It’s all about me

In an age where the consumer is all-important, we must always put them first. According to The Market Creative’s Sue Benson, behavioural economics is the perfect framework to enable you to do this.

It’s been almost a decade since the government entered the world of behavioural science with the formation of the Behavioural Insights Team, or ‘nudge unit’ as it’s unofficially known. Other countries have been quick to follow suit and the concept is wholeheartedly embraced in a range of sectors from education and health to the emergency services.

While innovation and improved services are just a couple of the benefits of applying behavioural economics, not to mention the potential brand gain of ‘nudging’ behaviour, our industry has been surprisingly slow to adopt this approach.

Theories can be complicated and successfully applying behavioural economics is not just about learning a new vocab. It is a totally new approach to each element of marketing, and like any transformation, there is a huge outlay in time and energy to deliver it effectively. It also requires a senior champion to drive it through.

Around a year ago we started to take the concept seriously, creating a model to simplify behavioural economics into seven overriding themes. Using a blend of observation, context and questioning techniques, it identifies how to influence the behaviours that affect decisions towards businesses, brands and products.

Our clients are benefiting from an unrivalled understanding of behaviour and opportunities to identify unique brand territories. Ultimately, Behavioural Economics means that brands can connect more meaningfully and effectively with their customers.

When we share examples of biases, nudges or heuristics with businesses, the potential value is instantly understood. Intuitively people ‘get’ behavioural economics because it relates to us all on a human level.

Let me pick out a few of my favourite themes.

Stand with me

People will buy into brands that stand for something bigger, so having a great offering is no longer enough. Unilever reported that a third of consumers are choosing to buy from brands they believe are demonstrating social or environmental responsibility.

Brennan Center for Justice found that minority communities suffered from a lack of voting resources and locations during elections, leading to longer waiting times and obstacles. Mobile provider, Boost Mobile and its agency, 180LA, helped these communities get their voices heard by offering their retail locations as polling stations on Election Day.

Not only is Boost Mobile committing to a cause, it is also demonstrating the bias of ‘reciprocity’, which suggests that people often respond to receiving a gift or positive action by providing something in return. Giving a little back to the community will provide the emotional connection to a brand.

Make it simple for me

Savvy companies are seeing success in taking the load off consumers’ minds by introducing minimal user interfaces, focused offerings and straightforward purchasing.

For example, Bellroy’s USP is that it sells thinner-than-typical wallets. This message was simplified by splitting a product web page into the three stages of the buyer journey: ‘Understanding the problem’, ‘how to fix the problem’ and ‘how Bellroy can resolve the problem’.

‘Chunking’ is used to excellent effect by Bellroy with its three-stage process. This bias says that complex tasks are more appealing in manageable pieces, affecting how motivated we are to start or finish them.

Engage me

Attention is the fundamental currency of the modern economy. Brands that find new ways to win attention will also win custom.

One of the biggest issues for runners is injury through wearing the wrong shoes. ASICS’ ‘foot type test’ ad used a thermochromic ink that reacts to body heat to help runners work out what kind of shoe they need – information that was typically only available by visiting a specialist running store.

Ever tried to find the right pair of trainers? There’s an overwhelming amount of choice. ASICS demonstrated thought avoidance bias, ‘choice rejection’, by making the purchase process simple, streamlined and uniquely personal.


Sue Benson is Managing Director at The Market Creative

Read more on applying behavioural economics to advertising in ‘Top Trends Driving Consumer Behaviour’. Download the report at

Last updated 21 January 2022