• Jamie Rayner

Nudge Nudge Blog Blog

Updated: Sep 9, 2019



I, probably like most who read blogs, are generally interested in what’s going on the marketplace. Beyond reading, if you do write the occasional blog you are probably writing as: ‘a’ you believe you have something interesting to say; ‘b’ you want a voice; ‘c’ a combination of both ‘a’ + ‘b’ or maybe you’re a ‘d’ with an ‘axe to grind’.


Regardless of the reason, it matters not: It’s all good! They [the bloggers] get us to think about what we are doing or to think differently and one post I spotted the other day got me thinking in particular: the article referenced how UX was showing the way forward with research methodologies. Implying that UX was a pioneer in the use of more behaviourally led methods. This statement completely grated in the knowledge that these techniques have been around for decades and certainly before UX was born.


Flitting between anger, bafflement and defensiveness I got back to thinking again…and it posed the question of “what is it NOW that is driving the desire to really focus on behavioural data or approaches when it has been a topic for 20+ years already”. Before the time of the New Media Age (vis-à-vis UX). Sure the topic has picked up momentum since the 90’s and has been the stronghold of any decent shopper research agency for years but why now is it such a ‘common’ language, everywhere you go?


There seems to be perpetual referencing of system 1, system 2, BE, Neuroscience et al. And of course, a few practitioners are really getting under the skin of what this all means. For instance, those that know these topics well understand that system 1 and 2 do not actually exist, it’s just an industry heuristic to talk about behaviour. At whichever depth the learners or ‘trumpeters’ are understanding the topics, the important thing is that this growth of interest and adoption is both valuable and timely for marketeers. So what has led us to this tipping point?


We think that it’s a number of factors converging that make it impossible to ignore. These are structured in a way that BE protagonists might recognise.


Share of Market vs Share of Voice:

Approaches like facial analysis, applied neuroscience, biometric response and behavioural economics models are still only classified as relatively niche* (eye tracking less so these days) BUT there is a case that everyone is talking about these as viable alternatives to other, more traditional research methods. Needless to say this ‘noise’ will drive the growth and adoption of these alternative, currently niche, methods. If you visited Quirk’s this February, you’ll know what I mean. SO there is an imbalance of share vs voice. Positively in our book.


Believability & Credibility. Reach but also: Quality of Reach

The output of behavioural data is compelling and actionable. Anyone who has worked with this data may find that it is easy to draw a direct link from a shopper or consumer response to a ‘marketing action’. As long as you understand the principles that people will rarely be persuaded to choose a new ‘path’ versus the one they are on.


The credibility of the methods is driven by a growing body of academic knowledge. The amount of papers justifying RCT (Rational Choice Theory) as a way to understand how humans make decisions (in the 80s/90s) was still massive compared to the empirical evidence that exists today for the more recent models of decision making but the tide has turned. You’ve probably heard of the more recent influential researchers/authors, most of whom are alive and well today and turning out books for public consumption. Not forgetting that all of these newer models of decision making have been taught at University, with an influx of informed graduates joining the workplace, with re-packaged fit-for-business knowledge.


In other news there is growing awareness that the UK Government has its very own ‘Nudge Unit’. Which shines a light on the birth of behavioural economics challenging many of the economic theories that empires were built on.


It’s great to have a strong reach and noise but if the quality of those messages are not believable or credible then the momentum ceases. Clearly not the case here.


Change is driven by motivation, ease and a trigger:

There are some other big changes happening: driven by both market maturity and of course the ‘Dollar’ available. What do you do when you are tied to drive shareholder value but everything is static and most things have been tried? You can’t just buy a convenience chain and pick up ‘a load’ of small baskets very easily or build some more stores. Or create a new product quickly that just gets further lost in endless consumer choice.


Equally, it’s not enough to walk into a boardroom with a tracking KPI that tells everybody the stuff they know already. How can that be justified in today’s frugal climate? On the subject of ROI: insight teams in client organisations are under severe pressure to prove their worth. So the real risk actually is to do nothing! Certainly don’t repeat the same as you might get the same outcome. If you just do what you’ve always done you’ll only get what you always got.


So, back to the question. Why are these “new” tools and techniques being spoken about so frequently? The answer is they are not new, but like any trend, a tipping point has been reached and the array of influences have nudged the industry to adopt the change – driven by:


The motivation: Personal pressure to do something different and not to apply the ‘same old, same old’


The trigger: Too much evidence not to try different approaches, it’s impossible to ignore


Apparent Ease: There is now excellent choice out there to help understanding: where speed, cost and quality of research can be achieved in equally good measure to answer these hard to unlock growth opportunities. But buyer beware! As with all approaches (quant, qual, online etc) there are a multitude of ways this “new” work can be done, with each delivering slightly different measures for specific objectives. Don’t be seduced, remain sceptical and ensure the option you choose will deliver against the objectives you have.


So thank you to the anonymous writer for the provocation. This was a powerful nudge.



Jamie Rayner



*courtesy GRIT Report, 2018 Q3–Q4

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