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How to use behavioral science in your work

Nudgestock went global this year. It was a jam-packed, 15-hours of virtual talks from the planet's brightest and boldest thinkers in behavioral science, including Dan Ariely, Laurie Santos, and Kai D. Wright, to name just a few. And it couldn’t have come at a more valuable time. With COVID-19 fueling a global sense of uncertainty, understanding the core principles behind human behavior is going to be crucial for brands and businesses to emerge from the crisis fighting fit.

But if you didn’t manage to catch it all, or if you’re wondering how to apply these insights to your work, we’ve got you covered. At Canvas8, the leading authority on consumer behavior, we’ve distilled some of the day’s highlights, uncovered the actionable learnings for brands and businesses, and gathered even more insights to help bring behavioral science to life.

Receive more helpful insights to fuel your business strategy by signing up to Keeping Tabs, a bi-weekly newsletter on human behavior: https://www.canvas8.com/blog.html

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How to use behavioral science in your work

  1. 1. How to use behavioral science in your work / What we learned from Nudgestock 2020 at
  2. 2. Nudgestock went global this year. It was a jam-packed, 15-hours of virtual talks from the planet's brightest and boldest thinkers in behavioral science, including Dan Ariely, Laurie Santos, and Kai D. Wright, to name just a few. And it couldn’t have come at a more valuable time. With COVID-19 fueling a global sense of uncertainty, understanding the core principles behind human behavior is going to be crucial for brands and businesses to emerge from the crisis fighting fit. But if you didn’t manage to catch it all, or if you’re wondering how to apply these insights to your work, we’ve got you covered. At Canvas8, the leading authority on consumer behavior, we’ve distilled some of the day’s highlights, uncovered the actionable learnings for brands and businesses, and gathered even more insights to help bring behavioral science to life. TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION
  3. 3. TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION / Overcoming Laziness Brands should reduce effort and boost reward / Helpful Humor Brands should think more like comedians / Restricting Reach Brands should be aware of ‘sludge’ / Panic vs. Risk Pay-off Brands should ease people into change 7 ways for brands to apply behavioral science / Igniting Change Brands should help validate people’s beliefs / Happiness Nudges Brands should build a path to happiness / Simplifying Action Brands should do more than just ‘resonate’
  4. 4. Using her eponymous Williams Behaviour Change Model, Bri Williams highlighted three key barriers that brands need to help people overcome to nudge them into adopting new behaviors: laziness, paralysis, and fear. In order to overcome laziness, Williams cited the effort vs. reward equation. For many people, if the effort is greater than the reward, it’s much harder to convince them to change their behavior. So, we have to make it easy to do the right thing and hard to do the wrong thing. By way of example, Williams referenced the paper ‘Why are you swiping right? The impact of product orientation on swiping responses’. This study revealed that the orientation of a product makes people more likely to swipe in the direction the product was pointing, regardless of whether the outcome was to buy or cancel. It’s known as processing fluency. Canvas8 spoke to Dr. Mario Pandelaere, a co-author of the study, to understand how brands can reduce effort and maximize reward in these scenarios. Overcoming Laziness / Brands should reduce effort and boost reward TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION Bri Williams / Talk: Lazy, scared, and overwhelmed Williams is an expert in behavioral influence – how to apply behavioral economics to decision-making so you delete hesitation and maximize every interaction. EXPERT BIO
  5. 5. Overcoming Laziness / Brands should reduce effort and boost reward Lush’s ‘30-Second Soap’, which is designed to dissolve after 30 seconds of usage, makes it easier to understand just how long it takes to wash your hands thoroughly. BRANDS IN ACTION TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION
  6. 6. McGraw invites us to consider what businesses can learn from comedians. The first lesson is about thinking in reverse. In comedy, this is where comedians build their jokes around the punchline. This style of thinking can work to overcome the status quo bias and has been successful in developing innovative products, namely the Light Phone 2. The second learning revolves around turning ‘bugs’ into features, which leans on the idea that self-deprecating humor can work to boost likability. It’s a strategy that cough syrup brand Buckley’s tapped into as part of a campaign titled ‘It tastes awful. And it works’, which features the slogan “Our largest bottle is 200 ml. anything more would be cruel.” For brands, humor can be a powerful tool when harnessed correctly. Canvas8 spoke to Caleb Warren, a marketing professor at the University of Arizona and author of the study ‘Humor, Comedy, and Consumer Behavior’, to learn about the difficulties of using humor in ads and how this impacts brand loyalty. Helpful Humor / Brands should think more like comedians Peter McGraw / Talk: Shtick to Innovation: Serious lessons in creativity and execution from comedy’s rebels Peter McGraw is a professor of marketing and psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder and a global expert in the scientific study of humor. EXPERT BIO TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION
