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Changing customer behaviour... applying behavioural science in the real world.

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Behavioural science seems to be a red hot topic at the moment, with week on week a new article extoling the virtues of this (apparently) new approach.

Thanks to the increased media buzz, the works of Dan Ariely & Daniel Kahneman are now on the reading lists of brand managers and agency executives all eager to uncover the truth behind our behaviour.

We are finally switching onto the realisation, that as a species humans make irrational decisions. And the surprising truth that our behaviour is driven by emotions, not knowledge. This goes some way to answer the question posed by Chris Ross in a recent PM live article, ‘why do we eat cake when we know it's bad for us and watch television when we'd be better off at the gym’.

Uncovering the truth behind our decisions

Behavioural science has helped us to think differently about human behaviour, illustrating that we are not logical data-driven decision makers, we are irrational. We make emotionally driven decisions and often refuse to act in our best interests because of non-conscious processes and influences (bias & heuristics) that shape our behaviour.

So if behavioural science provides the clues to help us finally decode human behaviour, how can we use it to create new approaches and solutions that challenge people's thinking, help them understand health and science, or motivate them to try something new.

Moving beyond the buzzwords

Applying the science

You have immersed yourself in the theory, heard about bias (according to Wikipeadia there are more than 150), heuristics, the terminology…framing, norms, anchoring, nudging etc….but how do you apply it in the real world.

Whilst behavioural science gives us a highly effective toolkit to develop engaging communication and innovative interventions, just understanding the science is not enough. The challenge is more than just analysing behaviour, you must not only understand the science but also know how to apply it to a behavioural change framework.

To decode behaviour & create successful interventions you need a framework which encompasses:

  • The definition of target behaviour/s
  • Understanding of the target behaviour/s in context
  • Identification of the influences, barriers & enablers that need to be addressed
  • Identification of the specific behaviour change techniques
  • The development of a multifaceted behavioural change programme

Should you incorporate behavioural thinking into your programmes?

Absolutely, because I believe behavioural science provides us with a powerful lens that can be applied across a range of behavioural and business problems. By using behavioural science, we’re increasingly finding that it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference, that the smart and small can yield valuable returns.

Ultimately, behavioural science provides fresh and objective insight, arming us with a range of different questions to stimulate and unlock solutions we otherwise might never have found.

Rob Wyer is an expert in human behaviour and Founder of Swii.ch Health, Europe’s only rare disease digital communications agency. 


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