On June 9th, members of HRW Shift (our in-house behavioural psychology expert consultancy team) ventured out to Folkestone, Kent for ‘Nudgestock 2017: Festival of Behaviour Change’.

The festival, run by Ogilvy Change, hosted by the ever-knowlegable Rory Sutherland, sponsored by Kinetic and Canvas8, has been a feature on our calendar for the last couple years. It features a series of talks and presentations from academics (psychologists and evolutionary biologists), pundits (sportscasters, authors, aviators), and marketing/branding experts.

The day was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends in the behavioural sciences as well as meeting new contacts for future collaboration. In particular, the talks provided some great examples of the ‘nudges’ (indirect routes and strategies to change behaviour) we regularly recommend to clients, applied in other sectors to great effect.

For example, we often recommend the power of reframing (changing the way that concepts are expressed to deliver different impact); and in a talk from Andrew Sheerin of ‘TerrorBull games’ Sheerin discussed the value of exploring complex real world problems in a ‘play’ environment, where participants can experiment with tough or taboo subjects without fear of repercussion (his game, ‘War on terror, the boardgame’ got a lot of negative publicity in the press but was actually used by troops on the ground in Afghanistan as well as the ministry of defence). In their work, they use reframing as a critical part of their toolkit; specifically, they use inversion (taking the core themes and inverting it; for example, instead of pokemon where you ‘gotta catch ‘em all’, you get poke-marx ‘gotta share ‘em all’).

Another theme we regularly discuss with our clients is the power of loss aversion (where people feel the pain of losses more acutely than they value gains – perhaps as much as 2:1, where the pain of losing %10 would be equivalent to the pleasure of gaining %20). At Nudgestock, in a particularly transparent presentation, Dominic Cummings, of the controversial ‘Vote leave’ campaign in the UK European union referendum last summer, described how his critical advantage in winning the referendum was conducting market research outside of political strongholds like London, and how from those consumer insights they carefully crafted the simple slogan ‘Take back control’ to invoke feelings of loss aversion (and make voters feel as though they had ‘lost’ control).

Finally, a theme we’ve been using more and more in our research to generate actionable behaviourally-driven recommendations is the framework of ‘universal values’ and identifying the core customer values underpinning beliefs to frame messages in the context of values that will galvanise customers and generate action. At the festival, the penultimate speaker, Geoffrey Miller, tapped in to this. He talked about ‘virtue signalling’ and the trend for consumers and consumer brands to link themselves with particular virtues, using the ‘big 5’ personality framework (which also happens to be our preferred personality test due to its large-scale validation). He described how big brands can express their virtues in their branding. He gave an example of the ‘openness’ trait; being low on openness is related to conservativism, in-group loyalty, nationalism, and moral disgust (brands like Coca-Cola, and American brands like hobby lobby, chick-fil-a, and Mary Kay) while those higher on ‘openness’ tend to be related to liberalism, multiculturalism, free speech, and low on disgust (brands like Pepsi, Benetton, Apple, Google and Starbucks).

Overall it was a thought provoking day, with plenty of examples of the success of applied behavioural science, including additional validation and routes for application of some of our favourite themes.

For more about the conference, watch their website.

For more information on HRW Shift, our award-winning applied behavioural science consultancy, get in touch.

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