  7. 7. Vegan brand Emily Snacks launched its first-ever OOH campaign right in the middle of lockdown. But rather than shying away from the bad timing, the self-aware ad strikes a funny, self-deprecating tone that reflects people’s desire to laugh at the harsh realities of life. BRANDS IN ACTION Helpful Humor / Brands should think more like comedians TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION
  8. 8. “Think about ‘sludge’ as the evil cousin of nudge,” says Dilip Soman, citing a popular metaphor to explain the difference between the two terms. The way in which people make decisions can be understood as a walk in a field with open gates – an easy hurdle that’s akin to a nudge – while closed gates represent ‘sludge’, something that prevents someone doing what they want easily. Sometimes, there is merit to slowing people down. Take Twitter’s new alert that prompts users to read an article if they want to retweet it, rather than circulating content they’ve taken at face value. On the other hand, sludge can also be detrimental to consumers. Soman notes three sources of sludge: clunky processes, poor communication, and negative affect. The solution to all these problems? More empathetic design with the understanding that one person’s sludge may feel insignificant to another due to the personal context surrounding decision-making. Restricting Reach / Brands should be aware of ‘sludge’ TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION Dilip Soman / Talk: Sludge Dilip Soman is a director of the Behavioural Economics in Action Research Centre at Rotman. His research focuses on behavioral science and its applications in consumer wellbeing, marketing, and policy. EXPERT BIO
  9. 9. Tech start-up Amicable has found success by removing sludge. The divorce process is a painful experience – both financially and emotionally – but by allowing users to manage all the paperwork through its app, it’s encouraging more civilized separations. BRANDS IN ACTION Restricting Reach / Brands should be aware of ‘sludge’ TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION
  10. 10. The pandemic has illustrated that the world isn’t equipped to solve problems efficiently. To get through the crisis and return to normality, Ariely explains that people need to learn from experience – we’re not good at learning from descriptions. “Right now, our panic is higher than the re-risk,” he explains. “What will happen is that with things like going to the grocery store or going to work, we’ll learn that they are not as dangerous.” But for the experiences that people aren’t forced into – like going to the cinema or clubbing – the gap between the fear of the unknown and lived reality is going to be much higher. For brands, there’s an opportunity to offer people the experience of being less stressed so that they become accustomed to that change. The challenge here is getting people to confront feelings of unease. With research finding that people would much rather avoid information that could result in negative emotions – even when it may be useful or important – the road to normality looks set to be a bumpy one. Panic vs. Risk Pay-off / Brands should ease people into change TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION Dan Ariely / Talk: Some contemplations about social science & COVID-19 Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. EXPERT BIO
  11. 11. With lockdown restrictions lifting in the UK, Primark is reopening its doors. Mindful of the need for a hygienic approach, the retailer is easing concerns by setting up hand sanitizer stations, signed walkway routes, perspex screens at checkouts, and protective equipment for staff. BRANDS IN ACTION Panic vs. Risk Pay-off / Brands should ease people into change TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION
  12. 12. “What we have inside our heads is often very different to what we’re prepared to say publicly and what we’re prepared to act on,” explains Dr. Cass Sunstein. As illustrated by the #MeToo movement and the unanticipated nature of Brexit, social change is catalyzed by the public validation of privately held beliefs. Sunstein explains four processes often involved in such shifts. The first is ‘preference falsification’ – the idea that what people say is not always what they really think. The second is that the degree of considered thought to drive an action varies from person to person – this is called ‘diverse thresholds’. The third outlines how an individual or a group voicing their opinions about something – take Black Lives Matter as an example – can inspire others to also speak up. And the fourth taps into group polarization – the notion that a group of people can make decisions together that feel more extreme when compared to the individual inclination of each member. Working together, these four factors can ignite change, whether socially or for brands. Igniting Change / Brands should help validate people’s beliefs Cass Sunstein / Talk: How change happens Cass Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard. He’s also the director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School, and author of several of best-selling behavioural science books. EXPERT BIO TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION
