Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More behavioural economics - tweak the environment

As I scribble down my notes for an upcoming presentation on behavioural economics, I decided I'd post the good examples here.

Getting people to do something new can be difficult. It is not easy to change behaviour. We often assume it is because they resist or fear change. But sometimes this is not the reason. Sometimes you can be successful by simply changing or tweaking the environment.

Losing weight is a popular one. Most of us at one stage or another have wanted to lose weight. One relatively simple technique to lose weight is to use smaller plates. I know, this sounds a bit obvious and overly simplistic. But it works. For those of you that know me, you'll know I've lost about 2 stone in the past six months. Part of this was simply eating smaller portions.

Watch Brian Wansink's video here and you'll hear that the difference between using small and large plates equates to 15 pounds in weight in a year.

Why is this important to us marketers? If we want to change consumers' behaviour, we need to know why they're doing what they're doing in the first place. We tend to assume that people are doing things because they want to. Or won't change because their resist change - it's simply the way they are. This is known as the fundamental attribution error.

The result of this thinking is a lot of energy spent trying to change their mind.

However, often change can be achieved without changing the person's character. Instead, just change or tweak their environment.

More examples later. Good books on this include Nudge and Switch. And Brian Wansink and colleagues have articles you can download here.

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