the truth
  10. Be generous

One of the key suggestions was to try and work with these and incorporate them into business values and behavioral ethics we can make the world a better place.

Ed Smith - "The struggle of managers against powerlessness is the struggle of memory against forgetting". Ed who is a writer, broadcaster and ex-pro cricketer, suggested almost all innovation in the history of sports comes from the players, not the coaches. This is often because managers and people in general often only see what they want to believe, so it's the job of a good manager to often just get out of the way and let people experiment.

Andrew Sheerin - Andrew is the infamous game developer who made the controversial and award winning War or Terror board game. He shared how gaming and play allows people to easily understand complex problems and change perceptions. Play can be used for enormous good for social change and getting people to understand your point of view.
Andrew shared Caillois’s 6 key Characteristics of Play (he’s a smart old French sociologist). 

  1. It’s voluntary (you’re not forced into it)
  2. It’s separate from the routine of life
  3. It’s uncertain - the results can’t be pre-determined
  4. It ends as it begins
  5. Suspends ordinary laws and behaviours
  6. Involves make believe and imagines realities that players set against real life

Stevyn Colgan - The wonderful ex-policeman and QI elf said that one of the main things he learned from years of being in the police was that carrots always work better than sticks when influencing behaviour, Stevyn shared some wonderful policing stories from his book Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road (great Behavioural Economics stories in plain English). BONUS - He is also partly responsible for this hilarious Ikea style instruction manual for Stonehenge.

Diana Fleischman - This wonderfully interesting evolutionary psychologist shared some key behavioural features found in women, namely:

  • They can quickly shift emotions (much faster than men).
  • They have a great memory for others' preferences and an autobiographical memory.
  • Have a much greater sensitivity to facial expressions and nonverbal cues of pleasure or pain.
  • Better at buying gifts for people they know and don't know.

Dominic Cummings - The Vote Leave campaign director said there were 3 key Brexit mindsets: I am out, I am in, I'd like to be out but leaving is scary. So to win they came up with 5 key themes utilising mostly loss aversion, risk aversion and anti-establishment resentment. The key themes where:

  1.  Take Back control (note take back uses loss aversion, this was an evolution from keep the pound, keep control)
  2. Send money to the NHS, not Europe (note the word send, not give)
  3. Make staying in Europe look more risky (e.g. Turkey and others may join)
  4. Take back control (note the wording take back, not just take)
  5. Immigration fear

One of the key things was to allow people to feel like they were voting for the NHS and against the establishment. They did a lot of testing of ads on facebook to optimise and then spent most of their media budget in the final couple of weeks of the referendum. This was a fascinating talk on how politics, media and messaging can work.
Julia Hobsbawm is a writer and speaker on social health and modern day connectedness. Julia shared some finding from her book Fully Connected.
The two key points were:

  1. The more open and fluid your or your companies network, the more successful you'll be.
  2. There should be a new definition for health in the digital age that includes social health. Essentially, in a world where people are more and more connected, we often suffer from "infobesity".

There is a great need today to be able to balance face to face contact and technology and know where and when to find the off switch. Julia advocated for digital shabbats.

Wing Commander Keith Dear - People are much better behaved when they feel watched. This effect is magnified if you can see a human face with eyes looking at you, even if that face is just a drawing or illustration. Interestingly in an experiment to stop bike theft, CCTV cameras on their own were not as effective as posters displaying a human face with eyes looking at you. 

Charlotte Pierce is the founder of Inkpact and featured in Forbes 30 under 30. I have long believed that the next great marketing campaign will involve hand written letters and Charlotte has created a wonderful company that does just that. They put effectiveness over efficiency and enable companies to create handwritten letters in bulk. They have an almost 100% open rate (unless it gets lost in the post) and there is even a social good side to the company, they work with charities to find the writers to help empower those in need.

Sarah Harding from Kinetic and Brogane Colclough from JCDecaux - Showed that by using localisation and social norms ad messaging they could increase the sales of insect food. The ads were put together by OgilvyChange and increased sales of Grub insect food by 60%!

grub insect food ad

Meik Wiking - Founder of The Happiness research institute and author of times best selling book The little book of Hygge - Miek is from Denmark, the happiest country in the world and so naturally he talked about the art of happiness. People tend to get sadder till they are about 44, then get happier till the day they die....apart from in nordic countries where they are mostly always happy.

Meik also found that a week without facebook made people happier and reduced anxiety and stress. Interestingly, a country's happiness can have a downside, countries with high happiness levels tend to not be so entrepreneurial as people's needs are already taken care of. Perhaps unsurprisingly, wealth does make you happier but only to a point. The UK's unhappiest day last year was not Brexit, but actually the morning the UK found out Trump had been elected president.

One handy tip he left us with is that 4 hours of quiet time a day tends to increase happiness.

Meik Wiking.JPG

Blay Whitby is a philosopher and ethicist concerned with the social impact of new and emerging technologies. Blay talked about safety in the aviation industry and how they have learned so much and managed to improve through routinely recording events via things like cockpit voice recorders etc. Blay smartly raised the question of why the medical industry doesn't also use similar recording technology to improve safety in hospitals and surgery (i.e. anylise footage when things go wrong, then learn from it and put new processes in place). Blay finishes with a great quote - "Learn from the mistakes of others because you wont live long enough to make all of them yourselves."

Geoffrey Miller is an evolutionary psych professor. Geoffrey told us to forget the Myers Briggs personality types and instead shared the big 5 new universal personality types namely:

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Agreeableness
  4. Extraversion
  5. Stability.

Here is a great article on the Big Five personality traits incase you're keen to learn more.

If this tickled your fancy and you want to become smarter and learn more about Behavioural Economics, luckily we partnered with the OgilvyChange team and Rory Sutherland to create a short and fun masterclass in the topic. Just go to to get started.

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