  13. 13. As cynicism towards cause-based marketing grows, recent events have seen employees speak out in increasing numbers to criticize businesses for not truly practicing what they preach – namely their inconsistent efforts to tackle racism. BRANDS IN ACTION Igniting Change / Brands should help validate people’s beliefs TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION
  14. 14. Santos begins her talk with some poignant and worrying statistics about the poor state of college students’ mental health. To change this, she launched a course at Yale focusing on happiness through the power of positive psychology. True happiness is hard to achieve because our minds lie to us about what makes us happy. Many people think more money will make them happy, but studies show that’s not true. Instead, Santos outlines four tactics to build a path to a happier life: make time for social connections, practice gratitude for yourself and for others, reduce mind-wandering and become more present, and become wealthy in time, not money. For brands, there’s an opportunity to empower people with a greater sense of time affluence. Canvas8 spoke to Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and author of the study 'Buying time promotes happiness', to learn why time-saving purchases make people happier than material goods. Happiness Nudges / Brands should build a path to happiness TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION Laurie Santos / Talk: The unexpected science of wellbeing Laurie Santos is a cognitive scientist and professor of psychology at Yale University. She is also the host of the popular podcast The Happiness Lab. EXPERT BIO
  15. 15. Happiness Nudges / Brands should build a path to happiness TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION Meditation app Calm guides people through mindfulness exercises to ease stress and support overall wellbeing. By offering access to psychological interventions in a convenient format, it’s helping people take mental health into their own hands. BRANDS IN ACTION
  16. 16. The crux of Wright’s talk is about how many brands find behavioral science too complex to apply. But, in order to emerge from the pandemic, Wright explains that behaviorally-led thinking is key. The pre-crisis tactic of merely ‘resonating’ with an audience base won’t work long-term. So, he’s built LAVEC, a framework that unpacks behavioral science, making it more applicable to the mainstream. The model leans on systems-based thinking to outline three interacting elements for brands to consider in communication. The first are lexicon triggers – identifiable keywords that strike an emotional connection with people. The second element is audio cues that people can immediately associate a brand with. And the third is visual stimuli – GIFs, emojis, and other content that bring a group together. These elements interact and form different experiences for consumers where, taken together, that becomes the brand’s culture. Take Sweatfest as an example. With motivational slogans, iconic dance routines and an interactive IG live-stream, Ryan Heffington has built a devoted fanbase that merges all three elements successfully. Simplifying Action / Brands should do more than just ‘resonate’ TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION Kai D. Wright / Talk: Scaling a social science into a pop culture zeitgeist Kai D. Wright is an author, strategy adviser, global consulting partner at Ogilvy, and lecturer at Columbia University. He is on a mission to help people build better brands. EXPERT BIO
  17. 17. Simplifying Action / Brands should do more than just ‘resonate’ TRANSLATING NUDGESTOCK INTO ACTION As people come to expect a more human approach from brands, Netflix is using Twitter as a key communication channel to share in cultural moments through pithy memes, in-jokes, and witty repartee. BRANDS IN ACTION
  18. 18. / Want more? Read our ‘Science Of’ series on the Canvas8 Library, where you can find more behavioral science pieces. Not a member? Request a free trial to access our Library of 27,000+ exclusive insights on consumer behavior. Start your trial now. at

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Nudgestock went global this year. It was a jam-packed, 15-hours of virtual talks from the planet's brightest and boldest thinkers in behavioral science, including Dan Ariely, Laurie Santos, and Kai D. Wright, to name just a few. And it couldn’t have come at a more valuable time. With COVID-19 fueling a global sense of uncertainty, understanding the core principles behind human behavior is going to be crucial for brands and businesses to emerge from the crisis fighting fit. But if you didn’t manage to catch it all, or if you’re wondering how to apply these insights to your work, we’ve got you covered. At Canvas8, the leading authority on consumer behavior, we’ve distilled some of the day’s highlights, uncovered the actionable learnings for brands and businesses, and gathered even more insights to help bring behavioral science to life. Receive more helpful insights to fuel your business strategy by signing up to Keeping Tabs, a bi-weekly newsletter on human behavior: https://www.canvas8.com/blog.html

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