Reasons to be cheerful for Behavioural Insights

Back to Blog

Reasons to be cheerful for Behavioural Insights
Posted on December 9, 2019 by Simon Dunn

So, not sure how many readers will get the Ian Drury reference here, but Behavioural Economics makes me happy! The wonderful simplicity of those insights grounded in a true understanding of what makes us all tick and nudging us unconsciously to change our ways; the stories about how we behave in wonderfully, and at times hilariously, irrational and emotional ways. That reading a book about behavioural economics or about behavioural economists is actually entertaining, and dare I say, enjoyable. All this is so much more interesting than the dull ‘8 out of 10 cats’ quantitative data we see every day. So, I leapt at the chance to help chair the IIeX Behaviour conference in London on 18 November.

But I started the conference with a note of warning. I might be a bit of an enthusiast but looking at the data from the latest GRIT report, it looks like the growth of BE within insights is stalling. It is important that those firms that ply their BE trade within insights do not rest on their laurels, that they do not assume that the marketing or business audience ‘gets it’ now and we are all system one savvy. I’d like to see much more in the general business media about the practical ways the application of BE has changed our lives for the better; it’s time for BE to break out of its academic box.

For me, the best examples are practical ones, such as Hannah Moffat, Creative Director at Schwa who shared a great story about how the impact of a simple nudge like talking about ‘climate crisis’ instead of ‘climate change’ helped turn the world off plastic. Crawford Hollingsworth talked about The Behavioural Architects’ work with patients and dental professionals which gave us a practical behavioural change road map (and had us all worrying about our gums!).

The Irrational Agency’s Leigh Caldwell with his client Jessica Exton from ING gave sound advice on how to create your own nudge unit. I also very much enjoyed listening to advice from Claire Hovey of Copy and TV on applying behavioural insight to communications, which is of course a subject particularly close to my heart.

We also saw some awesome new technology on the stage. Dr Charles Nduka a (real!) surgeon and co-founder of Emteq, talked about using emotion sensors to uncover personalised and predictive analytics and Bart Maskala shared his company Accurat.ai’s approach to integrating data from retail, geolocation and media to understand real behaviour and target consumers appropriately.

There is so much great work going on in behavioural insights, but with the relentless drive in MRX for faster work at lower cost, some feel there is less opportunity to use such a thoughtful, intelligent and crafted approach. But this conference made it clear that delivering actionable, grounded, behavioural insights need not be slow or expensive.

Can we nudge our way to a better world? I hope so. Thank you to my co-chair Alex Hunt of PRS IN VIVO and to the whole team at Greenbook/IIeX for letting me find more reasons to be cheerful.